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Research Postgraduate Seminar

Watermoon Avalokiteshvara Paintings and their Viewers and Producers in East Asia

Date: 10 December 2020 (Thursday)
Time: 5:30-6:30pm
Venue: 7.58, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU

Online attendance via Zoom is possible (click here for the zoom link)
Meeting ID: 979 3264 4258 (no password required)


Ever since its earliest inception in the metropolitan capitals of Luoyang and Chang’an of Tang China (618-907 CE), Watermoon Avalokiteshvara as a subject matter of depiction had spread to different polities of East Asia in the following centuries. Polities such as Wuyue (907-978 CE) and Song (960-1279 CE) in China continued to produce Watermoon Avalokiteshvara images, making stylistic and iconographic innovations that reflect the different preferences of the day. This image was also spread to Japan and Korea. By the 14th century, both Kamakura Japan (1192-1333 CE) and the Koryo Kingdom (918-1392 CE) in Korea had become important centres for consuming and producing images of Watermoon Avalokiteshvara.

In this presentation, I first argue how one should view Watermoon Avalokiteshvara paintings in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-979 CE) and Song periods alongside contemporaneous art historical development. Most relevant to this discussion is landscape painting’s development as genre. I then revisit the Koryo examples and argue for a multi-identities perspective of viewing them both as representative of Koryo national style and within the context of the larger Yuan imperium (1271-1368 CE). This transnational perspective can also garner better understandings of what I termed Sino-Japanese examples found in 14th century Kamakura Japan. This presentation concludes with a close reading of two enigmatic examples of Watermoon Avalokiteshvara in the Nara National Museum and the Rijksmuseum collections in Japan and the Netherlands. I shall argue how these works are results of transnational exchanges.


Mr. Konstance Chuntung Li is a final year doctoral student at the Department of Art History, University of Hong Kong. He holds a M.St. in Archaeology from the University of Oxford. His current research has received generous support from the Japan Foundation and is a comprehensive study that examines Watermoon Avalokiteshvara paintings in East Asia from the 9th to the 14th centuries. At present, Mr. Li is also a member of the National Gallery Singapore’s Language Panel.

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