Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan
February 26–July 31, 2011 (Sackler Gallery)
Majestic sixth-century Chinese Buddhist sculpture is combined with 3-D imaging technology in this exploration of one of the most important groups of Buddhist devotional sites in early medieval China. Carved into the mountains of northern China, the Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan (pronounced “shahng-tahng-shahn”) were the crowning cultural achievement of the 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 twentieth century, when their contents were chiseled away and offered for sale on the international art market. The exhibit re-creates the forms and power of these sacred Eastern sculptures as they were originally constructed.