Material Text Cultures

The Buddhist Canon in Stone. Materialisation and Presentification of Holy Scriptures in Cloud Dwelling Monastery (616–1180 A.D.)


former staff members

akademische Mitarbeiterin Tingting Chen
akademische Mitarbeiterin Hui-Ping Chuang
Teilprojektleiter Prof. Dr. Lothar Ledderose





  • Documenting approx. six thousand colophons that have been carved into the sutra stones alongside or beneath the canonical texts
  • Documenting and analysing the approx. thirty narrative texts in which the protagonists of the carving project report on their work and motives and reflect on what they are doing


  • 25 million characters carved in stone at the Cloud Dwelling Monastery close to Beijing: the greatest epigraphic project in the history of the world
  • Systematically documenting and analysing the meta-texts

Inscription dated to 628 from monk Jingwan, the initiator of the project, on the gate to the Thunder Roar Cave: "Together the periods of the true teaching of the Shākyamuni Tathāgata and the period of  phony teaching have already lasted 1,500 years. Today, in the second year of the era of zhenguan (628 A.D.) we have already descended for 75 years into the period of the teaching’s decline. The sun of the Buddha has already set and verily the dark night is deep. Living creatures are struck by blindness and have lost all direction.
In order to preserve the true teaching, Jingwan took his pupils, his friends, and those who like to give alms to the top of this mountain in order to carve the Huayan Sutra and other sutras in the twelve divisions in stone, in the hope that in some distant age humanity may be saved and all the monks and laymen may rise up together in true illumination."


  • Analysis of the protagonists’ ongoing reflection on their project
  • Detailed charting of the individual steps in the five-hundred-year work process
  • Documenting the concrete contributions of all involved, i.e. from monks, stone masons, calligraphers, benefactors, civil servants and emperors
  • Developing suitable digital instruments to give a vivid picture of the process


Subprojects of the 3rd Funding Period

A01 A02 A03 A05 A06 A08 A09 A10 A11 A12 B01 B04 B09 B10 B13 B14 B15 C05 C07 C08 C09 C10 INF Ö2 Z



Completed Subprojects

A01 A03 A04 B02 B03 B06 B07 B11 B12 C01 C02 C03 C04 C06 IGK Ö1



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