We are delighted to announce that in addition to the Smart Lecture, Professor Shih-shan Susan Huang will be at the VMPEA workshop on May 12 (Friday) from 4:45–6:45pm CT at CWAC 152 to discuss an article derived from her latest book project. We also invite you to come and ask any remaining questions you may have after the Smart Lecture.
Shih-shan Susan Huang
Associate Professor of Transnational Asian Studies, Rice University
Who will be presenting and discussing the paper
“The Fodingxin Dharani Scripture and its Audience: Healing, Talisman Culture, and Women in Popular Buddhist Print Culture”
Friday, May 12, 2023
4:45–6:45 pm CT, CWAC 152
*A light reception will follow at the department lounge.
Fodingxin Dharani Scripture. 1102 CE. Northern Song. National Library, Beijing.
This study examines the book art contained within the Fodingxin Dharani Scripture (Fodingxin tuoluoni jing 佛頂心陀羅尼經; hereafter also called the dharani text), with the broader concerns of how popular Buddhist print culture addresses healing, talisman culture, and women. The primary sources it investigates include a ninth-to-tenth century Dunhuang manuscript and other illustrated printed counterparts dated from the twelfth to the fifteenth centuries. The Fodingxin Dharani Scripture, an indigenous Chinese Buddhist text traceable to medieval Dunhuang manuscript culture, synthesizes miscellaneous beliefs, turning a Buddhist scripture into a form of magical medicine. The twelfth century marks fresh illustrative and talismanic traditions in the print age. The printed text is accompanied by a frontispiece at the beginning, and three talismanic scripts at the end. The book art of the Fodingxin Dharani Scripture reached its peak in the first half of the fifteenth century. In addition to the frontispiece and talismanic scripts, the text is fully illustrated throughout, with its new illustrated repertoire highlighting the healing power of the scripture and the dharani charms, as well as the challenges women faced in childbirth. Numerous extant specimens offer valuable documentations of its donors, most of whom were residents in Ming (1368–1644) Beijing. Accompanied by lively narrative pictures and containing Daoist-inspired talismanic writs that promise to save women from birth complications, it was often printed on demand. Women and their families, preoccupied with childbirth complications or ardently desiring a baby boy, were its main donors.
Shih-shan Susan Huang (PhD, History of Art, Yale) is an Associate Professor at Rice University’s newly-founded Department of Transnational Asian Studies. Her book, Picturing the True Form: Daoist Visual Culture in Traditional China (Harvard Asian Center, 2012), translated into Chinese by Dr. Zhu Yiwen, was published by Zhejiang University Press in 2022. She co-edited Visual and Material Cultures of the Middle Period China with Patricia Ebrey (Brill, 2017). Her recent articles explore Song-to-Ming book art of the Lotus Sutra and Diamond Sutra, Buddhist printing under Tangut Xi Xia rule, and painting and printing connections. Huang’s new monograph, The Dynamic Spread of Buddhist Print Culture: Mapping Buddhist Book Roads in China and its Neighbors, forthcoming in the Brill series Crossroads – History of Interaction across the Silk Routes, examines printed images and texts as objects “on the move”, as they were transmitted along networks and book roads in a transnational context. For more information, visit https://shihshansusanhuang.com/