Undergraduate Course: Blood, bones, and bodies: Buddhist relics in Asia (HIAR10155)
|School||Edinburgh College of Art
||College||College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
|Credit level (Normal year taken)||SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate)
||Availability||Available to all students
|Summary||What do bones, mummies, and blood writing all have in common? Why craft an exquisite vessel of the most precious materials just to bury or hide it? We will discover answers to these questions and other intriguing paradoxes at work in Buddhist relics. The principles underlying these objects and issues that seem so distant from us are in fact ubiquitous in our contemporary society, from celebrity worship to Horcruxes.
This course is designed to introduce the fundamental concerns of appearance, creation, and function of Buddhist relics and reliquaries in Asia. Revealing the subject to be transhistorical and transcultural, this course analyses the veneration of Buddhist relics and reliquaries by focusing on their art, ritual, and devotion in India, China, Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia. Not only are courses devoted to the study of Buddhist relics rare, they seldom present the subject from the viewpoint of visual and material culture. This course approaches the subject from a multidisciplinary perspective, reading primary and secondary source materials that touch on religious rituals, gender, economics, patronage, political history, literature, and iconography to flesh out this neglected and elusive topic.
The course begins with an introduction to contentious debates in the historiography of relics and reliquaries and the fluidity of their definitions to establish the seminar's foundation. By focusing on the materiality of relics in the first part of the course, their physicality, and even raw beauty, are shown to be of great significance to their perceived power. The second part of the course examines the multitude of uses and abuses of relics and reliquaries throughout history with important points of comparison to medieval Christian relics and saints.
As a two-hour per week seminar course, the start of each class will be lectures which will draw out certain points from the required readings, provide visual accompaniment, and present additional information to augment the week's theme. The second half of the class will be student-led open discussions of the readings and assigned topic. There will also be a field trip to Holyrood Palace to study the materiality and presentation of Christian relics on display there as a comparative example.
Information for Visiting Students
|High Demand Course?
Course Delivery Information
|Academic year 2019/20, Not available to visiting students (SS1)
|Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info)
Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20,
Formative Assessment Hours 1,
Summative Assessment Hours 2,
Revision Session Hours 1,
Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4,
Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours
|Assessment (Further Info)
|Additional Information (Assessment)
||50% exam; 50% 1 essay of 2500 words.
Learning outcomes will be tested equally in all three components of assessment.
||Formative and summative feedback will be provided. The formative assignment in the fourth week is a creative project in which students choose a relic of personal significance and enshrine it a reliquary constructed from found and personal objects. Students are not marked on the artistry of the project, nor is it intended to cost any money. The point of the exercise is to urge students to consider how meaning is imbued, such as through ritualistic enshrinement, inscription, dedication, décor, and obviously, the relic itself. Students will offer a 10-minute in-class presentation explaining in a compelling and plausible way how the relic and reliquary engender meaning. Students will receive verbal feedback at a one-to-one meeting. This assignment will feedforward to their essay and exam because it encourages the students to grapple with the foundational concepts of memory, presence, and interment in Buddhist relics early in the semester.
There are two summative assignments. (1) The students will research and write a 2500 word essay on a topic of their choice within Buddhist relics and reliquaries due in week 8. Written summative feedback on the research essay will be provided. (2) There will be an exam scheduled in the exam diet.
||Hours & Minutes
|Main Exam Diet S2 (April/May)||Blood, bones, and bodies: Buddhist relics in Asia||2:00|
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
- Understand ways in which relics and reliquaries have been critical in shaping Buddhist art, ritual, and thought in a Pan-Asian context.
- Engage in substantive inquiry and critical analysis on the diverse visuality and many functions of relics and reliquaries.
- Critique the historiography of this subject and locate their own place within the developing field of knowledge.
- Demonstrate developed skills of visual enquiry, analysis and communication using a wide range of objects.
|Faure, Bernard. 'The Buddhist Icon and the Modern Gaze.' Critical Inquiry 24.3 (1998): 768-813.|
Fister, Patricia. 'Creating Devotional Art with Body Fragments.' Journal of Japanese Religious Studies 27.3-4 (2000): 213-38.
O'Neal, Halle. 'Performing the Jeweled Pagoda Mandalas: Relics, Reliquaries, and a Realm of Text.' The Art Bulletin 97.3 (2015): 279-300.
Sharf, Robert H. 'On the Allure of Buddhist Relics.' Representations 66 (1999): 75-99.
Trainor, Kevin M. 'When is a Theft Not a Theft' Relic Theft and the Cult of Buddha's Relics in Sri Lanka.' Numen 39.1 (1992): 3-26.
|Graduate Attributes and Skills
||Visual and critical analysis, independent research, presentation and communication skills, organisation and planning, creative thinking
|Course organiser||Dr Halle O'Neal
Tel: (0131 6)50 2340
|Course secretary||Mrs Sue Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)51 1460