Lothar Ledderose: "The Remarkable Diamond Sutra of Mount Tai and its Carved Colophons"
Mount Tai in China’s Shandong Province has been a center of religious worship for over 3,000 years. As the “Most Revered of the Five Sacred Mountains,” it has attracted Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian pilgrims, many of whom left inscriptions carved on the stone faces of the mountain. In a side valley, there is a less well-known, but equally dramatic, sixth century engraving of the famous Buddhist Diamond Sutra. The characters cover an area of about eighteen hundred square meters. It is the largest sutra text under the open sky in China.
It is common practice in Chinese literary culture for distinguished readers to attach their own commentaries or statements of appreciation to written manuscripts. These are known as “colophons.” On Mount Tai, over forty such colophons have been added to the Diamond Sutra, carved into the rock face. They contain fascinating commentary on how later generations viewed, appreciated, and criticized the original sutra – over a span of hundreds of years.
In this Saturday seminar, we will discuss selected colophons, starting in the Song dynasty and continuing to the present day. Transcriptions of the texts, translations, and photographs of the engravings will be made available to the participants before the seminar.
Lothar Ledderose is Senior Professor of East Asian art history at Heidelberg University and member of the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften. His books include Mi Fu and the Classical Tradition of Chinese Calligraphy, 1979 (Chinese translation, 2008), and Ten Thousand Things. Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art, 2000 (Chinese translation, 2005). He is presently directing a research project on the Buddhist Stone Sutras in China. In 2005 he was awarded the Balzan Price.