Illustrations of the Parinirvāṇa Cycle in Kucha

Lecture | September 28 | 6-8 p.m. | Alumni House, Toll Room

 Monika Zin, University of Leipzig

 Tang Center for Silk Road Studies

At least 100 caves in Kucha contain (or once contained) murals depicting scenes connected with the Buddha's death. The paintings are typically located in the rear part of the caves, in corridors behind the Buddha in the main niche. The illustrations begin with the episodes from the Buddha's last journey and end with the first council in Rājagṛha. It is solely through comparative analysis of the representations that it becomes possible to discern their programme. Through this programme, we discover the local beliefs these illustrations mirror, and the literary sources they illustrate. Interestingly, the arrangement of the murals in the corridors often follows the principles of symmetry, and not the chronology of the narrative, as if to create a “holy space” rather than to illustrate a chronology of events.

An expert on Indian and Central Asian Art, and Indian drama, Monika Zin began her academic career at the Jagiellon University in Cracow, Poland, in Theater Studies and Polish Language and Literature (M.A. in 1981). This was followed by a doctorate in Indology and Indian Art and post-doctoral studies (habilitation) in Indology at the LMU in Munich. In 2000, she joined the Department for Indology at the LMU Munich as an Associate Professor and also held a position as a Lecturer in Buddhist Art and Literature in the Department for Indology and Central Asian Sciences at the University of Leipzig from 2005 to 2008. From 2010-2014, she was a Visiting Professor in the Department of Art History at the FU Berlin. She is currently a professor at the University of Leipzig working on a project entitled “Buddhist Murals of Kucha on the Northern Silk Road.”