China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
During the past twenty years, major archaeological discoveries, artworks and textual sources have contributed to a better understanding of the circulation and presence of foreign religions in China, such as Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity. Many studies have emphasized the correlation between the geopolitics of Eastern and Northern Asia from the 6th to the 10th century, the ethnic composition of Central Asian communities in China and the dominant religions practiced by their members. What is less clear however, is how these religions interacted with one another, as well as the exchanges they could have had with indigenous religious traditions of Northern China, such as Buddhism, Taoism or Shamanism. This panel will attempt to offer a better understanding of the dynamics by examining different points of contacts and by questioning their consequences on specific ritual, visual and canonical traditions. Gil Raz will investigate early examples of religious contact by analyzing the presence of Central Asian individuals and creatures represented on Northern Wei Buddho-Daoist stelae. Chen Huaiyu’s paper will study centers of production of religious texts in Tang Chang’an and will attempt to understand what consequences the common vocabulary shared by different religions had on the making of independent literary traditions. Pénélope Riboud will explore shifts in Zoroastrian rituals and possible Turkic influence by studying images of Central Asian celebrations in Chinese art. Zsuzsanna Gulácsi will examine the visual composition of funerary banners produced in the kingdom of Kocho in order to understand shifts from Manichaean to Buddhist soteriological iconography.