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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Postgraduate Course: Art for the Afterlife: Buddhist Relics in Asian Material Culture (HIAR11105)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
Summary'Art for the Afterlife' explores the materiality, ritual function, and private dimension of Buddhist relics in Asia across geography and time. By focusing in depth on specific examples within weekly themes, the course uncovers the rich cultural and religious significance of relics and reliquaries in Buddhism.
Course description This course introduces the subject of Buddhist relics and reliquaries from an art historical perspective. By focusing on the materiality of relics and their reliquaries, 'Art for the Afterlife' explores the critical importance physicality and embodiment played in this rather peculiar and poignant form of visual and material culture across Asia. Each week is built around a theme such as issues of gender, political uses and abuses, enshrinement and containment, body as art, and the undead. Cross-cultural examples allow us as a class to juxtapose the great variety of relic manifestations within each theme, underscoring the diversity of this commemorative and devotional religious practice.

During the two-hour weekly meetings, you will receive a short lecture on each theme that will provide you with additional material examples and the necessary doctrinal and ritualistic history to put it all into context. The remainder of the session comprises student-led discussions of the required readings and group activities that reinforce new material from different disciplinary angles. There will be a strong focus on learning to identify and handle primary source materials in translation and as objects. For readers of Asian languages, there is the option to deal directly with primary source texts.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2020/21, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  20
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Summative assessment is based on an Essay Plan and a Research Essay, as detailed below.

Component 1 (10% of course mark): Essay Plan

A written essay plan of 500 words.

Component 2 (90% of course mark): Research Essay

A written research essay of 4000 words.
Feedback Formative feedback

Students will meet with me individually to discuss formative versions of their essay plans and working bibliographies.

Summative feedback

Both summative Components (Essay Plan and Essay) will be returned with written comments that explain the marks and with suggestions for future improvement.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Assess the significant role Buddhist relics and reliquaries played in a great variety of socio-political and religious objectives across Asia.
  2. Critique the historiography of this subject and locate their own place within the developing field of knowledge.
  3. Conduct high-level research using primary source material in the form of texts and objects.
  4. Deploy via written communication high-level skills of visual enquiry and analysis using a wide range of objects.
Reading List
1. Cho, Ensu. 'Manifestation of the Buddha's Land in the Here and Now: Relic Installation and Territorial Transformation in Medieval Korea. In Images, Relics, and Legends: The Formation and Transformation of Buddhist Sacred Sites, edited by James Benn, Jinhua Chen, and James Robson. Oakville: Mosaic Press: 2012.

2. Harvey, Peter. The Symbolism of the Early St┐pa. Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 7.2 (1984): 67-93.

3. Kieschnick, John. Blood Writing in Chinese Buddhism.┐ Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 23.2 (2000): 177-94.

4. Li, Yuhang. ┐Embroidering Guanyin: Constructions of the Divine through Hair.┐ East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 36 (2012): 131-166.

5. O'Neal, Halle. Word Embodied: The Jeweled Pagoda Mandalas in Japanese Buddhist Art. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2018.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Generic cognitive skills:
Students will develop critical analysis, evaluation, and synthesis; identify, conceptualise, and define new and abstract problems and issues; develop original and creative responses to problems and issues; critically review, consolidate, and extend knowledge.

Research and enquiry:
Through lectures, in-class activities, and independent research, students will develop highly-honed skills in research and enquiry to identify and creatively tackle problems, and to seek out opportunities for learning.

Working with others:
Students will exercise substantial autonomy and initiative in professional and equivalent activities and in group activities; take responsibility for own work; work in a peer relationship with specialist practitioners and fellow students.

Personal and intellectual autonomy:
Students will use their personal and intellectual autonomy to critically evaluate ideas, evidence and experiences from an open-minded and reasoned perspective, stimulated by analytical skills developed in close textual readings and independent research for the summative assignment.
KeywordsBuddhism,relics,reliquaries,visual culture,material culture,Asia
Course organiserDr Jiemin Fang
Course secretaryMrs Anna Johns
Tel: (0131 6)51 5740
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