Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan

February 26, 2011 – July 31, 2011

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
1050 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC

Sublevel 1 Floor Plan

Majestic 6th-century Chinese Buddhist sculpture is combined with 21st-century 3D-imaging technology in this exploration of one of the most important groups of Buddhist devotional sites in early medieval China. A video installation, touch screens, and research kiosks enables visitors to digitally envision some of the caves as they appeared before their tragic despoliation.

Carved into the mountains of northern China, the Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan (pronounced "shahng-tahng-shahn") were the crowning cultural achievement of the 6th-century Northern Qi dynasty (550-77 CE). Once home to a magnificent array of sculptures -- monumental Buddhas, divine attendant figures, and crouching monsters framed by floral motifs -- the limestone caves were severely damaged in the first half of the 20th century, when their contents were chiseled away and offered for sale on the international art market.

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