Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan

Carved into the mountains of northern China, the Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan were the crowning cultural achievement of the sixth-century Northern Qi dynasty. Once home to a magnificent array of limestone sculptures, the caves were heavily damaged during the first half of the twentieth century, and much of the work housed there was lost to the international art market.

The exhibition Echoes of the Past—co-organized by the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art and the Smithsonian Institution’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery— draws upon the findings of a multiyear research project headed by Katherine R. Tsiang at the University of Chicago’s Center for the Arts of East Asia. Using such twenty-first-century technologies as 3-D scanning, Tsiang and an international team of technicians and scholars have identified many of the dispersed sculptures from Xiangtangshan in an effort to shed new light on the original beauty and meaning of the cave temples.

This exhibition catalogue features entries with full-color illustrations of the works in the exhibition as well as six new essays discussing the artistic, historical, and religious significance of the caves and their sculptures and recent research dedicated to their digital reconstruction.

Special thanks to Fred Eychaner and Tommy Yang Guo for their generous lead support of this publication. Additional funding was provided by Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.


By Katherine R. Tsiang with contributions by Richard A. Born, Jinhua Chen, Albert E. Dien, Lec Maj, Nancy Steinhardt, Daisy Yiyou Wang, J. Keith Wilson, and Wu Hung.

Publication date

October 2010


Paper, 192 pages, 160 color plates, 3 charts, 3 tables, 1 map, 9 x 12"



Purchase this catalogue

Available for $45 online from the University of Chicago Press or in person at the Smart Museum Shop.