In 1996 a huge cache of Buddhist statuary was discovered beneath a basketball court in the town of Qingzhou in the Shadong Province of China. Almost immediately the news attracted the attention of art historians, archeologists, collectors, and thieves. "We were surrounded by dealers from the moment we began excavating," reported Wang Huaqing, Director of the Qingzhou Municipal Museum.
Aside from the immense monetary value that Qingzhou statuary fetch on the open market (in 1989 a marble stele from a similar collection sold for £850,000 at Sotheby's in London), the statues from Qingzhou are important because they offer an opportunity to study the stylistic changes that experts believe will shed light on the complex histories of the Northern Wei and Northern Qi dynasties.
Yao Chongxin (visiting scholar to Columbia University from Chongsham University in China), has studied the garment styles of the Qinzhou collection, and has discovered similarities between those made during the Northern Qi dynasty and Indian sculptures from the Gupta era. Contrary to popular opinion, he attributes the unique robe styles of the Northern Qi statues not to Chinese influences from within the mainland— but directly to India.
Last October Dr. Chongxin presented his findings to the Buddhist Studies Seminar at Columbia University. The audio for his lecture, "A Reexamination of Northern Qi Buddhist Stone Sculpture of Qingzhou, Shantong" (with translation from Dr. Eileen Hsu of the Princeton Museum of Art), is available for download below.
Listen to podcast (19.3 MB mp3) >>
Read minutes from meeting >>