Lecture uncovers the oasis of Dunhuang

by Anna Nguyen, The Arkansas Traveler Online, Oct 8, 2008

Fayetteville, Arkansas (USA) -- The Asian Studies Program will present a Buddhist workshop entitled "Medieval Prayers for the Buddhist Lantern Ritual from Dunhuang." The lecture will feature visiting professors Huaiyu Chen and Houbin Liu.

"The Asian Studies Program will feature a series of lectures to the campus, which will cover East Asia history, politics, literature and music," said Liang Cai, assistant professor of history. "[The events] will be a wide range of topics."

Chen and Liu's lecture is the first of the series, she said.

Chen is an assistant professor at the Department of Religious Studies at Arizona State University and received his Ph.D. in East Asian Religions from Princeton University. He specializes in Chinese religions, particularly Buddhism and has recently published a book, titled "The Revival of Buddhist Monasticism in Medieval China," which deals with the Chinese interpretation of Buddhist monastic code in the sixth and seventh centuries.

Liu is professor in the history department at Renmin University of China and received his Ph.D. from Beijing University, specializing in Tang history.

Liu has also published several books and many articles on the dynasty. He is currently a visiting professor at Arizona State University, according to a press release.

The speakers will discuss the Buddhist Lantern Ritual, which is the biggest event in the Buddhist festival from Dunhuang.

Dunhuang, an oasis located in the Gansu province in China, was a great location of Buddhism in the early 13th century, where it served as an entry for Buddhist monks and missionaries from the kingdoms of Central Asia, according to the Britannica Online Encyclopedia.

In 366 CE, those Buddhists founded the first of what are now known as Mogao Caves, which is also called the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas. Since the discovery of the caves, the town became a major Buddhist site and place of pilgrimage, according to the encyclopedia.

Tomorrow's lecture will also have an archeological approach, in which the visiting professors will talk about the caves and the preservation of Buddha statues and the manuscripts printed on bamboo strips among other topics, Cai said.