Through the Looking Glass

An Evolving Perspective on Northern Zhou Dynasty (557-581) Buddhist Art

Annette Juliano

ISAW Visiting Research Scholar

Northern Zhou Buddhist art has long been exiled to a dark corner of the scholarly world. Its contribution to the development of early Buddhist art (4th to 7th centuries) in China has too often been minimized, stereotyped and, at times, dismissed in favor of work produced by the rival Northern Qi dynasty (550-577), the bitter contemporary rival to the Northern Zhou. However, the cumulative effect of recent discoveries of Northern Zhou Buddhist sculpture and painting calls for a reassessment. Juliano's research addresses how and why this negative attitude developed, considering not only stylistic issues but social, cultural, and geographical issues, with several goals: to re-examine existing art historical methodologies, construct new strategies and apply relevant technology. Finally, Northern Zhou is positioned geographically in west and central China, a location that fostered a dynamic intercultural exchange through the overland trade routes. This process of exchange has also been stereotyped and characterized as an incremental linear evolution, but this can no longer be seen as a tenable perspective.

Annette Juliano is a Professor of Art History at Rutgers University-Campus at Newark, where she teaches Far Eastern art history. At Rutgers, she chaired the new Department of Visual and Performing Arts and also served as Associate Dean before returning to teaching and research. Professor Juliano has also taught at Vassar College, Brooklyn College of the City University of New York (CUNY), The Graduate Center of CUNY, and the New York University (NYU) Institute of Fine Arts. After finishing a BA in Fine Arts at Rutgers, she completed an M.A. in Oriental Studies at University of Pennsylvania and earned a Ph.D. in Early Chinese Art (5th c. BCE to 7th c. CE) at NYU’s Institute of Fine Arts. Her research and publications have focused on Buddhist and non-Buddhist arts in Northern China and Xinjiang during the four hundred turbulent years between China’s two famous empires, the Han (206 BCE-220 CE) and the Tang (618-906). For her year as a Visiting Research Scholar at ISAW, Juliano is working on a book re-evaluating mid-sixth century Northern Zhou Buddhist sculpture, overlooked and overshadowed by the neighboring Northern Qi Buddhist finds. Time will be devoted to new techniques and new approaches to understanding the many cache burials of Northern Zhou sculpture found during the past decade and the significance of their geographic locations, and to identifying sources of influences from Xinjiang and the dynamic between Northern Zhou and Northern Qi sculpture.

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