Youn-mi Kim, Oct 25

Friday, October 25, 4-6 pm, CWAC 156
This workshop will pre-circulate papers. Please download here.


Miniaturizing Rituals and Creating Sacred Cosmos:
Power of Miniatures in the Liao Pagoda

Youn-mi Kim
Assistant Professor, Department of Art History
Yale University

Exquisite miniatures, whether in two-dimensional or three-dimensional media, fascinate the viewer. As for miniatures of a cosmic world, such as the one that serves as a model of the empire inside the First Emperor’s mausoleum recorded in the Shiji, part of the fascination may come from the human desire to create a virtual world that is more manipulable, and thereby more possessable, than the real one. At the same time, other miniatures, for example the many mingqi (spirit articles) from Chinese tombs, distort familiar scales to elicit surrealistic and alien feelings that everyday objects do not share. Focusing on Chaoyang North Pagoda (1043-1044) of the Liao dynasty, this talk explores how the nomadic Kitan patrons of Buddhist architecture utilized miniatures—from miniature pagoda reliefs attached to the pagoda’s exterior wall to a miniature ritual altar hidden in the inner space of the pagoda—to reconstruct Indian pilgrimage sites in Kitan land in northeast China, transforming a finite architectural space to an infinite Buddhist cosmos, and perpetuating an esoteric Buddhist ritual for all eternity. Lastly, by offering an opportunity to illuminate the notion of religious ritual from an emic perspective of medieval Buddhists, the existence of a miniature ritual altar sealed inside the pagoda calls into question the ways in which current predominantly-anthropocentric scholarly understandings of ritual may distort or limit our views on medieval religious rituals.

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Friday, October 25, 4-6 p.m.  CWAC 156
Persons with disability who may need assistance, please contact


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