advanced courses

Bodhisattvas of the Ten Stages of Enlightenment , dated 1454, Cleveland Museum of Art

Bodhisattvas of the Ten Stages of Enlightenment, dated 1454, Cleveland Museum of Art

buddhist arts of asia

This course explores the visual and material culture of Buddhism in Asia from its origins in India to its transmission and transformation in China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia. Our historically and culturally structured examination traces major developments in Buddhist art and their relationships with belief, practice, and ritual. We consider the ways that artistic traditions have adapted and evolved both within individual cultures and cross-culturally. We primarily focus on studying the historical contexts for sculpture, architecture, and painting, but we also consider the movement of Buddhist works from temples to sites of secular display in museums around the world, and the religious, cultural, and ethical issues that arise from these moves. Topics include: representations of the life of the historical Buddha; visual programs of temples; artistic representations of paradises and hells; sacred sites and architecture; imperial patronage of Buddhist art; the role of art in pilgrimage and ritual; and visual imagery associated with Pure Land and Chan/Zen Buddhism.

Daoism: Visual culture, History, and Practice

This course explores developments in the visual culture, history, and practices of Daoist religious traditions in China from the third century to the present. Our historically and conceptually structured examination draws upon a balance of visual, textual, and material sources, while considering the various approaches scholars have employed to understand the history and development of Daoist traditions. Topics include: sacred scriptures and liturgies, hagiographies and visual narratives, iconography and functions of the pantheon of gods and immortals, views of the self and the body, practices of inner alchemy and self-cultivation, thunder deities and exorcism, dietetics and medicine, and modes of meditation and ritual.

Daoist priestess burning talismans, Wudang Mountains, June 2009

Daoist priestess burning talismans, Wudang Mountains, June 2009

Shitao (1642-1707),  Outing to Master Zhang's Grotto  (detail), c. 1700, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Shitao (1642-1707), Outing to Master Zhang's Grotto (detail), c. 1700, Metropolitan Museum of Art

chinese painting

Our chronological and thematic exploration of Chinese painting focuses primarily on works from the tenth through seventeenth centuries (Song-Qing dynasties). We consider the stylistic development of major genres of Chinese painting including landscapes, figures, narratives, fur-and-feathers, as well as Buddhist and Daoist pictures. While we address major figures and canonical works, we also look at paintings by lesser-known and unidentified imperial court artists. We pay attention to diverse formats, types of brushwork, and the role of inscriptions, colophons and seals, all of which are important for understanding Chinese painting. Major themes include: patronage and collecting, paintings as social or political commentary, iconography of Buddhist and Daoist pictures, textual traditions of Chinese criticism and history, as well as connoisseurship and other scholarly approaches to the study of Chinese painting. Close examination of paintings from the Cleveland Museum of Art's world-renowned collection, particularly those on display, are an integral part of the course.

Chinese Contemporary Art

This course explores the artists, works, ideas, and reception of Chinese contemporary art from 1979 to the present. We examine the creation, expression, and performance of Chinese identity in painting, sculpture, ceramics, performance, photography, video/film, and installations. Key issues we discuss include cultural and artistic history; trauma and memory; political activism and censorship; the body, gender and sexuality; globalization and transnationalism; the rapidly changing urban and natural environment; global audiences and the international art market; and the role of expatriate artists. We examine art movements and exhibitions as well as individual works and artists through contemporaneous primary and critical sources (in translation) as well as through later scholarship. Visits to Ai Weiwei’s Circle of Animals: Zodiac Heads at the Cleveland Museum of Art, attendance at guest lectures, and regular viewing documentary, artist, and feature films are all integral to the course.

Lin Tianmiao,  Protruding Patterns , 2014

Lin Tianmiao, Protruding Patterns, 2014


Visual Exchanges in Modern Chinese and Japanese Painting, 1860-1960

The political and cultural histories of China and Japan in the late nineteenth through mid-twentieth centuries are inexorably entangled. Forces of modernization, nationalism, reform, war, and revolution impacted the traffic in artists and practices between the two countries. Debates about the ways and means to preserve, reform, or reject traditional methods, styles, and subjects in the face of European modernism dominated cultural discourse. Artistic movements, schools, and individuals navigated between tradition and modernity and their efforts are reflected in manifestos of artistic societies, theoretical writings, exhibitions, and paintings of the time. Both Japanese and Chinese painters traveled to Europe to study, returning to East Asia with new ideas and techniques. Waves of Chinese artists trained in Japan, experiencing European modernism directly through exhibitions and concurrently through Japanese filters. The flow of Chinese ink paintings into Japan in the early twentieth century renewed Japanese artists’ engagement with pre-modern artistic traditions of their continental neighbors. Some East Asian painters focused on revitalizing their own native ink painting traditions, others embraced European oil painting, still others strove to achieve a distinctively Japanese or Chinese synthesis—all sought to express new modern national, cultural, and individual identities. The course covers yōga (Western style painting) and Nihonga (Japanese style painting) in Japan, and guohua (national painting) in China. Major artists addressed in the course include: Fu Baoshi, Zhang Daqian, Huang Binhong, Xu Beihong, Gao Jianfu, Kuroda Seiki, Yorozu Tetsugoro, Kishida Ryusei, Yokoyama Taikan, and Tomioka Tessai. This course intersects with the Fall 2011 exhibition Chinese Art in an Age of Revolution: Fu Baoshi (1904–1965) at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Gallery visits as well as attendance at guest lectures and films form an integral part of the course.

Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958),  Qu Yuan , 1898, Itsukushima Shrine, Japan

Yokoyama Taikan (1868-1958), Qu Yuan, 1898, Itsukushima Shrine, Japan

Pensive bodhisattva, late 6th century, National Museum of Korea

Pensive bodhisattva, late 6th century, National Museum of Korea

Chinese and Korean Buddhist Art

This course explores Chinese and Korean Buddhist visual and material culture with a focus on modes of cultural, religious, and artistic transmission and exchange from the fifth to eighteenth centuries. In tracing the major historical developments in Buddhist imagery and objects, we examine their relationships with belief, practice, and ritual. We consider the ways that artistic traditions have developed and adapted, both within China and Korea as well as cross-culturally. Topics include: early Buddhist tomb murals; stone-carved cave temples; sacred sites and pilgrimage; representations of the Buddhist pantheon; Buddhism and rulership; the roles of women as patrons of Buddhist art; and imagery associated with visualization practices and the veneration of relics.