The Rubin is transforming. Read important updates from our Executive Director.

Asian Images Inside Out

Exporting Enlightenment

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
8:00 PM–9:30 PM

Presented in association with China Institute
What Can We Learn from the Contents of Buddhist Statues?
James Robson, Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University, explores a ritual function that appears to go back to Indian Buddhist conceptions and practices. Inside the hollow centers of many Buddhist statues we can find objects that have been interred. Many times they are texts, but they can also be images of viscera and even small animals or insects. Robson has tracked this practice from China to Tibet, Korea, and Japan. What do these objects inserted inside of statues reveal about the statues themselves?
This richly illustrated keytalk is part of Exporting Enlightenment, a ten-part series over the summer that traces the spread of Buddhism and Hinduism along these cultural and trade trajectories. For the full series that accompanies the exhibition From India East see

About the Speaker

James Robson is Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University and the President of the Society for the Study of Chinese Religions. He specializes in the history of medieval Chinese Buddhism and Daoism and is particularly interested in issues of sacred geography, local religious history, talismans, religious art, and the historical development of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. He is presently engaged in a long-term collaborative research project with the École française d’Extrême-Orient, studying a large collection of local religious statuary from Hunan Province.