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The Remarkable Diamond Sutra of Mount Tai and Its Carved Colophons

EVT 501
Mar 4
1:00—4:00 pm
Room 111, Science Teaching & Learning Center
Status: No Registration Required
Mount Tai in China’s Shandong Province has been a center of religious worship for over three thousand years. As the most revered of the “Five Sacred Mountains,” it has attracted Taoist, Buddhist, and Confucian pilgrims, many of whom have left inscriptions carved on the stone faces of the mountain. In a side valley, there is a lesser-known, but equally dramatic, 6th-century engraving of the famous Buddhist Diamond Sutra. The characters cover an area of about 1,800 square meters. It is the largest sutra text under the open sky in China.

It is common practice in Chinese literary culture for distinguished readers to attach their own commentaries or statements of appreciation to written manuscripts. These are known as “colophons.” On Mount Tai, over forty such colophons have been added to the Diamond Sutra, carved into the rock face. They contain fascinating commentary on how later generations viewed, appreciated, and criticized the original sutra—over a span of hundreds of years. We will discuss selected colophons, starting in the Song dynasty and continuing to the present day. Transcriptions of the texts, translations, and photographs of the engravings will be made available to the participants before the lecture.

Lothar Ledderose, Senior Professor of East Asian Art History, Heidelberg University

Lothar Ledderose is a member of the Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften. His books include Mi Fu and the Classical Tradition of Chinese Calligraphy and Ten Thousand Things: Module and Mass Production in Chinese Art. He is presently directing a research project on the Buddhist Stone Sutras in China. In 2005, he was awarded the Balzan Prize.
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