Here at WildChina, we’re not just a travel company. We go beyond just showing people a destination by fostering a deeper understanding and perception of a place and the people we find there. In the time of COVID-19, we’re doing that through an online series, WildChina On-Air. These talks and discussions are a forum for us to share with you a different side of China.
We’re going to take you beyond the headlines to discover the food, culture, history, language, and reality of life in China. We’re going to encourage you to ask questions, to read something new, and to hear a different perspective on what may seem like a well-known topic.
So far, we’ve talked to Patrick Cranley, Amy Chua, and Fuchsia Dunlop. Coming up next, we’ll be In Conversation With Dr. Neil Schmid, Scholar-in-Residence at Dunhuang Academy in Gansu and a well-known expert of medieval Buddhism’s visual culture.
WildChina On-Air: In Conversation With Dr. Neil Schmid
When: June 11th, 2020. 6pm PDT | 9pm EST | 9am China Time (June 12th)
All About Dr. Schmid
Neil Schmid is the Scholar-in-Residence at the Dunhuang Academy and he is one of the world’s leading authorities on medieval Buddhism’s visual culture. He studied Chinese and East Asian Studies at Georgetown University, Waseda University in Tokyo, L’Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris, and finally earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in East Asian Languages and Civilizations. He specializes in the Silk Road and Buddhist Studies with an emphasis on the archaeological sites of Dunhuang.
Neil currently lives and works in Dunhuang, taking WildChina clients on behind-the-scenes tours of the Mogao Caves when he gets the chance – guiding them back through history to discover the origins of Buddhist art and what the ancient carvings and paintings mean.
Dunhuang & Buddhism
For monks, merchants, and artists traveling along the legendary Silk Road, the sight of the small and unimposing city of Dunhuang in northern Gansu hailed a significant crossroads. For those traveling from the East, Dunhuang was their last rest-stop before venturing into the vast and inhospitable Taklaman desert. For those who had already made the treacherous journey, the city marked a return (for the time being) to safer paths. The traditions, temples, and Buddhist art that these travelers left behind make Dunhuang one of China’s most culturally rich travel destinations.
Artwork inside the Caves. Read more here
Buddhism came to China through many routes. It brought not just a philosophy, but a cultural milieu of art, sculpture, festivals, and literature. Nowhere is the influence of these different strands of Buddhism on Chinese art more visible than in the Mogao Caves on the edge of the Taklamakan Desert, just outside the city of Dunhuang. Devout Buddhists began building the intricate complex of caves in the fourth century, with construction peaking during the Tang Dynasty in the seventh century before petering out 700 years later in the turmoil of the Yuan Dynasty. The desert provided the perfect retreat for believers to focus and practice their faith.
The Mogao Caves. Read more here
Today, the 735 caves that remain at Mogao present the largest collection of Buddhist fresco art and provide insight into the lives of the monks who lived there. The tens of thousands of paintings and carvings that fill these caves document hundreds of years of life along the Silk Road. You can trace the development of artistic style over the course of time as you move through the caves, and follow the changing forms of Buddhism practiced in the region. The Mogao Grottoes are home to some of the best-preserved cave murals in China along with endless intricately detailed frescoes, sculptures, and terracotta statues that date back as early as 400AD.
In Conversation With The Doctor
Next week, join us as we sit down with Dr. Neil Schmid to hear his insights into the Mogao Caves, the surrounding areas of Dunhuang, and how Buddhist art and culture has changed throughout China’s history.
When: Thursday, June 11th 6pm PDT | 9pm EST | 9am China time, June 12th