Freer|Sackler Talk: Traveling Monks and Cosmopolitan Buddhism by Dorothy C. Wong

Zeynep Simavi's picture
June 23, 2018
District Of Columbia, United States
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Asian History / Studies, East Asian History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology

Traveling Monks and Cosmopolitan Buddhism

Dorothy C. Wong

Saturday, June 23, 2018, 2 pm

Freer Conference Room


Like Hyecho, the Korean monk featured in Encountering the Buddha, many pilgrim-monks traveled among the courts and religious centers of China, Japan, and Korea in the seventh and eighth centuries. A certain class of these monks played an important role in transmitting what came to be known as the International Buddhist Art Style, which gave visual expression to new religiopolitical ideals. In this talk, Dorothy Wong, director of the East Asia Center and professor of art history at the University of Virginia, discusses her new book, Buddhist Pilgrim-Monks as Agents of Cultural and Artistic Transmission: The International Buddhist Art Style in East Asia, ca. 645–770. In it, she argues that Buddhist pilgrim-monks were key agents in the transmission of these religiopolitical ideals, as well as the visual language of state Buddhism and attendant rituals and practices. As this visual language was spread, circulated, adopted, and transformed in faraway lands, it transcended cultural and geographical boundaries and became cosmopolitan.

Dorothy C. Wong received her BA from International Christian University in Tokyo, MPhil from the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and PhD from Harvard University, with a focus on Chinese art history. Since 1997 she has been teaching in the Art Department of the University of Virginia. Prior to that, she taught at Florida State University, the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Eötövs Loránd University in Budapest, and the Centre of Buddhist Studies at the University of Hong Kong.

Specializing in Buddhist art of medieval China, Wong researches art’s relationship to religion and society, including the relationship between religious texts/doctrine and visual representations. Her publications include Chinese Steles: Pre-Buddhist and Buddhist Use of a Symbolic Form (2004), Hōryūji Reconsidered (editor and contributing author, 2008), and China and Beyond in the Medieaval Period: Cultural Crossings and Inter-regional Connections (coeditor with Gustav Heldt, 2014). She also has published numerous articles on topics ranging from pilgrims’ maps to devotional arts, deity cults, Pure Land paintings, gender and ethnicity issues in Buddhist patronage, cults of saints in Asian traditions, and images of Buddhist cosmographies.


Free and open to the public.


Freer Gallery of Art

1050 Independence Ave.

Washington DC, 20560

Contact Info: 
Zeynep Simavi
Public and Scholarly Engagement
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
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