Buddhism originated in India. After over 2,500 years of evolution and spreading, it has transcended the differences between cultures and races, with an influence all over the world. As early as the Eastern Han dynasty (ca. 1st century C.E.), legend had it that monks came to Luoyang with white horses carrying Buddhist classics on their back, due to China’s location in Asia and proximity to India. With the spreading of Buddhism, Buddhist art was also introduced to China, which blended and integrated with local culture.
During the time of Han and Tang dynasty, the culture and commodities of the Western Regions were mostly introduced to China through the Silk Road. Located in the western part of China, Gansu province connects the Loess Plateau, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and Mongolian Plateau. It occupies a key position in the Silk Road with Hexi Corridor to the west, and plays the role as the portal to Guanzhong Plain with the magnificent Mt. Longshan to the east. Therefore, Gansu province has been a strategic place for cultural exchanges between China and the West since ancient times. Buddhism was introduced to the Central Plains through this passage from westward to eastward, and Gansu was one of the first areas to be influenced by Buddhism.
Gansu Provincial Museum is abundant in collection of Buddhist scriptures, statues and other relics. We have specially selected 35 early exquisite Buddhist relics and divided them into three parts to showcase the origin and development of Buddhism in China in early years.
The Taiwan-based artist Li Chen has devoted himself to the creation of “Buddha and China” for decades, which manifests people’s understanding of Buddhist culture and art in contemporary times. With an attempt to juxtapose the ancient and modern objects, we have selected seven pieces of his works in conjunction with the display of the early Buddhist relics from Gansu Provincial Museum to both confront and reflect with each other. Far across a lapse of a thousand years, the Buddhist statues remain solemn and dignified.
The above serves as the preface.
Director of Suzhou Museum,Chen Ruijin