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Lecture | China Seminar

Replication Makes Authenticity: A Curious Paradox about the Buddhist Art in China

  • Hsueh-man Shen (New York University) - Hulsewé-Wazniewski Visiting Professor, Leiden
Wednesday 10 April 2019
University Library
Witte Singel 27
2311 BG Leiden

As Buddhism was transmitted to China, sacred objects were duplicated and reduplicated to satisfy the needs of local communities. Yet the replications pose a series of questions: Can a copy be authentic? Is authenticity an inherent quality, a projection, or a fabrication? How does a copy retain the efficacy of its original? What was the relationship between copies and originals in the eyes of the medieval Chinese? Does the mode of production qualify or disqualify an object as an “authentic replica”? This lecture shows that using production methods already available in China, and building on the Buddhist concept of a replica as an extension of its source, Buddhist practitioners re-created images, text, and relics imbued with the same authenticity as their original models and thereby integrated the foreign religion into Chinese society.

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