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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Chinese Images of Body and Landscape: Visualization and Representation in the Religious Experience of Medieval China
by Hennessey, Anna Madelyn, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2011, 247; 3473750
Abstract (Summary)

In this dissertation, interdisciplinary research demonstrates how Chinese people affiliated with different religions and ideologies of the Song period (960-1279 CE) utilized artistic, literary and visual representations to merge the natural world with the human body. This fusion of natural and human worlds in representation appears in a variety of contexts, including paintings of famous Song landscape artists, writings of literati thinkers, architectural developments of Neo-Confucian scholars, body charts recorded in the Daoist Canon, and artwork connected to Chinese Buddhism. Traditionally, scholarship within the field of religious studies relies heavily upon textual sources, and material objects are often seen as accessory to the findings related to these sources. When found within the context of religion, art objects are in this same vein often described as representational as opposed to foundational of religious experience or its aspects.

This thesis asserts that Song Chinese people used art and other material objects not only for the purpose of representing the world in which they lived, but also as a means of expressing, developing and empowering their religions and ideologies. So powerful were these material representations, in fact, that in certain cases they may have acted as a primary conduit through which the religion was experienced. As the dissertation will show, the interaction between the non-material activity of visualization, or how people create images in their minds, and representation, or how people create material objects to reify the images in their minds, is often pivotal, as opposed to accessory, to some of the later ideological developments of the Chinese people.

This thesis also examines sacred space of the Song period, theorizing that an important spatial synergy took place between physical representations and the religions of medieval China: images had become intertwined with how different groups of people visualized their bodies, as well as how these groups represented a human relationship at work with the natural world. In essence, Song representations of mountains, landscape and other natural formations act as material records of how people visualized their own bodies in microcosmic and macrocosmic form.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Powell, William F.
Commitee: Egan, Ronald C., Hecht, Richard D.
School: University of California, Santa Barbara
Department: Religious Studies
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 72/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Religious history, History, Asian Studies, Art history
Keywords: Art, Buddhism, China, Chinese, Confucianism, Daoism, Religion, Visualization
Publication Number: 3473750
ISBN: 978-1-124-88537-7
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