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Arts of Zen Buddhism

Zen Buddhism is one of the major traditions of Buddhism in East Asia and was moreover an instrumental force in shaping modern perceptions of Japan in the West. Over the course of the semester, class participants will analyze how the perceived distinctiveness of Zen Buddhism—as marked by concepts such as mind-to-mind transmission, master-disciple lineage, and sudden enlightenment—was constructed through the visual arts and how the arts in turn contributed to monk-patron relations and the cultural lives of monks outside the monastic walls. Among the weekly topics to be covered are: Buddhist monasteries and rock gardens, ink landscape paintings, portraits of Zen masters, the tea ceremony and ceramic tea wares, as well as Beat Zen and the impact of Buddhism upon postwar artists in the United States. No prior knowledge of Asian art is required or assumed. The main assignment will be a Wikipedia project in which each class member will be responsible for the authorship of a substantial Wikipedia entry on a certain aspect of Zen art. This course (ARTH 467) was taught by Michelle C. Wang as a Doyle Seminar (small upper-level classes that foster deepened student learning about diversity and difference through research and dialogue).

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Michelle Wang headshot

Michelle Wang

Department of Art and Art History

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