At 18:30 on February 24, 2017, the lecture entitled “Buddha of Yungang Grottoes: From the King of Xianbei to the Chinese Emperor” was held at the Red Chair Auditorium of Building 7, CAFA. The speaker Ishimatsu Hinako is a part-time lecturer at the SEISEN University, Japan and a visiting professor at the Yungang Grottoes Research Institute in China. Ishimatsu Hinako is mainly engaged in the study of Buddhist art, and her books include “The Study of the History of Buddhist Statues of the Northern Wei Dynasty”, “New History of World Art Far Eastern Art III the Three Kingdoms: South and North Dynasty”(co-edited). The lecture was hosted by Prof. Li Jun, Deputy Dean of the School of Humanities, CAFA, and Associated Prof. Wang Yun was the translator.
The lecture started from the construction of Yungang Grottoes, with the previous studies of the Buddha of Yungang Grottoes, the image of the Northern Wei emperor, and the concept, there is a detailed analysis of the common characteristics of the appearance and clothing of the Buddha in Yungang Grottoes, she believed that the Buddha was closely related to people’s worship of the emperor at that time and reflects the ideal heroic images of the different periods of the Northern Wei Dynasty to a certain extent.
Ishimatsu Hinako started the lecture with her relationship with Yungang Grottoes, she first introduced the history of Yungang Grottoes – which formerly known as “Wuzhou Mountain Grottoes”, the existing caves were basically built in the Northern Wei Dynasty, after a large-scale repair in the Jin Dynasty it gradually faded out of people’s vision, but Yungang Grottoes in Datong, Shanxi once again became the centre of attention by people in the early 20th century.
Then, the speaker talked about the discovery and research of Yungang Grottoes in detail. Starting from Chuta Ito’s accidental discovery of Yungang to the publication of “Yungang Grottoes of Shanxi, China” in 1906, the Japanese scholar’s research on Yungang Grottoes made it known to the world again. Led by Toshio Nagahiro and Seiichi Mizuno from the Institute of Oriental Culture at Kyoto University, a formal academic research was conducted of Yungang Grottoes from 1938 to 1944, and research results were assembled into a 32-volume masterpiece entitled “Yungang Grottoes: Archaeological Investigation Report of Buddhist Temples in Northern China of the 5th Century” after the end of the war. In 1956, Su Bai interpreted the “gold monument”, and put forward a new division of the construction of Yungang Grottoes. At the end of the 20th century, China and Japan jointly published the “Chinese Grottoes Yungang Grottoes”. In 2001, Yungang Grottoes became part of the world’s cultural heritage and it launched a series of meetings on the theme of Yungang Grottoes. The contents of this lecture have been published in the Japanese academic journal “The Kokka” in September 2016.
Ishimatsu Hinako used an analysis to explain the characteristics of the seven Buddha statues from Cave 3, Cave 13, Cave 16 to Cave 20 of Yungang, respectively introducing them in terms of posture, fingerprints, clothing, height and building time. She further elaborated that, depending on the above characteristics, the 4 Buddha statues of caves 16, 18, 19, 20 could be divided into two categories: firstly, Buddha statues of caves 18, 19, 20 are reminiscent of the founder of Northern Wei Dynasty, and King of the nomadic people, who was called the “Xianbei Emperor Buddha” by Ishimatsu Hinako. Buddha of Case 16 is reminiscent of a Chinese emperor, so it was named “Chinese Emperor Buddha”. She believed that the worship of the emperor of the Northern Wei Dynasty originated from the “worship of hero”, which was combined with Buddhism, after the founding of the Northern Wei Dynasty and formed the thought that “the emperor is Buddha”, and it was also through the construction of Buddha that it became a reality.
Ishimatsu Hinako further introduced that, from Cave 16 to Cave 20, the five Buddha statues were five emperors following the first founder of the Northern Wei Dynasty – the first generation Emperor Daowu, the second generation Emperor Mingyuan, the third generation Emperor Taiwu and his son Emperor Jingmu, as well as Emperor Pingwen before the founding of the Northern Wei Dynasty. After the discussion there was an introduction of the academic history on the respect and configuration of the five emperors, Ishimatsu Hinako raised two questions: the reason why Cave 19 is the biggest and why the main statue of Cave 17 is a Buddha. In order to answer these two questions, she analyzed the clothing, facial features, hair and other details. The Buddha statues of Caves 18, 19, 20 applied Liangzhou-style Buddha, whose right shoulder is bare, commonly appearing in the Indian caves, and the simple hairs, big ears, big eyes reflect the foreign emperor’s facial features, especially the big ears that are the characteristics that reveal the greatness of Emperor Daowu, the hero of the Northern Wei Dynasty. The 16th Buddha wears the Han costumes, which is widely recognized by the academic community as the Chinese style was popular in the Northern Wei, and it was related to the reform by Emperor Xiaowen of Northern Wei Dynasty.
Ishimatsu Hinako also talked about the view of the Zhaomu system of seven emperors and seven Buddha statues in the Cave 11 and Cave 13. Subsequently, she introduced the spread of the Emperor Buddha since the Northern Wei Dynasties, including seven large Buddha statues of Northern Qingyang Grottoes in Gansu and the cliff – Banjia Buddha of Kaihe Temple Grottoes of Pingding, Shanxi, worshiped by Emperor Wen of Sui Dynasty. She said that: Xianbei’s worship of the hero developed to the worship of the emperor combined with the Buddha to form Yungang Buddha, and this tradition has further developed to the mainstream of statues of the North Dynasties which was inherited by the Sui Dynasty. The Buddha of Yungang Grottoes changed to a wise Chinese emperor from the bravery and vigor king of Xianbei. The Buddha of the Northern Dynasties overlaps ideal heroic images from a variety of periods.
Text by Lai Yaqian, Photo by Yang Yanyuan/CAFA ART INFO
Translated by Chen Peihua and edited by Sue/CAFA ART INFO