Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University (ISAW) Announces Echoes of the Past. The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan

A groundbreaking exhibition that unites masterpieces of Chinese sculpture from the famed sixth-century cave temples at Xiangtangshan with the first-ever digitized reconstructions of their original setting opens on September 11, 2012, at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University (ISAW). Based on the most recent scholarship and utilizing advanced imaging technology, the installation provides new insights into the history and original appearance of one of China’s most remarkable Buddhist devotional sites.

Rendering of the “digital cave” video installation. Image by Jason Salavon and Travis Saul.

The majestic temples at Xiangtangshan—carved into mountains in northern China and lavishly decorated with sculpted images of Buddha and other celestial beings—were damaged during the early twentieth century, when many of the carvings were removed. Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan brings together twelve of the finest of these temple sculptures, on loan from American and British museums, and features a full-scale, digital, 3-D reconstruction of the interior of one of the site’s most impressive caves.

The exhibition is the result of a ten-year research project on the Xiangtangshan temples and their carvings by an international team of scholars based at the University of Chicago’s Center for the Art of East Asia. Echoes of the Past remains on view through January 6, 2013.

ISAW Exhibitions Director and Chief Curator Jennifer Chi states: “While the sculptures from Xiangtangshan can—as indeed they have for many years—stand alone as powerfully impressive works of art, this exhibition is a rare and tremendously exciting opportunity to experience the carvings in their original context and to better understand the sacred meanings they were meant to convey. Echoes of the Past is a superb example of the enormous potential of digital technology in the public presentation of ancient sites and objects.”

Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
Established in 2006, the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University is an independent center for scholarly research and graduate education intended to cultivate comparative and connective investigations of the ancient world. ISAW encourages approaches that encompass cultures from the western Mediterranean to China, and that cross the traditional boundaries between academic disciplines. In so doing, it promotes methodologies open to the integration of every category of evidence and method of analysis. It also engages the larger scholarly community and the public with an ongoing program of exhibitions, lectures, and publications that reflect its mission and scholarship.

The inspiration for the Institute was the lifelong passion for the study of the ancient world shared by the late Leon Levy and his wife, Shelby White, and ISAW was established with funds from the Leon Levy Foundation. Ms. White is the founder of ISAW and chairman of its board. Roger S. Bagnall, a historian and papyrologist, is the Leon Levy Director of ISAW; Jennifer Y. Chi, an expert in Roman imperial sculpture, is Exhibitions Director and Chief Curator. For additional public information:

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