In the Eyes of Its European Beholders: China’s Longmen and Cultural Heritage
The Longmen Grottoes, a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2001, with thousands of stone Buddhas, has stood for over 1,500 years on the banks of River Yi just south of Luoyang, once referred to as the “Chinese Babylon.” This public lecture tells the story of how Longmen became a potent source of inspiration on the European and world stage at the turn of the twentieth century. Industrialization and the advent of modernity propelled nations of both East and West to reposition themselves, and ultimately see each other in a new light, while each attempted to revitalize its own cultural heritage by recalibrating the power of art and scientific studies of other cultures and national traditions. Drawing on her book in English, Longmen’s Stone Buddhas and Cultural Heritage: When Antiquity Met Modernity in China (2020), Professor Dong WANG presents these significant transcontinental encounters through the eyes of some of Longmen’s modern European witnesses. More importantly, she asks, what lessons can we learn, for today and for the future, from the European experience and valuation of Chinese artifacts and ancient sites?
Call to Order, Introduction and Session Chair: Alain ARRAULT [Directeur d’études, École française d’Extrême-Orient, École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Centre d’études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine)]
Lecture: Dong WANG (EURICS fellow, Professor and Director of the Wellington Koo Institute for Modern China in World History, Shanghai University)
Conversation and Q&A:
Frances WOOD (Former curator of Chinese collections at the British Library)
Timothy BROOK (Professor of history, University of British Columbia)
Wrap-up: Alain ARRAULT and Sébastien COLIN (Scientific Coordinator, EURICS)
Alain Arrault is a sinologist and director of studies at the French School of Asian Studies and the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (Research Center on Modern and Contemporary China). His works include Shao Yong (1012-1077), poète et cosmologue (Paris, Collège de France, Institut des Hautes études chinoises, 2002); « Les calendriers de Dunhuang », Marc Kalinowski (éd.), Divination et société dans la Chine médiévale. Une étude des manuscrits de Dunhuang à la Bibliothèque nationale de France et à la British Library (Paris, Éditions de la Bibliothèque Nationale de France, 2003); and A History of Cultic Images in China. The Domestic Statuary of Hunan (EFEO, Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 2020).
Timothy Brook is professor of Chinese history at the University of British Columbia, whose work has focused on the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) but extends to issues that span the period from the Mongol occupation of China in the 13th century to the Japanese occupation of China in the 20th century. His recent works include Great State: China and the World (Profile Books, 2019); Sacred Mandates: Asian International Relations since Chinggis Khan (with M. van Walt van Praag and M. Boltjes. University of Chicago Press, 2018); The Troubled Empire: China in the Yuan and Ming Dynasties (Harvard University Press, 2010); and Vermeer’s Hat: The Seventeenth Century and the Dawn of the Global World (Bloomsbury, 2008).
Dong WANG is distinguished professor of history and director of the Wellington Koo Institute for Modern China in World History at Shanghai University (since 2016). Her single-authored books in English are: Longmen’s Stone Buddhas and Cultural Heritage: When Antiquity Met Modernity in China (2020); The United States and China: A History from the Eighteenth Century to the Present (2013, winner of The American Library Association’s “Choice Top 25 Outstanding Academic Titles”; 2nd and rev. ed. 2021); Managing God’s Higher Learning: U.S.-China Cultural Encounter and Canton Christian College (Lingnan University), 1888-1952 (2007); and China’s Unequal Treaties: Narrating National History(2005).
Frances Wood is an English librarian, sinologist and historian known for her writings on Chinese history, including Marco Polo, life in the Chinese treaty ports, and the First Emperor of China. As a former curator of Chinese collections at the British Library, she is the author of No Dogs and Not Many Chinese: Treaty Port Life in China, 1843-1943 (2000); The Silk Road: Two Thousand Years in the Heart of Asia (2002); The Forbidden City (2005); China’s First Emperor and His Terracotta Warriors (2008); The Lure of China: Writers from Marco Polo to J. G. Ballard (2009); The Diamond Sutra: The Story of the World’s Earliest Dated Printed Book (with Mark Barnard, 2010); Great Books of China (2017), and other books.