Experiencing the Mogao Caves
- PUBLISHED: February 2023
- SUBJECT LISTING: Art History / Asian Art, Asian Studies / China
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 392 Pages, 7 x 10 in, 188 color illus., 1 map, 2 tables
- ISBN: 9780295750200
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
Constructed over a millennium from the fourth to fourteenth centuries CE near Dunhuang, an ancient border town along the Silk Road in northwest China, the Mogao Caves comprise the largest, most continuously created, and best-preserved treasure trove of Buddhist art in the world. Previous overviews of the art of Dunhuang have traced the caves' unilinear history. This book examines the caves from the perspective of space, treating them as physical and historical sites that can be approached, entered, and understood sensually. It prioritizes the actual experiences of the people of the past who built and used the caves.
Five spatial contexts provide rich material for analysis: Dunhuang as a multicultural historic place; the Mogao Cave complex as an evolving entity; the interior space of caves; interaction of the visual program with architectural space; and pictorial space within wall paintings that draws viewers into an otherworldly time. With its novel approach to this repository of religious art, Spatial Dunhuang will be a must-read for anyone interested in Buddhist art and for visitors to Dunhuang.
Authors & Contributors
Wu Hung is Harrie A. Vanderstappen Distinguished Service Professor in Chinese Art History at the University of Chicago. He is the author of fifteen books and anthologies, including A Story of Ruins: Presence and Absence in Chinese Art and Visual Culture and Contemporary Chinese Art: A History, 1970s–2000s.
In Spatial Dunhuang, the temporal and spatial lines have been so well organized that it is still accessible to those unfamiliar with Dunhuang and/or Chinese art despite the fact that more than 20 caves are discussed in considerable detail. For specialists, some of the issues raised in this book may stimulate further academic studies such as the interrelationship between ideas of the afterlife and rituals in Dunhuang with the religious practices at Mogao. At the same time, nearby cave sites such as the Yulin Caves and the Western Caves of a Thousand Buddhas can be taken into consideration in a bigger spatial picture.- Asian Studies Review
A highly original and refreshing work. This book is going to be a go-to volume for readers curious about the Mogao Caves as a local community effort.- Eugene Wang, author of Shaping the Lotus Sutra: Buddhist Visual Culture in Medieval China
A major concern of contemporary scholars is the lack of a book that can tell an interesting story about the history of the art of Mogao. Wu Hung writes one that is easy to read and at the same time offers an intellectual framework to approach the subject at both macro and micro levels.- Hsueh-man Shen, author of Authentic Replicas: Buddhist Art in Medieval China
"The holy lanterns, when lit, look like a suspended river of stars." Wu Hung brings the Dunhuang Buddhist shrines vividly to life in extraordinary historical, literary, archaeological and iconographic detail, solving complex questions with clarity and precision.- Roderick Whitfield, coauthor of Cave Temples of Mogao at Dunhuang: Art and History on the Silk Road
Reading this magnificently illustrated book by the world's foremost scholar of Chinese art is like touring Dunhuang with an immensely learned and creative guide offering fresh insights at every step.- Robert E. Harrist Jr., author of The Landscape of Words: Stone Inscriptions from Early and Medieval China