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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 4.2 (2021): 544–551;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Wheel that Crossed the Borders: Buddhist and Non-Buddhist Religions)

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Shen, Hsueh-man. Authentic Replicas: Buddhist Art in Medieval China. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2019. 352 pp.; 113 colour ills., 19 b/w.

Winston KYAN
University of Utah

Hsueh-man Shen’s important, erudite, and elegantly written new monograph, Authentic Replicas: Buddhist Art in Medieval China, situates itself at the intersections of two critical developments in the study of religious art. First, there is the development within the specific field of Chinese Buddhist art to closely examine material culture associated with popular needs, as opposed to elite patronage. Here, Stanley Abe’s Ordinary Images and Sarah Fraser’s Performing the Visual stand out as examples. Second, there is the development in Western art history to examine popular religious images within the context of efficacy. Here, one refers to David Freedberg’s The Power of Images and Hans Belting’s Likeness and Presence.2 Shen takes these two currents and creates her own narrative, which centers on the prevalence of copies in medieval Chinese visual and material culture. As the author puts it: ‘The objects surrounding worship of the Buddha were reproduced on such an unprecedented scale in medieval China that it seems fair to say that Buddhist material culture of the period is essentially a culture of replication’ (2).


About the Author: Winston Kyan is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Utah. He teaches and publishes on three distinct, but interrelated areas: traditional Buddhist art of the Silk Road, Buddhist visual culture of the Asian diaspora, and Buddhism inspired contemporary Chinese art. His articles and essays have appeared in numerous edited volumes and journals, including The Art BulletinAmerasia, and Art Journal Open.


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