Foguangsi on Mount Wutai: Architecture of Politics and Religion
History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
History of Religion
Foguangsi (Monastery of Buddha’s Radiance) is a monastic complex that stands on a high terrace on a mountainside, in the southern ranges of Mount Wutai, located in present-day Shanxi province. The mountain range of Wutai has long been regarded as the sacred abode of the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī and a prominent center of the Avataṃsaka School. Among the monasteries that have dotted its landscape, Foguangsi is arguably one of the best-known sites that were frequented by pilgrims. The rediscovery of Foguangsi by modern scholars in the early 20th century has been considered a “crowning moment in the modern search for China’s ancient architecture”. Most notably, the Buddha Hall, which was erected in the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE), was seen as the ideal of a “vigorous style” of its time, and an embodiment of an architectural achievement at the peak of Chinese civilization. However, after several initial reports, scholarship on the structure has for the most part been confined to introductory writings intended for a general audience, and an thorough re-examination of Foguangsi is long overdue. Through the methodology of a case study, my thesis seeks to understand not only its art and architecture, but also the social and religious context in which the art and architecture was produced.