Buddhist Pilgrim-Monks as Agents of Cultural and Artistic Transmission: The International Buddhist Art Style in East Asia, ca. 645-770
by Dorothy C. Wong
a Choice Recommended title
The period ca. 645-770 marked an extraordinary era in the development of East Asian Buddhism and Buddhist art. Increased contacts between China and regions to both its west and east facilitated exchanges and the circulation of ideas, practices and art forms, giving rise to a synthetic art style uniform in both iconography and formal characteristics. The formulation of this new Buddhist art style occurred in China in the latter part of the seventh century, and from there it became widely disseminated and copied throughout East Asia, and to some extent in Central Asia, in the eighth century.
This book argues that notions of Buddhist kingship and theory of the Buddhist state formed the underpinnings of Buddhist states experimented in China and Japan from the late seventh to the mid-eighth century, providing the religio-political ideals that were given visual expression in this International Buddhist Art Style. The volume also argues that Buddhist pilgrim-monks were among the key agents in the transmission of these ideals, the visual language of state Buddhism was spread, circulated, adopted and transformed in faraway lands, it transcended cultural and geographical boundaries and became cosmopolitan.
"This book is a major contribution to the understanding of the circulation of Buddhist art and styles in East Asia. It examines some of the neglected issues of artistic connections within the Buddhist world fostered through the movements of monks, the agency of Tang and Japanese courts, and the creation of key images and building styles. Dorothy Wong not only convincingly demonstrates the intricacies of the emergence and spread of the “Tang International Style” in the seventh and eighth centuries, but also illustrates the importance of state support in the making of a Buddhist cosmopolis during this period. Wong offers new insights into the circulation of Buddhist ideas and the contributions of Buddhist monks beyond their translation activities. The book will be a mandatory reading for those interested in Buddhist art, the Buddhist connections between Tang China and Japan, and intra-Asian interactions."
–Tansen Sen, Professor, Department of History, Weissman School of Arts & Sciences, Baruch College, City University of New York