Guest Lecture: Rethinking Creativity: Generative Design in the Architecture of Medieval Chinese Buddhism

Speakers: Tracy Miller (Vanderbilt University)

When: 5:15 pm, Tuesday, April 19, 2018

Venue: Harvard University, CGIS South S250


The famous pagoda at Songyuesi (ca. 523 CE), located on Mount Song, near the former Northern Wei capital at Luoyang, is not only the earliest full-size pagoda extant in China, it is the only with a dodecagonal plan. This paper explores how a particular design strategy, traces of which can be found in divinatory devices, reliquaries, and the plans towering Indic temples, may have been used create the plan of the Songyuesi pagoda in an effort to imbue the structure with an inherent generative power. The technique may have been seen as a type of geometric “proof” of the Buddhist cosmological system, providing evidence that ritual objects could be designed by humans to transmit natural, life-giving, energy to those who used them.

About the Speaker:
Tracy Miller (University of Pennsylvania, M.A., Ph.D.) teaches the history of art and architecture in Asia, with a special emphasis on the ritual and garden architecture of China and Japan. Her research focuses on the culture of ritual sites in middle-period China (618–1644 C.E.), specifically the ways in which identity was expressed visually through the media of temples and their artistic programs. She is author of The Divine Nature of Power: Chinese Ritual Architecture at the Sacred Site of Jinci, and has articles in The Art Bulletin, Asia Major, and Archives of Asian Art, among other venues.


See event poster here.