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Empowered by the Cosmos: The Yonglegong and Yuan Dynasty Politics

Date: 29 April 2010 (Thursday)
Time: 5:00pm
Venue: Room 2.38, Main Building, HKU

In 1244 the former Lüzhuci or the Shrine of Taoist Patriarch Lü Dongbin (798-?) in Yongle county was burned down and by 1262 was reconstructed on a grander scale. During the eighteen years that it took to rebuild the temple, the Mongols were consolidating their power in northern China. The reconstruction of the temple, commonly known as Yonglegong, is a testimony to the friendship between the Quanzhen Taoist order and the rising Mongol polity. The mural paintings in the Sanqing Dian (Hall of Three Purities) were completed by 1325 and depict the Taoist pantheon in audience with the Supreme Origin, the source of the cosmos. Traditionally the murals are referred to as Chaoyuan tu (Pictures of Paying Homage to the Origin), a term that refers to representations of a procession of immortals. This seminar argues that the Chaoyuan tu of the Sanqian Dian de-emphasizes the processional component and incorporates an alternative iconography. Rather than showing the immortals in procession, they are represented as a congregation who are positioned to witness an elite imperial ceremony. The immortals in the Sanqian Dian were pictorially gathered within the murals to help legitimate Mongol rule in China. The representation seeks to establish the historical context of the Yonglegong to align the imagery with a promotion to both Quanzhen Taoism and the Yuan dynasty.

Speaker: Li Chun Tung (MPhil Candidate, Department of Fine Arts, HKU)

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