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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 1.2 (2018): 231–268;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhist Arts)

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Liuli in Buddhist Rituals and Art in Medieval China

YU Xin
Fudan University

Abstract: In Buddhist texts, liuli was considered as one of the Seven Treasures (qibao 七寶). The author investigated all kinds of materials concerning glass: Buddhist scriptures, historical records, Chinese poetries and literatures, stone inscriptions, manuscripts and paintings from the Dunhuang Library Cave, mural paintings in Gansu and Xinjiang, archaeological relics from terrestrial palaces of Buddhist pagodas, tombs and cellars, and focuses on the relationship between liuli and other unearthed remains in a holistic approach to the Seven Treasures, and in the context of Buddhist offerings (treasure offering and perfume offering) and sacred utensils.

The author hopes to cast some new light on the religious function and symbolic meaning of liuli in Buddhist ritual practices, trace the origin of this concept and examine its demonstration in text and art. This paper is a case study intended to develop a comprehensive understanding of ritual texts and religious practices in the using of sacred objects and to rethink the role of material culture in Buddhist history and natural history in Medieval China.

Keywords: liuli, poli, Seven Treasures, Buddhist rituals, religious practices


About the Author: Yu Xin is an historian of medieval China and the Silk Road, specializing in the study of Dunhuang manuscripts and the Tang dynasty. He obtained his Ph.D. at Peking University, and joined Fudan University in 2003. He has been Professor of Medieval Chinese History since 2011. He held appointments as visiting professor at École des hautes études en sciences sociales, École normale supérieure, Princeton University, Kyoto University, and The Starr Foundation East Asian Studies Endowment Fund Member at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Professor Yu’s research interests lie in natural history, manuscript culture, and the social history of religion. He aims to develop a comprehensive understanding of the role of different source materials in the production of knowledge and religious practice, and to rethink the role of manuscripts and images in intellectual history, belief, and daily life. He has published numerous books and articles, including Signs of the Extraordinary in Medieval China: Erudition, Belief, and Society in the Age of Manuscripts (2011) and Savoir traditionnel et pratiques magiques sur la route de la Soie (2018). He is also the chief editor of a series of research monographs: Studies of Knowledge, Faith, and Institutions in Medieval China (fourteen published to date, and six projected in the future, 2012–) as well as the bilingual academic journal Medieval China.


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