Online Workshop: Symbolisation, Approximation and Visualization – The Meaning of Architectural Perspective in Tang Dynasty Wall Paintings

Date of event:   14/05/2021 − 14/05/2021

Series Title: Art History at Lunch (CUHK Fine Arts)
Format: To be held virtually via Zoom
Speaker: Prof. HO, Puay-peng 何培斌 (Professor and Head, Department of Architecture, National University of Singapore)
Date: 14 May 2021; 12:30-2 PM (Hong Kong & Singapore)
Organized by: Department of Fine Arts & Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong

Some of the most mature architectural perspectives can be found in wall paintings of Dunhuang of the Tang dynasty. There is a long history of architectural depiction in extant Buddhist paintings and stone carvings such as those found on votive stelae and cave temples. At various sites in Dunhuang region, early depictions accompany the illustration of jātaka or avadāna stories serve both as settings for the stories or space dividers. During the Tang dynasty, a different style of architectural depiction emerged to illustrate mainly Mahāyāna sutras, some of a grand magnitude. These are often taken to be depicting the physical form of monastic architecture of the time. Can this reading express the full potential of the architectural representation? Is it even possible to have a glimpse of the form of the architecture of the Tang dynasty from these depictions? Apart from architectural representation, can we discern further meaning of these perspectives?

In Byzantium perspective, architectural depictions provide settings for the images of Christ, Mother of God or the saints. Renaissance perspectives are masterly and faithful expression of building forms as much as architectural space. How about the Chinese depiction? In historical studies of Chinese architecture, space is less studied than the building form. Will the study of the architectural depictions provide a more complete picture of palatial and monastic architecture of the time. In the process, the study will also unveil the nature of these depictions, faithful or approximation of Tang dynasty architecture. This paper will also explore the artistic expression seen in Dunhuang sutra illustrations with comparative method so as to reveal if the prototypes seen in Dunhuang were based on cosmopolitan or regional typology. Finally, the main focus of the paper is to examine the perspectival form seen in these paintings and demonstrate the meaning of the Pure Land illustrations of Tang dynasty in 7th century through the essence and practice of Pure Land belief at the time.

Prof. Ho Puay-peng is Professor and Head of the Department of Architecture at National University of Singapore, UNESCO Chair on Architectural Heritage Conservation and Management in Asia, and Adjunct Professor at Department of Fine Arts of The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

The workshop series is co-sponsored by the Department of Fine Arts and the Art Museum, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and it will be conducted in English. For more information about the workshop, please visit the website here.

Zoom Meeting ID: 913 2308 0481
Passcode: 904206