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                A Review of Tangut Buddhism, Art and Textual Studies

                Dr. Saren Gaowa
                China Research Coordinator for the Ford Foundation project, National Library of China

                DOWNLOAD THIS PAPER (PDF 568KB)


                A Tangut Paper Fragment

                Tangut Paper Fragment
                ?The British Library

                Introduction

                Tangut studies began with the excavation of artefacts and documents at Kharakhoto (in present-day northwest China) in the early twentieth century. Currently more than ten countries have institutes specializing on Tangut studies and have published a large corpus of scholarly work in the field. Following on from the pioneering work of former scholars, many new scholars are turning to Tangut studies and have achieved important advances in recent years. At the same time, new materials have been discovered, providing a wealth of information for research purposes. Various international conferences on different themes of Tangut studies have been held worldwide.

                Excavations

                1. Kharakhoto — Kozlov, Stein and Chinese excavations

                2. Other Tangut sites — Chinese excavations



                Painting of Mahasthamaprapta

                Mahasthamaprapta, 13th century
                ?State Hermitage Museum

                Review of international Tangut studies up to 1980

                In China, significant research has been done on Buddhism and Tangut art. Tangut Buddhism took elements from the Buddhism practiced at the time among Chinese and Tibetans. Chinese histories including the Liao History, Jin History, and especially the Song History records six cases of the Tanguts seeking Buddhist sutras from the Song dynasty (960–1279), and then making the woodblocks. In addition, evidence of exchange between the Tanguts and the Song dynasty can be seen from Tibetan documents, such as the Mkhas Pavi Dgav Ston (A Feast for Scholars), The Red Annals, Biographies of Tibetan Emperors and Ministers, and The Sakya Hereditary History. The history of the Tibetan Buddhist monks who were appointed as royal tutors and other important positions in the Tangut kingdom is outlined in detail in Sun Changsheng's paper(1). A large amount of work has been done on Tangut Buddhism. A seminal text in this field is Shi Jinbo's Historical Sketch of Tangut Buddhism(2), which contains a detailed description of the development of Tangut Buddhism, Tangut sutras, Tangut temples and monks. In the chapter entitled 'Tangut Buddhist Art', Professor Shi discusses Tangut Buddhist painting in grottoes and temples, scroll paintings on silk or paper, wooden engraving on printed sutras, sculptures in grottoes and statues in temples, calligraphy of sutras, and Buddhist art from the perspective of temple structures. Professor Shi's research on the influences from the cultures of Tibet and the central plains of China on Tangut culture has been widely recognized by scholars of Tangut.

                In China, significant research has been done on Buddhism and Tangut art. Tangut Buddhism took elements from the Buddhism practiced at the time among Chinese and Tibetans. Chinese histories including the Liao History, Jin History, and especially the Song History records six cases of the Tanguts seeking Buddhist sutras from the Song dynasty (960–1279), and then making the woodblocks. In addition, evidence of exchange between the Tanguts and the Song dynasty can be seen from Tibetan documents, such as the Mkhas Pavi Dgav Ston (A Feast for Scholars), The Red Annals, Biographies of Tibetan Emperors and Ministers, and The Sakya Hereditary History. The history of the Tibetan Buddhist monks who were appointed as royal tutors and other important positions in the Tangut kingdom is outlined in detail in Sun Changsheng's paper . A large amount of work has been done on Tangut Buddhism. A seminal text in this field is Shi Jinbo's Historical Sketch of Tangut Buddhism, which contains a detailed description of the development of Tangut Buddhism, Tangut sutras, Tangut temples and monks. In the chapter entitled 'Tangut Buddhist Art', Professor Shi discusses Tangut Buddhist painting in grottoes and temples, scroll paintings on silk or paper, wooden engraving on printed sutras, sculptures in grottoes and statues in temples, calligraphy of sutras, and Buddhist art from the perspective of temple structures. Professor Shi's research on the influences from the cultures of Tibet and the central plains of China on Tangut culture has been widely recognized by scholars of Tangut.

                Clear links exist between Tangut art and Buddhism. Tangut art is mostly concentrated in Buddhist temples or paintings; in Buddhist documents; in sculpture and architecture in Buddhist grottoes. Scholars such as Duan Wenjie, Zhang Baoxi, Liu Yuquan, Sun Changsheng and Han Xiaomang have continued to work on Tangut art, focusing on the representation and artistic merits of cave wall painting (see Appendix 1). The Tangut Kingdom, the Chinese Song dynasty and Tibetan Empire coexisted in roughly the same historical period, see the Chronology of Chinese History in Appendix 2. An important characteristic of Tangut art is the deep influence from Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. Professor Shi Jinbo has mentioned this in his work. Professor Xie Jisheng from the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences has also contributed important work on this topic. His paper(3) and book(4) have introduced the history and research of tangkas found in Kharakhoto, the contents and style of the images, the origin of the tangka, the form of tangas found in Kharakhoto, Tangut tangas and their origin in Tibetan Tantric Buddhism. Professor Xie has also analysed the influence from Tibetan Tantric Buddhism.

                With the development of Tangut studies, the demands for collation, publication, and digitization of Tangut materials are significantly greater than before. In order to meet the needs of scholars, the holding institutions of the Tangut documents from Kharakhoto have published these materials. In 1993, the Shanghai Classic Publishing Company and the St Petersburg Branch of the Institute of Oriental Studies, the Russian Academy of Sciences collaborated to edit and publish all the Kharakhoto documents held in Russia. Chinese scholars and editors went to Russia twice, and together with Russian scholars they worked to collate, catalogue and photograph these materials. Around 8,000 Russian Tangut documents have been published in eleven volumes since 1996. In 2002,the Northwest Second National Minority College (Now the Northern National Minority University) started a project entitled 'Collation of Kharakhoto Documents Held in Britain'. They have cooperated with the Shanghai Classic Publishing Company since 2005 and published the four-volume Documents from Khara-Khoto in the British Library.(5)

                Compared to the publication of Tangut documents held worldwide, the collation and publication of Tangut documents in China has been slow. The Tangut documents are held in Beijing, Ningxia, Gansu, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Xinjiang and other places. Some scholars have collated these documents and made catalogues, although this work has not been published in its entirety. Ningxia University set up a project for the collation of Tangut manuscripts in China in 2001, and began to work with the Gansu Research Centre for Collating Chinese Classics in 2004. Later on, another ten institutions took part in this project too. Now the Gansu Renmin Publishing Company and the Dunhuang Wenyi Publishing Company have published Tangut Manuscripts Collected in China — Beijing in twelve volumes. The digitization of the Tangut documents took place just before the publication. The National Library of China, as a major holding institution of Tangut documents, digitized 121 Tangut documents in 2002, as well as organizing an exhibition on Tangut culture and cataloguing all the papers on Tangut studies. These resources can be freely searched and used at the website of the National Library of China. The detailed references concerning Tangut documents held at the National Library of China are listed in Appendix 3.

                Although the Tangut documents are now being rapidly collated and digitized in China, web resources are being developed individually and in isolation. Institutions, whether in Beijing or Ningxia, have digitized the documents according to their own standards without sharing information or resources. Thus to date there is no complete resource including the original images of the documents, catalogues or full texts of the research papers and books on Tangut studies, historical records of the Tanguts and the achievements of scholars of Tangut and holding institutions. Scanning PDF articles can no longer satisfy user requirements. The creation of some kind of knowledge database is needed to allow more in-depth analysis into the results of research already undertaken. The National Library of China digitization of the catalogues of Tangut documents and research is an example of pioneering work in this area. The database has not been maintained or updated however, resulting in no new data since 2002.

                Funded by the Ford Foundation, the symposium on 25–27 April, 2007 on Tangut civilization will also propose the construction of a web resource of Tangut studies. Similar to the knowledge database mentioned above, we suggest that the database should be based upon the existing Internet resources and full-text images, with useful links added. Information on the related institutions and scholars should also be included, and all the historical records related to the Tangut kingdom should be included in the database, so as to set up a functional knowledge base. At this stage, we are just creating a simple homepage displaying references on Tangut Buddhism and art. We believe that all scholars present at the symposium are the experts who are able to comment on what should be included in the database on Tangut Studies, thus promoting further research. Your valuable opinions and suggestions are therefore welcomed.



                Review of Tangut studies in China



                Timeline

                朝代
                Dynasty
                帝王
                Emperor
                公元起讫
                Dates (AD)
                年号
                Era names (Nian hao)
                北宋
                Bei song
                宋太祖赵匡胤
                song tai zu zhao kuang yin
                960–963
                963–968
                968–976
                建隆 jian long
                乾德 qian de
                开宝 kai bao
                宋太宗赵灵
                Song tai zong zhao ling
                976–984
                984–987
                988–989
                990–994
                995–997
                太平兴国 tai ping xing guo
                雍熙 yong xi
                端拱 duan gong
                淳化 chun hua
                至道 zhi dao
                真宗赵恒
                Zhen zong zhao heng
                998–1003
                1004–1007
                1008–1016
                1017–1021
                1022
                咸平 xian ping
                景德 jing de
                大中祥符 da zhong xiang fu
                天禧 tian xi
                乾兴 qian xing
                仁宗赵祯
                Ren zong zhao zhen
                1023–1032
                1032–1033
                天圣 tian sheng
                明道 ming dao
                西夏
                Xi xia
                景宗李元昊
                Jing zong li yuan hao
                1032–1034 显道 xian dao
                1034 开运 kai yun
                1034–1036 广运 guang yun
                北宋
                Bei song
                仁宗赵祯
                Ren zong zhao zhen
                1034–1038 景祐 jing you
                西夏
                Xi xia
                景宗李元昊
                Jing zong li yuan hao
                1036–1038 大庆 da qing
                北宋
                Bei song
                仁宗赵祯
                Ren zong zhao zhen
                1038–1040 宝元 bao yuan
                西夏
                Xi xia
                景宗李元昊
                Jing zong li yuan hao
                1038–1048 天授礼法延祚 Tian shou li fa yan zuo
                北宋
                Bei song
                仁宗赵祯
                Ren zong zhao zhen
                1040–1041
                1041–1048
                康定 kang ding
                庆历 qing li
                西夏
                Xi xia
                毅宗李谅祚
                Yi zong li liang zuo
                1049 延嗣宁国 yan si ning guo
                1050–1052 天祐垂圣 tian you chui sheng
                北宋
                Bei song
                仁宗赵祯
                Ren zong zhao zhen
                1049–1054 皇祐 huang you
                西夏
                Xi xia
                毅宗李谅祚
                Yi zong li liang zuo
                1053–1056 福圣承道 fu sheng cheng dao
                北宋
                Bei song
                仁宗赵祯
                Ren zong zhao zhen
                1054–1056
                1056–1063
                至和 zhi he
                嘉祐 jia you
                西夏
                Xi xia
                毅宗李谅祚
                Yi zong li liang zuo
                1057–1062 奢单都 she dan du
                1063–1067 拱化 gong hua
                北宋
                Bei song
                仁宗赵祯
                Ren zong zhao zhen
                1064–1067 治平 zhi ping
                神宗赵顼
                Shen zong zhao xu
                1068–1077 熙宁 xi ning
                西夏
                Xi xia
                惠宗李秉常
                Hui zong li bing chang
                1068–1069 乾道 qian dao
                1070–1074 天赐礼盛国庆 Tian ci li sheng guo qing
                1075–1085 大安 da an
                北宋
                Bei song
                神宗赵顼
                Shen zong zhao xu
                1078–1085 元丰 yuan feng
                西夏
                Xi xia
                惠宗李秉常
                Hui zong li bing chang
                1086 天安礼定
                Tian an li ding
                北宋
                Bei song
                神宗赵顼
                Shen zong zhao xu
                1086–1094 元祐 yuan you
                西夏
                Xi xia
                崇宗李乾顺 1086–1089 天仪治平 tian yi zhi ping
                1090–1097 天祐民安 tian you min an
                北宋
                Bei song
                神宗赵顼
                Shen zong zhao xu
                1094–1098
                1098–1100
                绍圣 shao sheng
                元符 yuan fu
                西夏
                Xi xia
                崇宗李乾顺
                Chong zong li qian shun
                1098–1100 永安 yong an
                北宋
                Bei song
                神宗赵顼
                Shen zong zhao xn
                1101 建中靖国 jian zhong jing guo
                西夏
                Xi xia
                崇宗李乾顺
                Chong zong li qian shun
                1101–1113 贞观 zhen guan
                北宋
                Bei song
                神宗赵顼
                Shen zong zhao xn
                1102–1106
                1107–1110
                1111–1118
                崇宁 chong ning
                大观 da guan
                政和 zheng he
                西夏
                Xi xia
                崇宗李乾顺
                Chong zong li qian shun
                1114–1118 雍宁 yong ning
                北宋
                Bei song
                神宗赵顼
                Shen zong zhao xu
                1118–1119
                1119–1125
                重和 chong he
                宣和 xuan he
                西夏
                Xi xia
                崇宗李乾顺
                Chong zong li qian shun
                1119–1127 元德 yuan de
                北宋
                Bei song
                钦宗赵桓
                Qin zong zhao huan
                1126–1127 靖康 jing kang
                西夏
                Xi xia
                崇宗李乾顺
                Chong zong li qian shun
                1127–1134 正德 zheng de
                1135–1139 大德 da de
                仁宗李仁孝
                Ren zong li ren xiao
                1140–1144
                1144–1148
                1149–1169
                1170–1193
                大庆 da qing
                人庆 ren qing
                天盛 tian sheng
                乾祐 qian you
                恒宗李纯祐
                Heng zong li chun you
                1194–1206 天庆 tian qing
                襄宗李安全
                Xiang zong li an quan
                1206–1209
                1210–1211
                应天 ying tian
                皇建 huang jian
                神宗李遵项
                Shen zong li zun xiang
                1211–1223 光定 guang ding
                献宗李德旺
                Xian zong li de wang
                1223–1226 乾定 qian ding
                末主李睍
                Mo zhu li xian
                1226–1227 宝义 bao yi


                Bibliography

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