Front cover image for The Buddhist caves at Qixiashan, China (Southern Dynasties, 420-589 CE)

The Buddhist caves at Qixiashan, China (Southern Dynasties, 420-589 CE)

Wei Lin
Abstract: This study examines the Southern Dynasties (420-589 CE) Buddhist caves at Qixiashan, located in the Nanjing region of Jiangsu province in China. They are by far the earliest and, despite their poor condition, the better preserved examples of the few rock-cut remains in the south during the Six Dynasties period (220-589 CE). In addition, this imperially sponsored cave site is located at the ancient capital of the Southern Dynasties; thus, the Buddhist monuments at Qixia provide important physical evidence of the mainstream southern Buddhist art of that time. However, due to an unfortunate cement coating of images during an ill-advised 1925 "restoration," it has been very difficult to conduct scholarly research on this site until the late 1990s, when the cement was removed. My principal research data are based on field research, particularly the detailed photographic documentation of these newly-restored caves and drawings collected in my original fieldwork. In addition, my research method also includes translating a large body of primary literature related to the caves and their excavation. This study provides the first thorough visual documentation and art historical analysis of the Qixia caves. The chronological analysis proposes three stages of artistic development at Qixia: the first period dated to the late fifth century of the Southern Qi dynasty; the second and third period dated to the earlier and later part of the Southern Liang dynasty, respectively. A closer examination of the site's iconography within the historical context further reveals the popularity of the Amitayus and Maitreya Pure Lands during the Southern Dynasties period. A contextual study also informs us that, while borrowing northern conventions, Qixia has developed a unique southern style in cave art and architecture. This new southern tradition in turn provided models for the Buddhist caves during the later part of the Northern dynasties around the end of the fifth to sixth century. Given the fact that late fifth and sixth century witnessed the domestication of Buddhism in China, this study further signifies the role and contribution of southern China in the internalization of Buddhism and Buddhist art during that period
Thesis, Dissertation, English, 2007
Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 2007
Ohio State University