Lukas Nickel is Chair of Asian Art History at University of Vienna. After studying Sinology, Oriental Archaeology, and East Asian Art History in Berlin, Halle and Heidelberg, he received his PhD from Heidelberg University. He worked for museums in Germany and Switzerland and taught at Zurich University, UCL, and the School of Oriental and African Studies. He has published on aspects of Bronze Age, Qin and Han, and early medieval China, as well as on the early interaction between China and wider Asia. One focus of his research is Buddhist art in Shandong province. He was involved in the Return of the Buddha exhibition and just finished the excavation project of the White Dragon Temple, a Buddhist temple in the area.
Buddhist art and sculpture became a field of extensive international research starting from the beginning of the 20th century. Cave temples such as Dunhuang, Yungang, and Longmen, as well as a growing number of archaeological finds from many parts of China allowed the examination of an art medium that must have been ubiquitous in the medieval visual environment. In 1996, the chance discovery of a hoard of Buddhist images on the grounds of a former monastery in Qingzhou, Shandong, however, attracted interest on a previously unknown scale. Scholars from China, Japan, Europe and America discussed the artistic features and cultural connections of the images, and so far about 20 special exhibitions presented the objects to a Chinese and world-wide audience, exhibitions that drew unprecedented numbers of visitors into these museums.
About two decades after the discovery it is time to re-examine the significance of the find. The lecture will focus on two main questions: what is it that made the Qingzhou sculptures so exceptionally attractive, and what can the continuing research on the find contribute to our understanding of Buddhism and Buddhist art in medieval China?