Hsueh-man Shen

Assistant Professor: Ehrenkranz Chair in World Art

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

My area of specialization is the art and archaeology of medieval China, with a focus on the period from the eighth to the twelfth centuries. I am particularly interested in exploring the relationship between materiality and spirituality, the interplay between word and image, and the intersection between mortuary and religious practices. As a result, my general research approach is to cross the boundaries of genre studies and examine objects in their original contexts of production and use.

My published work ranges from decorated tombs, reliquaries, to Buddhist cave-temples, and shipwrecks. I have also written on the role of translation in establishing the intellectual genealogy of Chinese art, and the meaning of originality and authenticity in the Buddhist art of China. Among my most recent publications are a short essay on the cognitive experience of manually and digitally reconstructed Buddhist sites (Orientations, forthcoming), and a book about how Chinese Buddhist practitioners exploited pre-existing systems of production to meet the need for multiple sacred objects, to achieve authenticity and thereby to integrate the foreign religion of Buddhism into Chinese society (Authentic Replicas: Buddhist Art in Medieval China, University of Hawai‘i Press, forthcoming). Ongoing projects include a book manuscript, tentatively titled Shipwrecks and Submerged Worlds: Contesting Fields of Art, Archaeology, and Politics, which focuses on the shipwrecks salvaged from South China Sea and pioneers to address the troubled relationship between archaeology and politics; and another book project to explore how text and image inform each other during the process of translation, and the ways in which modern translations of primary and secondary texts mediate scholarly discourses about Chinese art history.

Prior to joining the faculty of IFA-NYU, I held several curatorial positions in Taiwan, the U.S., and the U.K., and organized exhibitions ranging from the forgotten nomadic dynasty of Liao to contemporary China. My past exhibitions include: Contemporary Chinese Art at the National Museums Scotland (Edinburgh, 2008), Schätze der Liao: Chinas vergessene Nomadendynastie (907-1125) (Cologne and Zurich, 2007), Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China’s Liao Empire (907-1126) (New York, 2006), Sacred Words (Edinburgh, 2006), Beyond Time – Image of China: Photographs by Chih-liang Cheng (San Francisco, 2006), Fragrance of the Past: Chinese Calligraphy and Painting by Ch’ung-ho Chang Frankel and Friends (co-curator; Seattle, 2006).

My curatorial experiences allowed me to fully appreciate the importance of combining fieldwork in the museum and lecture/seminar in the classroom. They also guided my attention to an object-oriented approach to the history of art in China. Thus, as a faculty member of the IFA, I remain active as curatorial collaborator and continue organizing exhibitions related to or derived from my own research. Since 2013 I have been serving as consultant and co-organizer of the Getty exhibition Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road, scheduled to open in May 2016. As the first major art historical and conservation-related exhibition in the U.S. to focus on Dunhuang, this exhibition features conservation of the site, and the confluence of artistic traditions at Dunhuang in relation to the ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity along the ancient Silk Road. Moreover, it highlights the importance of replication as an act of devotion that generates merit, enacts spiritual encounter, and assists in the dissemination of the Buddhist faith.

Over the years I have actively engaged in a variety of international projects and scholarly networks across the continents. Between 2002 and 2005 I participated in a project led by Heidelberg Academy, Heidelberg University, and the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences to research Buddhist stone inscriptions in North China. In 2008-2009 I was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin). While a fellow there, I was invited to lecture in Berlin, Taipei, and Chicago. In 2011, I delivered the Elsley Zeitlyn Lecture on Chinese Archaeology and Culture at the British Academy in London. From 2010-2012, I served as Co-principal Investigator of a collaborative research project for the study of Tang-dynasty Buddhist cave-temples in Sichuan. Members of the project came from Academia Sinica in Taiwan, Tsinghua University in Beijing, and several museums in Sichuan province of China.

In addition to offering lectures, colloquia, and seminars, my teaching at the IFA involves supervision of dissertations, theses, and qualifying papers. In the past six years since I joined the IFA, two qualifying papers and three M.A. theses have been completed under my supervision. I also sit on the PhD examination committees and dissertation committees at IFA-NYU and other universities, including Bard Graduate Center, the University of Chicago and Columbia University.

I regularly serve as reviewer of leading academic journals, such as Ars Orientalis, Archives of Asian Art, and Art History. In 2011 I was external evaluator for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and then in 2014 I reviewed scholarly works submitted for the Research Excellence Framework (REF), a national exercise to assess the quality of research in U.K. higher education institutions. My contribution to the field also includes organization of academic events. Since 2010, I have been co-organizer with Professor Jonathan Hay of the monthly IFA-China Project Workshop – a forum that allows specialists within and beyond the U.S. to meet regularly and engage in informed discussions about the latest developments in the field. Outside of IFA-NYU, I co-organized two international conferences with colleagues in the U.K.; one was China in the Context of Globalization: Conference on Art and Translation (University of Edinburgh and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2011), and the other was Thoughts and Things in China: International Conference in Honour of Jessica Rawson (British Museum, 2013).


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]