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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 1.2 (2018): 111–130;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhist Arts)

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The Transmission of Ornaments in Buddhist Art: On the Meander or Huiwen

Freie Universität Berlin

Abstract: Beyond iconographic dimensions, the ornaments in Buddhist art become apparent through the depicted figures and their fashion, as well as other pictorial, architectural elements including patterns and motifs. Taking the meander ornament as an example, it is used as an icon in Buddhist art, however early Buddhist texts and local chronicles provide information on neither its origin nor its meaning; therefore we often have to deal with upper and lower very clichéd connotation. In this paper, the aesthetical and art historical value of the meander ornament, up until the twelfth century CE, based on the selected example, as a phenomenon of cultural transmission and intertwinement is to be discussed with regard to the cultural ‘originality’ and ‘diversity’ among the cultural traditions of the ‘West’ and ‘East’. It reveals the essential process of how ‘foreign’ images were transmitted and reproduced at the ‘local’ (Central and East Asia) religious space, at the same time, how implicated images had functioned as a medium of communication during the transmission.

Keywords: meander ornament, transcultural, Buddhist art, comparative, architecture


About the Author: Dr. Jeong-hee Lee-Kalisch is professor and chair of the Department of East Asian Art History at the Freie Universitaet Berlin in Germany. She curated several highly successful special exhibitions of East Asian arts and cultures in Europe, including ‘Korea, the Old Kingdom’, ‘Ancient China: Peoples and Gods in the Middle Kingdom’, and ‘Tibet: Monasteries Open Their Treasure Chambers’. Her research areas comprise transcultural aspects of East Asian art, especially within the field of literati art and garden, Mahāyāna/ Tantrayāna Buddhist art, and art along the Silk Roads. She published various essays, exhibition catalogues, and monographs on these topics and is editor of the publication series ‘Studies of East Asian Art History’. For the past three years she has headed a project within the collaboration research program ‘Silk Road Fashion’, granted by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. She was also in charge of the publication of the Comprehensive Compilation of Goryeo Paintings. Volume 1. European and US Collections (Zhejiang University Press 2017/18) as co-editor and author.


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