VISUAL AND MATERIAL PERSPECTIVES ON EAST ASIA
NOV 16 (Friday), 4:00-6:00, CWAC 156
Ph.D. Candidate, University of Chicago
“The Pure Land in an Underground Space: The Digong Hall from the Southern Song Pagoda Crypt in Ningbo”
This presentation is derived from the third chapter of my Ph.D. dissertation, entitled “Art of the Enshrinement: Buddhist Reliquary Shrines in China and Korea from the tenth to fourteenth century.” This chapter focuses on an intricate reliquary self-reflexively labeled as the “Digong Hall of Tianfeng Pagoda” (Tianfengta digongdian 天封塔地宮殿) from the underground relic crypt of the Tianfeng Pagoda in Ningbo, Zhejiang Province. Dated to 1144, the Digong Hall yielded a complex material assemblage centered on a miniature pagoda that seems to have held relics and bronze images of the three Pure Land deities. The intrinsic relationship between the structure and deposit contents of the Digong Hall renders the reliquary into a framework through which we can reconstruct the perception of relics and afterlife prevalent in the Southern Song. Several questions will be addressed throughout this presentation: why make a reliquary in the shape of a worship hall standing over ground? What were the intended functions and meanings of the artifacts in the carefully designed interior of the Digong Hall? What was the underlying logic in making the Digong Hall and furnishing it with specific artifacts? How should we interpret the doubling of iconographical focus – i.e. relic installments and the Pure Land icons – in the Digong Hall? This paper attempts to answer these questions by unpacking the material assemblage of the Digong Hall and situating it in historical, cultural, and religious contexts of Southern Song Ningbo. By closely reading deposit contents against inscriptional evidence, this talk attempts to reconstruct the social and religious functions of reliquary practice in the twelfth century – a period that has been largely neglected in previous studies on Chinese relic veneration.
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