Contact | Instagram

Hsueh-man Shen

Director of Masters Studies; Ehrenkranz Associate Professor in World Art

D.Phil. Oxford University, Archaeology; M.A. National Taiwan University, Art History; LL.B. National Taiwan University, Law

My area of specialization is the art and archaeology of medieval China, and my research is mostly concerned with how the practice, theorization, and perception of art in China changed over time as a result of China’s contacts and connections with the outside world. Translation, replication, and hybridization have therefore been recurring themes of my work. My decision to focus on the middle periods is also a direct reflection of this line of inquiry, as it was a time when China was heavily engaged in cross-cultural exchanges and interactions through warfare, trade, diplomacy, and pilgrimage. Several of my past and present projects are linked with this interest in positioning China on the atlas of world art: the exhibition titled Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China’s Liao Empire, which I guest-curated for the Asia Society Museum (2006), explored the hybrid nature of the Liao culture, challenged the traditional Sinocentric view of Liao history, and demonstrated the Liao’s pivotal position in the trade and cultural network that reached as far as the Baltic Sea in the west and Korea and Japan in the east. Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road, which I co-curated for the Getty Center (2016), featured the confluence of artistic traditions at Dunhuang in relation to the ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity along the ancient Silk Road, while highlighting the importance of replication as an act of devotion that generated merit, enacted spiritual encounter, and assisted in the dissemination of the Buddhist faith. My current book project, tentatively titled Maritime Buddhist Art of Medieval China, investigates how increasing engagement in maritime activities generated new contents and meanings for the Buddhist art in China and reconfigured the cultural boundaries of East Asia during the 10th-14th centuries.

Throughout my career, I have worked on different types of sites and with a variety of material, ranging from wall paintings in the tomb, reliquaries and sculptures in the temple, ceramics at court and in the marketplace, to cargoes on sunken ships, and Chinese art exhibitions held at Western museums. My general research approach to art history is to cross the boundaries of genre studies and examine objects in their original contexts of production, circulation, and use. Specifically, I study such topics as the intersection between mortuary and religious practices, the relationship between materiality and spirituality, and the interplay between word and image, to challenge the cultural, material, and categorical boundaries imposed on art objects. I also pioneer to write on the role of translation in establishing the intellectual genealogy of Chinese art, the meaning of originality and authenticity in the Buddhist art of China, as well as cognitive experience of Buddhist art objects.

Among my more recent publications is a book (2019) about how Chinese Buddhist practitioners exploited preexisting systems of production to meet the need for multiple sacred objects, to achieve authenticity and thereby to integrate the foreign religion of Buddhism into Chinese society; a discussion of the blending of sacred and secular burial practices during the Tang – Song periods (2019); and an assessment of the approaches and perspectives adopted for the study of the Belitung Shipwreck (2020). Two essays, one on the role of exhibitions in both presenting and shaping the understanding of the Belitung Shipwreck (in the edited volume, Exhibiting East Asian Art in a Global Context) and the other on the affordance of rock-carved Laṅkāvatāra Sutra on Mount Gang in Shandong (in Archives of Asian Art) are in press. A book project that looks into how text and image inform each other during the process of translation, and how modern translations mediate scholarly discourses about Chinese art history is in development.

As I expand the horizon of my research and teaching to include such subjects as colors, material substance, size and scale, I remain interested in the religious and burial practices that informed the production, circulation, and reception of artisanal crafts in premodern China. Historical frontiers and the so-called alien regimes in Chinese history are of particular interest to me. As a lawyer by training, I maintain a side interest in critical analysis of the legal and political implications of the underwater archaeology conducted in contested waters like the South China Sea.

Prior to joining the faculty, I held several teaching and curatorial positions in the U.S., the U.K., and Taiwan. My curatorial experiences allow me to appreciate the importance of combining fieldwork in the museum and lecture/seminar in the classroom. They also guide my attention to an object-oriented approach to the history of art in China. For my teaching at the Institute, I put an emphasis on close looking at art objects. Also, I give equal weight to both textual and archaeological analysis. I welcome applications that show an appreciation of these values.

Sample Courses

  • Colors in the Visual Culture of Medieval China
  • Size and Scale in the Arts of China
  • Translation Issues in Language and Art
  • Reproduction and Replication in the Art of Premodern China
  • The Library Cave at Dunhuang – Discovery, Contents, and Research
  • Regional Development of Buddhist Art in Sixth-Century Shandong
  • Imaginations of Death and the Beyond in the Arts of China
  • Shipwrecks and the ‘Other’ Silk Road
  • Alien Rule – Art and Material Culture in China from the 10th-14th Centuries
  • How to Curate Cross-Cultural Exhibitions? [Curatorial Studies]



Authentic Replicas: Buddhist Art in Medieval China. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2019.

Schätze der Liao: Chinas vergessene Nomadendynastie (907-1125). Zürich: Museum Rietberg, 2007. German translation of the research catalogue below.

Gilded Splendor: Treasures of China’s Liao Empire (907-1125). New York: Asia Society; Milano: 5 Continents, 2006. Editor of the book-length exhibition catalogue, and author of select entries and the essay titled “Praying for Eternity: Use of Buddhist Texts in Liao Buddhist and Funerary Practices.”

Articles, Essays and Entries

“Entering the Seemingly Unattainable Citadel of Laṅkā: Rock-Carved Laṅkāvatāra Sutra on Mount Gang in Shandong.” Archives of Asian Art, forthcoming 2024. 

“Too Many Stories to (Not) Be Told: A Case Study of the Belitung Shipwreck Exhibitions.” In Exhibiting East Asian Art in a Global Context, co-edited by Wei-cheng Lin and Chelsea Foxwell. University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2023. 

“Ryō to Hoku-Sō jidai no kyō-tō” 遼と北宋時代の経塔” [Scripture Deposits in Northern Song and Liao Pagodas]. In Ajia Bukkyō bijutsu ronshū: Higashi-ajia III (Godai, Hoku-Sō, Ryō, Seika) アジア仏教美術論集: 東アジアIII(五代・北宋・遼・西夏), co-edited by Tsukamoto Maromitsu and Itakura Masaaki. Tokyo: Chuokoron bijutsu, 2021. Japanese translation of “Liao yu Bei Song shelita nei cangjing zhi yanjiu” 遼與北宋舍利塔內藏經之研究 [Scripture Deposits in Northern Song and Liao Pagodas] published in 2002 (see below).

 “You Heishi-hao chenchuan chushui wenwu kan Tang-mo Wudai shiqi de haishang maoyi” 由黑石號沈船出水文物看唐末五代時期的海上貿易” [The Belitung Shipwreck and the Indian Ocean Trade -- Problems, Approaches, and Perspectives]. In Da Tang baochuan: Heishi hao chenchuan suojian 9-10 shiji de hanghai, maoyi yu yishu 大唐寶船:黑石號沈船所見9-10世紀的航海、貿易與藝術 [The Grand Ship and Tang Dynasty], edited by Shanghai Museum, 194-210. Shanghai: Shanghai shuhua chubanshe, 2020. In Chinese.  

“Shengsi yu niepan – Tang Song zhiji fojiao yu shisu muzang de jiaocuo lingyu” 生死與涅槃-唐宋之際佛教與世俗墓葬的交錯領域 [Where Secular Death and Buddhist Nirvana Intersect: Secular and Religious Burials during the Tang-Song Transition]. Research of Chinese Fine Arts 30 (June 2019): 9-29. In Chinese

“The China-Abbasid Ceramics Trade during the Ninth and Tenth Centuries: Chinese Ceramics Circulating in the Middle East.” In Blackwell Companion to Islamic Art and Architecture, edited by Gülru Necipoglu and Finbarr B. Flood, 197-217. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017. 

“De nomadische afkomst.” In The Great Liao: Nomadendynastie uit Binnen-Mongolië (907-1125), edited by Vincent T. van Vilsteren, 26-34. Zwolle: WBOOKS, 2017. In Dutch

“Replication and (Re-)creation of the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, Orientations 47.4 (May 2016): 66-72. 

“Art, Spirituality, Cultural Heritage: The Buddhist Caves of Dunhuang,” co-authored with Mimi Gardner Gates. In Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road, edited by Neville Agnew, Marcia Reed, and Tevvy Ball, 16-41. L.A.: Getty Publications, 2016. 

 “Copies without the Original: King Aśoka’s 84,000 Stupas and Their Replications in China.” In Between East and West: Reproductions in Art, Proceedings of the 2013 CIHA Colloquium in Naruto, Japan, 15th-18th January 2013, edited by Shigetoshi Osano, 227-236. Kraków: IRSA Publishing House, 2014.

“Familiar Differences: Chinese Polychromes in the Indian Ocean Trade during the Ninth Century.” In Beiträge zur Islamischen Archäologie, vol. 4: A Hundred Years of Excavations in Samarra, edited by Julia Gonnella, Rania Abdellatif, and Simone Struth, 107-122. Wiesbaden: Dr. Ludwig Reichert Verlag, 2014. 

“Indian Makara or Chinese Dragon-Fish? Textual Translation and Visual Transformation of Makara in China.” Art in Translation 5.2 (2013): 275-298. 

“Between One and Many: Multiples, Multiplication and the Huayan Metaphysics.” Proceedings of the British Academy 181 (2012): 205-258.

“Tombs at the Crossroads of the Worlds of the Living and the Dead.” In Tenth-Century China and Beyond: Art and Visual Culture in a Multi-Centered Age, edited by Wu Hung, 150-178. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012. 

“Image in a Mirror, Moon in the Water: Liao Period Bronze Mirrors Incised with Buddhist Images.” Orientations 37.6 (September 2006): 58-64. 

“Interview with Ch’ung-ho Chang Frankel” in the exhibition catalogue Fragrance of the Past: Chinese Calligraphy and Painting by Ch’ung-ho Chang Frankel and Friends, edited by Mimi G. Gates in association with Hsueh-man Shen and Qianshen Bai, 25-26. Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 2006. 

“Body Matters: Manikin Burials in the Liao Tombs of Xuanhua, Hebei Province.” Artibus Asiae 65.1 (2005): 99-141. 

Entries in the exhibition catalogue China: The Three Emperors: 1662-1795, edited by Evelyn Rawski and Jessica Rawson. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 2005. 

“Pictorial Representations of the Buddha’s Nirvana in Chinese Relic Deposits.” East Asia Journal: Studies in Material Culture 1.1 (2003): 25-48. 

“Luxury or Necessity: Glassware in Śarīra Relic Pagodas of the Tang and Northern Song Periods.” In Chinese Glass: Archaeological Studies on the Uses and Social Context of Glass Artefacts from the Warring States to the Northern Song Period, Orientalia Venetiana, XIV, edited by Cecilia Braghin, 71-110. Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 2002. 

“Liao yu Bei Song shelita nei cangjing zhi yanjiu” 遼與北宋舍利塔內藏經之研究 [Scripture Deposits in Northern Song and Liao Pagodas]. Taida Journal of Art History 12 (March 2002): 169-212. In Chinese

“Realizing the Buddha’s Dharma-body during the Mofa Period: A Study of the Liao Buddhist Relic Deposits.” Artibus Asiae 61.2 (2001): 263-303. 

“Tōjiki no tenkai: Min to Shin no jiki” 陶磁器の展開:明と清の磁器 [Coming into Bloom: Chinese Ceramics in the Ming and Qing Dynasties]. In Ajia bijutsushi アジア美術史 [Art History of Asia], 126-135. Kyoto: Kyoto Zōkei Geijutsu Daigaku, 1999. In Japanese

“Zhongguo zaoqi qingci: yi Yueyao wei zhongxin” 中國早期青瓷:以越窯為中心 [Early Development of Chinese Greenware: Principally Yue Ware]. Bulletin of the National Museum of History 2 (1996): 6-12. In Chinese. 

Entries in the exhibition catalogue Qianfeng cuise: Yueyao tezhan 千峰翠色:越窯特展 [Special Exhibition of Early Chinese Greenware], edited by Shwu-shin Lin, Ming-liang Hsieh, and Wei-hwa Chang. Taipei: Nien-Hsi Foundation, 1996. In Chinese with English translation. 

Selected Honors and Awards

2019: Hulsewé-Waznieski Foundation Visiting Professor at Leiden University, The Netherlands.

2018-2019: EURIAS Senior Fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

2018: Fellow at the Global Research Institute at NYU Berlin.

2017: Progress 100 Visiting Professor, Kyushu University, Japan.

2008-2009: Fellow, Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, Germany.

2007: Invited Visiting Professor, East Asian Art History, University of Zürich, Switzerland.

2002-2003: National Science Council Postdoctoral Research Fellowship, National Central University, Taiwan.

1996-2000: Government Fellowship for Overseas Studies of the Arts, Ministry of Education, Taiwan.