WEDS. Nov. 16, Zhenru Zhou

Wednesday, November 15,  5:00 – 7:00 pm, CWAC 156

A Visual Study of the Front Panel of a Tang Dynasty Buddhist Shrine

Zhenru Zhou

Department of Art History, University of Chicago

Front panel of a Tang dynasty Buddhist shrine. Photo courtesy of ​Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City.

This paper is a contextual and visual study of the front panel of a Tang dynasty (618-907 CE) Buddhist shrine housed in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City (fig.1). I will first discuss the possible provenance and dating of this panel by comparing it with a group of “little dragon-and-tiger pagodas” (xiao longhu ta 小龙虎塔). Demonstrating that the architecture to which this panel was originally attached would have belonged to a type of small-sized sculpted pagodas in Henan and Shandong provinces dated back to the first half of the 8th century, I will further argue against the common idea that this type is an abbreviated and inferior version of the “dragon-and-tiger pagoda” type or the brick multi-eave pagoda type. Based on their unique formal characteristics, e.g. the twin-pagoda format, the multi-eave and slender profile, the single niche, the Pure Land imagery, the inscribed sutras and votive texts, I will argue that these pagodas were meant to be the miniaturized representation of the grandiose architecture of “seven-leveled stūpa” (qiji futu 七级浮屠), and that their media specificity may reflect a shifting conception of Buddhist monument during the High-Tang period in central China.


Wednesday, November 15,  5:00 – 7:00 pm, CWAC 156

Persons with concerns regarding accessibility please contact Nancy P. Lin (


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