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Visualizing Time and Space through Foreign Eyes in Medieval China: From the Śārdūlakarṇāvadāna to Amoghavajra’s Xiuyao jing

Date and Time: 
Thursday, March 15, 2018. 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
David Rumsey Map Center
ARCS: Asian Representations and Constructions of Space
Meeting Description: 

Time and space are abstract concepts which find diversified expressions across different cultures. While some of these concepts are based on astronomical observation and scientific principles, many contain arbitrary elements and are culture-specific. Throughout the first millennium, foreign concepts of time and space were introduced to China by the Indian and Central Asian Buddhist missionaries. Astonished by these foreign concepts, the Chinese who encountered them tried to rationalize them, sometimes in ways that the Indians never envisioned, resulting in hybridization such as the Chinese horoscope and pseudo-horoscope, and the annotated almanacs. This paper examines the relationship between the expressions of time and their counterpart in spatial terms, and how such relationship drove the development of some unique visual expressions, some of which are still alive today.

Bill Mak is associate professor of history of science at the Institute for Research in Humanities and Hakubi Center at Kyoto University, Japan. He holds a PhD in Buddhist philology and Indian literature from Peking University (2010) and a BA (Hons.) in linguistics and Sanskrit from McGill University (1996). He has conducted research related to Buddhist Sanskrit manuscripts and Indian astral science at Hamburg University, Kyoto University, Kyoto Sangyo University and Chulalongkorn University. His current research examines the dissemination of Greco-Babylonian astral science in Eurasia, with focus on materials from South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia.