Wei-Cheng Lin: "Broken Bodies: The Death of Buddhist Icons and Their Changing Ontology in 10th-12th Century China"
This presentation investigates a wide-spread practice of burying broken statues in a greater territory of China during the 10th through 12th centuries. As has been suggested, a broken “icon” could have been considered a form of “relic,” thus to be buried, in particular, inside the pagoda crypt. If this were the case, it would entail some conceptual adjustments: the icon would need first to be considered alive so it could turn into a relic after death, that is, after it lost its physical integrity. Yet the incomplete icon did not die completely and, as will be argued, the breakage during the time of our consideration was only to prompt an ontological shift of the icon thereafter.
Wei-Cheng Lin is Associate Professor of Chinese art history in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago. He received his PhD from the same department in 2006, and prior to his return to the department at Chicago in 2015, he taught at Iowa State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Lin specializes in the history of Chinese Buddhist art and architecture with a focus on the medieval period. His first book, Building a Sacred Mountain: Buddhist Architecture of China’s Mount Wutai, was published in 2014 with the University of Washington Press. His current book project, Performative Architecture of China, investigates the ways in which Chinese architecture can be considered as actively engaging its users by structuring, affecting, evoking, or shaping their spatial senses and imagination. It explores architecture’s performative potential and the meanings enacted in such architectural performance through history.