Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan

Center for the Art of East Asia is the website from the department of Art History from the University of Chicago and is a really beautiful website.
It features a.o. two special projects:

The digital Scrolling Paintings Project and

The Xiangtangshan Caves Project.

In the Xiangtangshan Caves Project every few months new functionality is added.
Since July 2009 f. i. one can find the Cave site Locations with Google Earth.

About the cave temples of Xiangtangshan:
The cave temples of Xiangtangshan, “Mountain of Echoing Halls,” are a group of Buddhist caves with carved sculptures, many of large-scale, near the Northern Qi capital at Ye. They are located in a rural and coal-mining area, the Fengfeng Mining District of southern Hebei Province. Eleven caves divided among three sites where the major portion of cave-construction activity was completed in the Northern Qi dynasty (550-577).

The Northern Group, Bei Xiangtangshan, is the earliest and largest in scale and was begun with imperial sponsorship; the Southern Group, Nan Xiangtangshan, has smaller caves numbered from one to seven; and the third site at Shuiyusi, also known as Xiao Xiangtangshan or “Little Xiangtangshan,” has one Northern Qi cave with sculptures. The caves at these sites were hollowed from limestone cliffs and carved with images of Buddhist deities, architectural and ornamental elements, and the texts of Buddhist scriptures. These elements represent various religious concepts and ideals and are related to official sponsorship of Buddhism, the scholarship and teaching activity of eminent monks of the time, and popular religious belief and practice. There are only a few dated dedicatory inscriptions from the period, and no contemporary record of the beginning of the caves, but some later inscriptions record the work and repairs to the sites. Together with the carved images themselves and their relationship with other dateable Northern Qi sculptures, they provide evidence for assigning these remarkable caves to the second half of the sixth century.

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