Buddha's jigsaw.

Author:Graham, Elyse

Works in Progress - University of Chicago's project to cyber reconstruct China's Buddhist relics - Brief article


During China's Northern Qi dynasty (550-577), the caves of Xiangtangshan housed temples adorned with painted spirits, limestone lotuses, and stone bodhisattvas in flowing robes. But by the mid-20th century, the Buddhist treasures had been besieged by military bands seeking refuge, industrialists clearing storage space, and looters inspired by the international art market for Chinese sculpture. Today the former temples are sooty and pocked. Many of the statues are decapitated (top photo).


Although the damage is irreversible, a cyberspace reconstruction is being undertaken by a team of scholars and technicians led by Katherine Tsiang Mino, associate director of the University of Chicago's Center for the Art of East Asia. Since 2004, Mint's team has tracked stolen sculptures to sites in San Francisco, Philadelphia, London, Zurich, and Osaka. "We just found a new group at Columbia University," Mint says in an interview. "They've had it for decades in the basement of their...

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