Wutaishan and Qing Culture Conference
May 12: 9am-4pm; May 13: 9am-12pm
Rubin Museum of Art
150 W. 17th Street
New York, NY 10011
The sacred mountain Wutai Shan, the abode of the bodhisattva of wisdom Manjusri, has played a fundamental role in the East Asian Buddhist imagination for nearly 1500 years. Over the course of this time not only has it been a nexus of pilgrimage, cosmological conceptualization and cultural exchange, but it has also been the focal point of various religio-political discourses. And the concatenation of these forces undoubtedly reached one of their apogees during the long reign of the Manchus, who were not only portrayed as emanations of the bodhisattva of wisdom, but also fostered the folk etymology of their ethnonym as in fact deriving from Manjusri. Yet, while this project of symbolic appropriation is now common knowledge, less is known about how it affected the inherently transnational nature of this site. In other words, an important unanswered question is: how did the various discourses during the Qing actually engage, shape and influence the practices and conceptualizations of the constituents of the Qing empire? Moreover, how did innovations or transformations on the margins impact the imperial center? The aim of this conference is to employ the historical importance and transnational nature of Wutai Shan in order to attempt a re-evaluation of Qing culture.
In conjunction with this conference the Rubin Museum of Art is presenting a related exhibition: Wutaishan: Pilgrimage to Five Peak Mountain (May 10 – October 16, 2007) which primarily utilizes the RMA’s permanent collection to explore this mountain as a site of transnational pilgrimage where the interaction between the Chinese, Manchus, Mongolians and Tibetans fostered a multiculturalism endemic of Himalayan art. This is reflected in the diversity of objects in the exhibition coming from Nepal, Tibet, Mongolia, and China, including paintings, sculptures, masks, book covers and features a six-foot wide woodblock print, a panoramic view of Mount Wutai filled with temples and miraculous visions.
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