Youn-mi Kim - CEAS Postdoctoral Associate
Can a physically limited architectural space embody an infinite multiverse? Can an architectural monument transform a mundane space and time into a transmundane space-time of a Buddhist cosmos in which the efficacy of rituals is eternalized? Through an examination of the Chaoyang North Pagoda (1043-44), a Liao-dynasty (907-1125) structure whose archaeological excavation was completed only in the 1990s in northeast China, this talk answers these questions. After Buddhism was transmitted from India to East Asia, a cosmological scheme of unprecedented sophistication was developed in the seventh century by the Huayan school. An examination of the Chaoyang North Pagoda reveals that it was designed to be an architectural epitome of the infinitely expanding trichiliocosm of the Huayan school. It further reveals that the pagoda’s relic crypt simulated a miniaturized version of the altar for chanting the Buddhist incantation known as the Uṣṇīṣavijayā Dhāraṇī. The discovery of this ritual altar inside a permanently sealed the pagoda, which was designed to be an architectural epitome of the cosmos, raises further questions regarding our present understandings of the medieval concepts of ritual and architectural space.