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Enlightenment In Ink: The Art of Buddhist Prints

July 29, 2022

Stylized collage of Buddhist text and imagery

Join us on the path to enlightenment – through ink! The Enlightenment In Ink: The Art of Buddhist Prints exhibit, presented by the Asian Library, showcases The Claremont Colleges Library’s collection of rare Chinese Buddhist prints and manuscripts, most of which date from the late imperial period (Ming and Qing dynasties, 1368-1912).

Image from Illustrated Eulogies of Mañjuśrī’s Guidance by Zen Master Foguo with Chinese script and art
Bukkoku-Zenshi Monju Shinan Zusan
Illustrated Eulogies of Mañjuśrī’s Guidance by Zen Master Foguo

Though Buddhism and printing coexisted in China since at least the Later Han dynasty (25–220), it was not until the height of Buddhism during the Tang dynasty (618–907) that the full potential of printing technology for propagating the faith was realized. The oldest dated print in the world is an 868 copy of the Diamond Sūtra, and from the subsequent Song dynasty (960-1279) onwards it was not uncommon for emperors to commission printings of the entire Chinese Buddhist canon, whose thousands of entries created a wealth of documents that have at times been fortunate enough to survive to the present day.

The flourishing of print culture following advances in technology during the Song dynasty likely accounts for the abundance of texts we have from this period. During this time, Buddhist printing grew beyond the domain of imperial commissions and became increasingly accessible to wider sectors of society. This exhibit contains examples of works of both the former and latter type, as well as modern reprints of these old texts. This array of items, ranging from medieval to modern, attests to Buddhism’s role both as a continuing object of scholarly fascination and as a vibrant living tradition that transforms the trajectory of East Asia even to this day.

Learn more about the items on display.

This exhibit is open to current Claremont Colleges students, faculty and staff and by appointment to the community. Members of the community can schedule your exhibition viewing appointment here.

Exhibit Details:
Asian Library, Honnold 3, The Claremont Colleges Library
(800 N. Dartmouth Ave., Claremont, CA 91711)
August 1, 2022 – September 30, 2022
Exhibit on view Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Contact Xiuying Zou, Head of the Asian Library, by emailing or calling 909 607-4094.

Special Thanks
Student Xiaoxing Yu (PO ’25) championed this exhibit through an Undergraduate Summer Research Project grant from Pomona College, sponsored by Dr. Zhiru Ng who holds expertise in Chinese Buddhist history and art.

View and/or download the Enlightenment In Ink: The Art of Buddhist Prints exhibit flyer.