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A Hundred Years' Study History of Gandhara in Japanese Academic Circles: from the Otani Expedition to Kyoto University-the 114th Session of Beihong Forum was Successfully Completed.

At 6 P.M. on December 17, 2020 began the 114th session of Beihong Forum organised by the School of Fine Arts in Room 501, Yuanmei Building, Xianlin Campus, Nanjing Normal University. The lecture was given by Mr. Shao Xuecheng, distinguished researcher of Dunhuang Research Institute. The lecture attracted a large number of teachers and students. 

Shao Xuecheng is distinguished Researcher of Silk Road and Dunhuang Research Center of Dunhuang Academy. Postdoctoral fellow of School of Journalism, Tsinghua University, Doctor of Cultural Heritage and Art Archaeology of Central Academy of Fine Arts, Distinguished Researcher of Institute of Buddhist Art, Renmin University of China, visiting Researcher of UCLA China Studies Center (2014-2015). The doctoral thesis is the first doctoral thesis in the Chinese world on the history of Afghan archaeological art and the history of Bamiyan Buddhist art research (instructor: Professor Li Jun). He is also one of the researchers and members of the Delegation of Chinese scholars who made the first field visit to Afghanistan and Bamiyan sites (2017).

Based on the Gandhara art in central Asia, which was born and integrated with the multi-ethnic cultures, and focusing on the development of The Buddhist art archaeology in the Japanese academic circle, this lecture gave a systematic and comprehensive review of the Investigation of The Gandhara art in Central Asia.

At the beginning of the lecture, Mr. Shao used vivid and humorous stories to focus the students' interest on Master Xuanzang's journey to the West, focusing on central Asia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, which were also important areas for the development and dissemination of Buddhism in the early period. Later, Through a series of multimedia materials, Mr. Shao demonstrated the various difficulties faced by Gandhara art in its protection today. It allowed the students to have a preliminary understanding of the object of investigation in the lecture.

Then, through a series of detailed videos and documentary records, Mr. Shao tells the story from the end of the 19th century. He also recounted the art investigation of the Colonial empires led by Britain and France in Central Asia, revealing that gandhara art was a nebulous and complex image in the eyes of western scholars. On this basis, he introduced how Japan, after the "Meiji Restoration", participated in the process of investigating The Buddhist art in Central Asia from the perspective of an Oriental culture.

Mr. Shao divided the Japanese exploration of Gandhara art into three stages. The first was the Otani expedition with religious pursuits and the purpose of "exploration and investigation" at the beginning of the 20th century. The exploration in this stage was led by Otani Guangrui, focusing on the route of Buddhist transmission and the origin of the Buddha. The private expedition provided an opportunity for Japan to learn from countries with strong archaeological strength, such as Britain and France, and also laid the foundation for Japan's study of Gandhara art.

The second is Kyoto University's visit to Central Asia after the second world war. The investigation team with Mizuno Seiichi as the core accumulated the disgraceful materials of Buddhism spread in China during the war of aggression against China through scientific and standardized field archaeology methods. The collection and arrangement of these materials reflected the East Asian nationalism contained in The Archaeological activities of Japan, and laid a foundation for the further study of gandhara art later. After being refused further study in China for many reasons, Mizuno Seiichi and others had to change their plans. Instead, he focused on Buddhist thought and chronology to investigate the occurrence and development of artistic phenomena in Gandhara, Central Asia, thus creating a conceptual Mosaic with the research materials obtained in China.

Finally, since the beginning of the new century, many Japanese research institutions have made a continuation and retrospect on the study of Gandhara art in Central Asia. Mr. Shao introduced the initiatives of research institutions such as the National Museum of Tokyo, including curation and publication of academic literature. He also analyzed the confidence and discourse of gandhara art in Japanese academic circles since its scientific development over 48 years ago. He also mentioned one of Japan's hopes for a new era of central Asian archaeology.

At the end of the lecture, through a systematic review of the lecture, Mr. Shao emphasized the academic attitude of "doing research should return to the research situation". In the opinion of Mr.Shao, any cultural phenomenon and its understanding and reflection have its original historical background and special development environment. Our current research should not break away from these inherent factors to have an arbitrary understanding of the past cultural phenomena, or we will not be able to make accurate thinking and judgment.

At the end of the lecture, the teachers and students enthusiastically participated in the lecture. They raised a lot of questions about the investigation methods, historical background and artistic phenomena, and received positive and interesting answers from Mr. Shao xuecheng.