Eugene Y. Wang, the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Professor of Asian Art at Harvard University, studies how images add up to spell an intelligent program and how that program may be counted on as an automated process working its own efficacy, often requiring no audience. His recent works explore the conceptual blueprint of the first Chinese emperor’s tomb complex and the pictorial programs of meditation in Buddhist caves.
At Radcliffe, Wang is uncovering how heaven is differently imagined in traditional Chinese art by asking why heaven often appears in unexpected places such as tombs and caves and why going up often involves going down. The larger question he gets at is the Chinese primacy of temporality, often overlooked: is heaven more of a spatial concept or temporal one in Chinese artistic imagination? Can we imagine heaven, as the traditional Chinese did, as a rotating wheel rather than a stable region out there? What is the cognitive mechanism of heaven sighting in earthly omens? Why is the notion of heaven as the apocalyptic vision relatively alien to the Chinese habit of thought?
Wang, who earned his PhD in art history from Harvard, has received a Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a J. Paul Getty Postdoctoral Fellowship. His book, Shaping the Lotus Sutra: Buddhist Visual Culture in Medieval China (University of Washington Press, 2005), garnered an academic achievement award from Rissho University, in Japan. He is the art history associate editor of Encyclopedia of Buddhism (Macmillan Reference, 2004).