China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
The Cloud Platform at Juyongguan, completed sometime between 1343 and 1345 under the imperial patronage of the Yuan court, is a major architectural monument located along the Great Wall near Beijing. For over a century, textual historians have noted unusual nature of the multilingual inscriptions on the interior walls of the building. The monument’s pictorial stone carvings, however, are as unusual. Covering the inner and outer surfaces of the monument are the shallow, surface-oriented carvings of complex Buddhist iconographies and ornaments. Simply put, the Juyongguan’s approach to sculptural form is unprecedented in the history of Chinese art, hinting at non-local influences.
This paper analyzes the elaborate sculptural program at Juyongguan from trans-regional perspective. Much like the multilingual inscriptions accompanying the monument, the stone carvings were products of a confluence of multiple artistic traditions that the Yuan governed, including Mongolian, Tibetan, Tangut, and Chinese visual cultures. The most striking, however, is the visual connection between the artistic traditions of the Yuan and Southeast Asia, suggested by the similarity of approaches to stone surface and figural forms as well as workmanship between the stone carvers at Juyongguan and those at the contemporaneous monuments of Angkor in present-day Cambodia. The connection, perhaps, is not so surprising, considering the commercial and political relationships the Yuan had in the region. The extant textual records, such as the one that the Yuan diplomat Zhou Daguan wrote after visiting Angkor in 1296-1297, suggest the possible exchanges of sculptural and architectural knowledge between these two places.