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2017 Woodenfish Dunhuang Buddhist Studies Workshop

Woodenfish Dunhuang Buddhist Studies Workshop took place from June 16 to 27, 2017 at the Dunhuang Buddhist Research Center of the Dunhuang Academy. The workshop attracted outstanding guest speakers and participants to study Buddhist art in Dunhuang through lectures, site visits, and discussions to further enrich the studies of Buddhist culture in Dunhuang and to promote relevant discoveries internationally. Thirty graduate students and young scholars came from top universities in twelve countries, including current students from Oxford, Harvard, Princeton, Peking University, National University of Singapore and others. All of the guest speakers are reputable scholars in East Asian Studies, Buddhism, Art History and History, who include but are not limited to Professor Stephen Teiser from the Religion Department at Princeton University, Angela Howard, Professor of Asian Art from Rutgers University, Professor Sarah Fraser from the Art History Department at Heidelberg University, and Dr. Tampalawela Dhammaratana, Vice President of World Fellowship of Buddhists and Consultant and the Director of Buddhist Links at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France.

Dunhuang Buddhist Studies Workshop received extremely positive feedback from participants. Jason Protass—Professor at Brown University who participated in the first Woodenfish World Youth Buddhist Camp—commented that the conference gathered a diverse pool of participants and provided them with a unique experience and distinct perspectives. Ebru Zeren—Assistant Professor at the History Department at Halic University in Turkey—said that she learned a great deal from the guest speakers, peers, and researchers and staff at Dunhuang, particularly about the research conducted by experts at the Dunhuang Academy. The conference further reignited Margarita Delgado Creamer’s desire to promote Chinese culture back in her home country of Peru. Creamer’s profound connection with the Chinese culture goes back to her grandfather, who was Chinese. Since early childhood, Creamer has been passionate about learning the Chinese language and culture. She shared her memories of a white Porcelain miniature statue of Guanyin Bodhisattva, of which her grandfather brought to Peru from China and accompanied Margarita as she grew up, teaching her about kindness and compassion through its artistic form. Later, Margarita came to the US to study Buddhism and now teaches at University of Pittsburgh. After this conference in Dunhuang, Margarita expressed that she gained a deeper understanding of Buddhist art and the Chinese culture and a greater passion to spread Chinese culture in Peru. Woodenfish would also look forward to helping her achieve this goal in the future should opportunities arise.

As part of Venerable Yifa’s continuous efforts to connect international scholars with Buddhist heritage in China, this workshop, according to Wang Xudong, Deputy Director at Dunhuang Research Academy, provided a platform that uncovered the humanistic and Buddhist spirit behind the over-ten-centuries art forms, for the contribution of cultural diversity and world peace. During the ten-day workshop, participants conducted research with their mentors on a variety of topics, ranging from textual and imagery analysis to architecture. They further conducted site visits to discuss possible evidence found from the art pieces in support for certain rituals and meditation practices at the time, as well as to observe iconographic development over time. All of the research and workshops are effective in promoting and protecting a gem of world heritage.

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