wooden ceiling in Buddhist temple

Photogrammetric model of a wooden ceiling from the Longfusi Buddhist temple
in Beijing. Built in 1452, Ming dynasty. https://skfb.ly/6u7BL

Project (2022-2023)

Dome of Heaven: Buddhist Architecture along the Silk Road

Dome of Heaven challenges the Orientalist view about Asian domes as derivatives of Roman/Byzantine domes and refreshes the dominant approach that investigates Asian domes in limited geographical settings and isolated cultural foundations. I resituate Buddhist domes and cosmology in the context of the global spread of astronomical knowledge and celestial representations that bridged the East with the Mediterranean World. Highlighting the roles of architectural interiors and miniatures, I shift scholarly attention away from monuments to the small-scale, the ornamental, the mass-produced, and the portable as vehicles of important religious concepts and design principles. This project will produce an open access, interactive digital Silk Road map, enhanced by geotagging technologies, consisting of a constellation of Buddhist sacred sites and strongholds linking Central Asia, Western Himalayas, China, and the rest of Asia. Critically, photogrammetry and mapping afford a unique angle to matters of cross-fertilization in architecture and are an integral part of the research process. They reveal unusual patterns of distribution beyond binary interactions between sedentary empires—especially Rome and China—and offer a nuanced picture in which nomadic and semi-nomadic peoples such as the Scythians, Xiongnu, Kushans, Uyghurs, Tibetans, Tanguts, and Mongols played a crucial part in diffusing and transforming architectural forms.