RAS Lecture

RAS Library

Where did Buddhist Monks Live, Meditate and Translate the Sutras in Yungang?

Speaker: Professor Yi Lidu

Yungang, a 5th-century rock-cut court cave complex and UNESCO World Heritage site, is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments of all time. Archaeological excavations above the caves in 2009, 2010 and 2012 have shed significant new light on the architectural configurations of monastery ruins in Yungang and in the Northern Wei capital Pingcheng (current Datong in Shanxi Province), the functions of different sections of the entire cave complex, as well as monastic life within it. For the first time, it is possible to reconstruct where the monks lived, meditated and translated sacred literary texts, and to fully understand that freestanding monasteries are an important component of the rock-cut cave complex. This lecture discusses the archaeological discoveries in and around Yungang, their significance and related issues in reconstructing and fully understanding the important components of Yungang in the 5th century.

Professor Yi Liduis a historian of Chinese art and architecturespecializing in Chinese visual art and material culture. Her research interests are twofold: Buddhist rock-cut cave-chapel art, architecture and archaeology, and contemporary art in China. She is particularly interested in art, archaeology and liturgy of Buddhist sanctuaries of medieval China.Currently, she has two on-going research projects in China: one is the examination of the Binglingsi rock-cut cave monastery on the Silk Road, and the other studies the relatively unknown small caves in Shanxi Province. The former is the subject of the current book manuscript project. Her most recent book Yungang: Art History, Archaeology and Liturgy asks why, when, and under what circumstances Yungang cave sanctuary was made, who played significant roles at various stages, and what was the construction dating sequence.

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