Contact Hsueh-man Shen

Assistant Professor: Ehrenkranz Chair in World Art

National Taiwan University (B.A. and M.A.); University of Oxford (D.Phil.)

With a focus on pre-modern China, I take special interest in exploring topics pertaining to the relationship between materiality and spirituality, interplay between word and image, and the intersection between mortuary and religious practices. While my recent research concentrates on the ways in which artworks and artifacts were made or installed to embody a religious idea, my general approach is to cross the boundaries of genre studies and examine objects in their original contexts of use and production.

I am also interested in learning about the unknown past of China, especially those neglected in the written history. Thanks to the fast-growing archaeology in China, our knowledge of the middle periods is constantly challenged. The body of information concerning the periods when China was under so-called alien rules is particularly exciting and hence forms the core of my research in the past decade. These new discoveries allowed me to examine notions and practices like bodies and representation, copies and authenticity as they were understood in the middle periods, while making references to modern discourses on the subjects in the Western world. The exhibition curated by myself for the Asia Society Museum in 2006-2007 and featuring the Liao empire represents this line of research I have taken so far.

More recently I have turned my attention to the inter-regional cultural exchanges along the ancient Silk Road in a broad sense. Treasure hoards found in the steppe and shipwrecks rescued from the Indian Ocean provide new materials and opportunities for insight into the interconnected medieval world. A seminar I taught at the Institute recently is only the first step to systematically study shipwrecks in relations to the Indian Ocean trade. Besides, Buddhist cave-temples in the Chinese dessert area continue to be a great source of inspiration for deeper understanding of medieval China. I am particularly interested in the recent attempts to utilize digital technology for preservation or reconstruction of the cave contents. While these attempts doubtlessly enrich classroom experiences, they also present challenges to the religious or cognitive experience of the sites. It is my intention to watch those developments closely and discuss them in my seminars in the semesters to come.

Prior to my arrival at the IFA in 2009, I served as the Foster Foundation Associate Curator of Chinese Art at the Seattle Art Museum, Senior Curator of China at the National Museums Scotland. I also taught at the University of Edinburgh (U.K.). During my sabbatical leave from having taught for three years at Edinburgh, I was a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin).

Having the privilege to have worked in both the museum and university environments, I appreciate the different modes of knowledge delivery and believe in communication between the two worlds. This has, therefore, become an important part of my teaching philosophy.

Currently I am completing a book to explore the idea and practice of replication and reproduction in the making of Buddhist art and material culture. A separate line of my current research concerns the issue of translation – at both linguistic and artistic levels, and assesses the role of translation in establishing the intellectual genealogy of Chinese art. I welcome student inquiries about any of the areas I continue to be working on.


Schätze der Liao. Editor and co-author of the exhibition catalogue in German. Zürich: Gva-Vertriebsgemeinschaft, 2007. (German edition of the exhibition catalogue below.)

Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China’s Liao Empire (907-1125). Editor and co-author of the exhibition catalogue. Milan: 5 Continents, 2006.


“The China-Abbasid Ceramics Trade during the Ninth and Tenth Centuries: Chinese Ceramics Circulating in the Middle East” in Blackwell Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, eds. Gülru Necipoglu and Finbarr B. Flood. Oxford, forthcoming in 2015.

“Copies without the Original: King Aśoka’s 84,000 Stupas and Their Replications in China” in Between East and West: Reproductions in Art, Proceedings of the 2013 CIHA Colloquium in Naruto, Japan, ed. Shigetoshi Osano with special collaboration of Yukio Lippit, Akira Akiyama, and Milosz Wozny. Kraków and Tokyo, forthcoming in 2014.

“Familiar Differences: Chinese Polychromes in the Indian Ocean Trade during the 9th Century” in Beiträge zur Islamischen Kunst und Archäologie, Hg. Ernst-Herzfeld-Gesellschaft, Bd. 4. Wiesbaden, 2014.

“Indian Makara or Chinese Dragon-Fish? Textual Translation and Visual Transformation of Makara in China,” Art in Translation, 5.2 (2013): 275-298.

“Tombs at the Crossroads of the Worlds of the Living and the Dead,” in Tenth Century China and Beyond: Art and Visual Culture in a Multi-Centered Age, ed. Wu Hung. Chicago, 2012.

“Between One and Many: Multiples, Multiplication and the Huayan Metaphysics,” Proceedings of the British Academy 181 (2012): 205-258.

“Image in a Mirror, Moon in the Water: Liao Period Bronze Mirrors Incised with Buddhist Images,” Orientations 37.6 (September 2006): 58-64.

“Interview with Ch’ung-ho Chang Frankel” in the exhibition catalogue Fragrance of the Past: Chinese Calligraphy and Painting by Ch’ung-ho Chang Frankel and Friends, eds. Mimi G. Gates in association with Hsueh-man Shen and Qianshen Bai(Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2006), pp. 25-26.

“Body Matters: Manikin Burials in the Liao Tombs of Xuanhua, Hebei Province,” Artibus Asiae 65.1 (2005): 99-141.

“Pictorial Representations of the Buddha’s Nirvana in Chinese Relic Deposits,” East Asia Journal: Studies in Material Culture 1.1 (2003): 25-48.

“Luxury or Necessity: Glassware in Śarīra Relic Pagodas of the Tang and Northern Song Periods,” in Chinese Glass: Archaeological Studies on the Uses and Social Context of Glass Artefacts from the Warring States to the Northern Song Period, Orientalia Venetiana, XIV, ed. Cecilia Braghin (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 2002), pp. 71-110.

“Liao yu Bei Song shelita nei cangjing zhi yanjiu”遼與北宋舍利塔內藏經之研究 [Scripture Deposits in Northern Song and Liao Pagodas], Taida Journal of Art History 12 (March, 2002): 169-212.

“Realising the Buddha’s Dharma-body during the Mofa Period: A Study of the Liao Buddhist Relic Deposits,” Artibus Asiae 61.2 (2001): 263-303.

“Tōjiki no tenkai: Min to Shin no jiki”陶磁器の展開:明と清の磁器 [Ceramic Industry in Blossom: Ming and Qing Dynasties], in Ajia bijutsushiアジア美術史 [Art History of Asia] (Kyoto: Kyoto Zōkei Geijutsu Daigaku, 1999), pp. 126-135.

“Zhongguo zaoqi qingci: yi Yueyao wei zhongxin”中國早期青瓷:以越窯為中心 [Early Development of Chinese Greenware: Principally Yue Ware], Bulletin of the National Museum of History 2 (1996): 6-19.


Catalogue entries in the exhibition catalogue China: The Three Emperors: 1662-1795, eds. Evelyn Rawski and Jessica Rawson. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005.

Catalogue entries in the exhibition catalogue Qianfeng cuise: Yueyao te zhan千峰翠色:越窯特展 [Special Exhibition of Early Chinese Greenware], eds. Shwu-shin Lin, Ming-liang Hsieh, and Wei-hwa Chang. Taipei: Nien-Hsi Foundation, 1996.


“Entering the Unattainable Country of Lankā: Carving of the Lankāvatāra-sūtra at Mount Gangshan.” Paper read at Heidelberg Academy in 2004, and at the Academia Sinica in 2006. In preparation for publication.

“Shengsi yu niepan – Tang Song zhiji fojiao yu shisu muzang de jiaocuo lingyu”
生死與涅槃-唐宋之際佛教與世俗墓葬的交錯領域 [Where Secular Death and Buddhist Nirvana Intersect: Secular and Religious Burials during the Tang-Song Transition]. Completed in 2008; last updated in 2012. [Read online]