Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

1 - Venerating the Sacred Aboveground: From Gandhāran Relic Chambers to Chinese Flying Pavilions

Friday, July 6
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Willow, First Floor

By looking into Buddhist practices of venerating sacred objects in Gandhāra, Central India, Sri Lanka, and Chinese Southern dynasties, this paper aims at exploring how a particular pattern of worship was translated into built forms among different cultural and architectural traditions of medieval Asia. Sixth-seventh-century Chinese monastic texts described a group of halls being elevated highly above the ground to house miraculous images or the Buddha’s relics. Hitherto unacknowledged in historical significance, these buildings, literally means “flying pavilions”, suggest their use having a strong connection to the widespread tradition in South and Central Asia that was experienced and introduced by the Chinese pilgrims. This connection is further confirmed by relic chambers in the Gandhāran Buddhist sites around Taxila and line carvings of multi-storied buildings from India. Moreover, visual representation in the Chinese mural paintings indicates that the concept of worship, rather than the built forms, is of primary importance in this translation. The decline of this tradition in the Tang dynasty led to the elevated halls losing its religious significance and becoming secular structures for visitors’ appreciation of surrounding views. This paper not only enriches current understandings of Buddhist architectural practices in medieval China, but also uncovers the hidden link between China and Central Asia.

Zhu Xu

The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

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1 - Venerating the Sacred Aboveground: From Gandhāran Relic Chambers to Chinese Flying Pavilions



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