SOAS University of London

Centre of Buddhist Studies

Authentic replicas: Buddhist art in Medieval China

Prof. Hsueh-man Shen (New York University)

Date: 5 October 2018Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 5 October 2018Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Senate House Room: Atrium

Type of Event: Lecture


As belief in the Buddha grew and his teachings were transmitted across Asia, Buddhist images, scriptures, and relics were duplicated and reduplicated to satisfy the needs of increasing numbers of the faithful. Yet how were these countless copies of sacred objects able to retain their authenticity and efficacy? Authentic Replicas explores how Buddhists in medieval China solved this conundrum through the use of traditional methods of replication to create objects that fulfilled the spiritual aspirations of those who possessed them. I will show that the Buddhist concept of a replica as an extension of its source imbued the object with credibility, and rendered replicas as “authentic,” possessing the same degree of efficacy as the original.


Hsueh-man Shen is Ehrenkranz Associate Professor in World Art at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Her research on Buddhist art and material culture focuses on the transmission of ideas and technologies across time and space. She is author of the book, Authentic Replicas: Buddhist Art in Medieval China (2018), and editor of Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China’s Liao Empire (2006, German version in 2007). In 2016 she co-curated the special exhibition, Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road, for the Getty Center in Los Angeles. She is currently working on a book manuscript, tentatively titled Art, Space, and Mobility, to explore how maritime connectivity reconfigured the cultural boundaries of East Asia during the long twelfth century.

Organiser: SOAS centre of Buddhist Studies

Contact email:

Sponsor: Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation