Ancient China: Chinese Civilization from Its Origins to the Tang Dynasty.
This book appears simultaneously in Italian (1) and English. In both versions it has the same number of pages, the same number of illustrations, and the same graphic design. Rather than an illustrated text, it is better defined as a book of illustrations (more than four hundred) accompanied by a text of less than fifty pages in all (were they full pages), distributed among the illustrations.
It is a daunting task to deal with so many centuries of Chinese civilization, from the origins to the end of the Tang dynasty (which ended in 907 A.D.), in a so limited space, but Scarpari boldly attempts all the same to give an overview that aims at covering various aspects of Chinese civilization, including history, culture, art, and archaeology, during this long period. The result can hardly be defined as successful: we have only sparse hints of these aspects with a loose connection among them, archaeological information being in some way privileged. There is no way, then, to learn anything of economic and social history, no space for the history of ideas and political thought. The period witnessed numerous important technical and scientific innovations, but except for wrong (as in the case of paper) or fleeting (as in the case of gunpowder) references to some of them, we look in vain here for others (stirrups, gimbals, astronomical clock, etc.) or for the names of the great men who contributed to the progress of technique and science like Shi Shen and Gan De (4th-C. B.C.), Li Bing (309-240 B.C.), Liu An (2nd-C. B.C.), Du Shi (1st-C. A.D.), Cai Lun (d. 121), Wei Boyang (C. 140 A.D.), Tao Hongjing (456-536), Sun Simiao (d. 682), Yixing (673-727), etc. The engineer and architect Yuwen Kai (555-612) is mentioned because of a rotating pavilion (p. 141) and not because he built the new Sui capital. I will not, therefore, discuss these and other important issues that are absent from this book, but will only remain within the limits of the information provided therein. Besides the text proper, the book contains explanatory captions accompanying the illustrations, often summarizing what is written in the main text. Occasionally, I will also refer to these captions.
The book is splendidly produced and richly illustrated. The quality of the images is excellent and the graphic conception by Luana Gobbo superb. In the Italian version there are some problems (that on p. 271, where the last lines are missing, is particularly annoying), but these have been eliminated in the English version. One understands why the publishers (Edizioni White Star in Italy and Barnes and Noble Books in the United States), wishing to present their public with an excellent product not only in terms of the images but also in terms of the text, did not address themselves to a non-professional author, but rather to a sinologist at one of Italy's most prestigious universities, the Ca' Foscari University in Venice. Scarpari is Professor of Chinese Philology in the Department of East Asian Studies of that university. I am afraid, however, that the quality of the text is not at the level of the images and of the graphic design.
In the present review I will for the most part address the English version, which is in general a faithful and good rendition of the Italian. There are, however, some differences that should be taken into account. I specify, then, when I refer only to the Italian version.
Let me begin with the curious affirmation on the inside of the dust-cover where we read that the influence of China "spread throughout South-East Asia." What about Korea and Japan?
p. 43b: Dealing with the period from 221 B.C. to 220 A.D., Scarpari states: "The invention of paper ... dates from this period. It was widely manufactured from the 1st century AD (the oldest surviving fragment of hemp used for writing dates from A.D. 49)...." It is not clear to me what the fragment of A.D. 49 is. It was thought before that the earliest sample of paper with writing on it could be dated c. 110 A.D., but recent studies point to the Western Han as the time of the oldest surviving fragment of paper used for recording.
On the same page, Scarpari says that paper making was "introduced into Japan in 610 by the Korean monk Damjing (579-631)." It is true that the Korean monk Damjing (Jap. Doncho, Ch. Tanzheng) [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] is traditionally considered as marking the beginning of paper making in Japan, but it must be pointed out that the focus of the source is not paper making itself, but Damjing's technical ability; paper making was simply one of the arts in which he was expert. It is probable, instead, that paper making was introduced to Japan before Damjing, in the fifth century.
p. 48a: Concerning Liu Bang we read that he "established his capital at Chang'an, near Xi'an," and on p. 235c: "The settlements of greatest interest lie in the area around Xi'an and Chang'an." One is left wondering whether Scarpari realizes that Xi'an is the present name of the old Chang'an.
p. 56b: "After the death of Cao Cao in AD 220, his son Cao Pi put an end to Han rule and proclaimed himself emperor of the new Cao Wei dynasty. He took the name of Wendi (220-226)." One thinks, incredulously, when first reading this, that in the last part of the passage there might be a translation mistake in the English version, but it is not so because the Italian is equally clear: "Regno con il nome di Wendi" (He reigned with the name of Wendi). Still, one is prone to suppose at this point that it might be an oversight in the Italian version which unfortunately passed also into the English. But Scarpari does not allow us to have doubts on his unshakable conviction about this question because on the following page (p. 57) he states that "Sun Quan ... also proclaimed himself emperor in AD 229 with the name of Wudi (2) (222-252), and founded the Wu dynasty." It is therefore no surprise to read some lines later (on the same p. 57) that "In AD 265 general Sima Yuan (by mistake Sima Yan in the Italian version) ... seized the throne and founded the Western Jin dynasty. He ruled under the name of Wudi (265-289)." And so on. One wonders how it is possible that during his several decades of sinological studies and university teaching Scarpari never realized that the names of the emperors we usually read in primary or secondary works are not the names adopted by the emperors during their reign, but only their posthumous titles.
Another interesting and peculiar conviction entertained by the author is that not only emperors, but also the dynasties they founded were actually known, during the more or less long periods in which they actually were in existence, precisely by the name we now generally call them. On p. 52 we read that in 25 A.D. Liu Xiu "proclaimed the restoration of the Han dynasty. Luoyang (Henan) was chosen as the capital. As a result, the name Eastern (or Later) Han was used to designate the new dynasty." And on p. 272, the reader learns that the Tuoba rulers "reigned over Northern China in the 4th-6th centuries under the dynastic name of Northern Wei." Extraordinary indeed, these Northern Wei rulers, who reigned in the years 386-534! Besides being outstanding dynasts, they must also have been formidable and infallible prophets if from the very moment that they founded their dynasty they were able to foresee that decades later some bizarre offshoots would found the Eastern Wei (534-550) and the Western Wei (535-556). The "Northern Wei," rather, was one of the names (now the most common one) applied by historians in retrospect, when the dynasty had already disappeared. The rulers, instead, reigned under the name of Wei or Da Wei (Great Wei) and required that they be called so as attested both by the literary tradition and by epigraphy. Why ever should they have called themselves Northern Wei if the Eastern Wei and the Western Wei did not exist, and were in fact far from coming into existence? I fear that Scarpari has never had a look at the rich epigraphical production (one of the principal instruments of a good philologist) of any of the dynasties. Nor does he seem to have any idea of the process of attributing names to past dynasties by historians.
pp. 59b-60: Scarpari states that in 386 the Tuoba "founded the Northern Wei (386-534), the first of the Northern Dynasties." In which sense? He does not ignore, I hope, that the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties began in 317 and that the Former Zhao--and not the Northern Wei--was the first of the Northern Dynasties.
p. 63, caption for illus. 63: A "woman from the Hu, a Central Asian people who lived along the western borders of the empire" is mentioned here. The author appears to forget the complexity (both in time and in space) of the term "Hu" which in itself does not refer to a specific people, unless made clear by the context.
p. 65, caption for illus. 64-65: "the Sutras or Jataka Sutras are tales of the deeds performed by the Sakyamuni Buddha during his lives prior to his reincarnation as a prince." Scarpari should know that Sutra and Jataka are to be distinguished from one other.
p. 68b: The author writes that when Gaozong died in 684 he "was succeeded by Li Zhe, emperor Zhongzong (684; 705-710)." Gaozong died in 683 and not in 684 (see also the same mistake on p. 119a). Furthermore, it would be preferable to explain that the person posthumously known as Zhongzong was Li Xian for most of his life.
p. 69a: Writing about Wu Zhao, Scarpari states that "under the name of Wu Zetian (690-705) she founded a new dynasty, to which she gave the illustrious name of Zhou." He repeatedly says (see also pp. 83 and 251) that Wu Zhao reigned under the name of Wu Zetian. I cannot imagine on what source Scarpari might have based himself on this point. "Wu" is obviously Wu Zhao's family name, while Zetian was originally part of the title Zetian Dasheng Huangdi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (August Emperor Great Saint who took Heaven as a model) she received only from late February 705, two days after her son Li Xian (that is, Zhongzong) was proclaimed Emperor, following her own deposition. After her death, "Zetian" became part of various posthumous titles attributed to her at different dates. This is the reason why historians, for the sake of abbreviation, conventionally call her Wu Zetian, adopting her family name Wu and part of her posthumous title. During the Zhou dynasty (690-705), instead, she ruled with other titles, the first of which was Shengshen Huangdi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Saintly and Divine August Emperor). Having seen his theory about the names adopted by Cao Cao, Liu Bei, etc. as emperors (see above), the present case may be considered an application to Wu Zhao of the same theory held by Scarpari.
p. 73a: Mentioning the conquest of Luoyang in early 756 by An Lushan, the author states that "in a few months Chang'an and Luoyang were under Tang rule again." Luoyang was seized by An Lushan on January 18, 756 and was recaptured by the Tang on December 3, 757, after almost two years. Moreover, Luoyang was retaken by the rebels on June 7, 760 and was occupied by them until November 20, 762, that is for about two years and a half.
p. 95a: We read that "Maitreya, the Buddha of the future, the expected saviour of humanity who would bring peace and justice" was "the favorite disciple of Sakyamuni." I do not think that this requires commentary.
p. 95b: Here we learn something even more surprising, if that is possible: "In the 5th century. Master Kou Qianzhi (died 448) tried in vain to have Buddhism made the state religion." All Buddhists would surely be happy if this were really so. Unfortunately--also for all those who regret the great destruction of arts works--it was precisely the contrary, because Kou Qianzhi's heart beat for Daoism and he played an important role in the persecution of Buddhism in 446.
p. 120b: Concerning the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove (Zhulin qixian), Scarpari explains that they were "a group of Daoist intellectuals who met in a wood near Luoyang." The bamboo grove in question was in Shanyang, northwest of the present Xiuwu in Henan. Looking at a map of Henan, one would say that Xiuwu is some 130 km distant from Luoyang. To define such a place as "a wood near Luoyang" does not seem quite appropriate.
p. 131: We read that during the Tang dynasty "Other games fashionable at court, especially for women, included elephant chess (xiangqi), of ancient origin but perfected during the Tang dynasty." It is preferable to understand the compound xiangqi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in the sense of "image chess" considering above all the abundant evidence for the connection of chess with astrology and cosmological theories. The chessmen represented the sun, moon, stars and constellations. We should not forget that the same character xiang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] appears in the name Wanxiang shengong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Divine Palace of the Myriad Images) of the mingtang in the seventh century, precisely referring to the images of the heavenly bodies. Moreover, xiangqi chess was not "conosciuti gia in epoca remota" (known already in remote times; the expression "of ancient origin" in the English version is preferable) but was a rather recent innovation.
p. 142, caption: "Some 1,400 years ago, in the kingdom of Salva (on p. 288c, we read "Salva"), in India, 500 men rebelled against the oppression of King Prasenajit, but were defeated and slain. Their epic feats form the subject of this painting dating from 538/39, which can still be seen on a wall of cave 285, Dunhuang. [Western Wei.]" Scarpari does not indicate it, but this is a detail of the small illustration given in the lower part of p. 264. It is a scene above the first of the four niches, the one on the viewer's left. Another detail (the scene above the third of the four niches) is reproduced on pp. 266-67. In the second caption of p. 264, we read: "These paintings depict the feats of 500 brave men, called brigands by some, who fought against injustice in the world and became Buddhas." Although Scarpari does not indicate it, it is evident that this refers to the same story of Prasenajit illustrated on pp. 142-43.
The painting is on the southern wall of cave 285 at Dunhuang. The scene is inspired by the narrative in the Da banniepan jing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Mahaparinirvana sutra), in forty fascicles, translated by Dharmaksema (Tanwuchen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], 385-433 or 436) of the Northern Liang in 421, and from other works such as the Jinglu yixiang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Aspects of the Sutras and Vinayas), in fifty fascicles, compiled in 516 under the Liang dynasty by Baochang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. According to Scarpari, the five hundred robbers were good brigands or "brave men ... who fought against injustice in the world," who "rebelled against the oppression of King Prasenajit, but were defeated and slain." Clearly he presents them in the manner of Robin Hood or even as martyrs who were slain for their sense of justice and therefore became buddhas. The problem is that Prasenajit in the narrative is not presented as an oppressive king; above all, the robbers are not presented as fine men who struggled for good and justice; far from that, in their activities they committed all kinds of wickedness. Prasenajit was forced to take action against them in order to protect people from their dreadful deeds. Besides, none of them was slain, but they retired to the forest in bad shape and blind. They were not rescued for their martyrdom due to their fighting "against injustice in the world," but only because Buddha, on hearing their laments was moved by compassion and succored them by giving them back their sight (of which they had been deprived in order that they be impeded from doing more evil to people). Succored by the Buddha, they were grateful to him and repented of their past crimes. Last, they did not become buddhas in the narrative, but only expressed the vow of the bodhi, which represents a preliminary condition to becoming a buddha. An elementary knowledge of classical Chinese and minimal philological competence would have spared the author this incredible series of errors.
The foregoing had to be said concerning the nature of the story narrated in the painting in question. A mystery remains concerning Scarpari's statement that the story took place in the kingdom of Salva or Salva. What might be the connection of this kingdom with our story? A suspicion comes to mind: Prasenajit was the celebrated king of Kosala at the time of the Buddha. By what strange alchemy, then, might Kosala have become Salva or Salva in the book under review here? And why does Scarpari identify the time of this story as "some 1,400 years ago" (both in the Italian and the English version), that is, around the year 600 A.D.? How is it possible that in a painting of 538-39 a scene that would take place about forty years later is represented?
Scarpari never quite ceases to stupefy his readers and offers them other significant examples of his way of working. In the same cave 285 at Dunhuang, not on the southern wall, but on the western one, yet in a place which is very near to the southern wall, there is a beautiful painting representing a hermit. In the corresponding caption of p. 224 the author says: "Krishna Vasudeva is shown here as an old man with a long white beard and a thin torso, his body covered with a few rags. The image contrasts sharply with traditional iconography, which shows him as young and vigorous." However, this image has nothing to do with Krsna Vasudeva. It represents the seer Vasu. All visitors of Sanjusangen-do in Kyoto can admire the beautiful wooden sculpture of Vasu. In terms of iconography this sculpture has, in my opinion, much in common with this Dunhuang painting of Vasu.
p. 205c: In the Italian version Scarpari states that a palace was discovered ("e stato scoperto un palazzo") among the foundations of the pagoda of the Buddhist temple of Famen. We know that there is no palace under the pagoda but only a crypt measuring 31.48 square meters in all. Scarpari was perhaps misled by the Chinese term digong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] frequently used by archaeologists, not referring literally to an "underground palace," but rather to the space for relics under Buddhist pagodas, in which case I see no better term than "crypt" to define this space. Fortunately, the translator in the English version has changed "palazzo" into "treasure" ("a treasure was discovered"). This is a good example of how the English version is better than the original edition.
In the same passage Scarpari explains that the treasure of the Famen temple "contained reliquaries and votive offerings, including four finger bones venerated as belonging to Buddha." Since previously (caption of p. 68), dealing with the Famen relic question, the author did not hint at these "four finger bones venerated as belonging to Buddha" but only referred to "a precious relic, possibly a finger of Buddha," it would be preferable to say something more, especially considering that Scarpari specifies that the "silver-gilt figure" reproduced on p. 68 had been donated to the Famen Temple by emperor Yizong of the Tang dynasty and "was designed to contain" the precious relic. In the same caption, he explains: "A plaque inscribed with the emperor's prayer rests on the small tray in the shape of a lotus leaf." Since the four finger bones were contained in their own respective reliquaries, one is left wondering whether the precious relic of the "silver-gilt figure ... designed to contain" it was a fifth one and, in this case, in which part of the figure of the silver bodhisattva was the relic "contained"?
I assume that, before making his statements, the author, who has made Chinese philology his field of specialty, would not have resisted the temptation to take a glance at this inscription which offers the right solution on a "silver tray." All the more so that, being perfectly reproduced in the volume, it presents no broken or damaged characters, is clearly readable, and its meaning is not hard to fathom. Examination, however, yields a surprise: the plaque is not "inscribed with the emperor's prayer" but with augural wishes for the emperor. Moreover, the inscription explains that the bodhisattva holding the relic was a gift made to the emperor on Xiantong 12.11.14 (29 December 871), the anniversary of the emperor's birth. It clearly explains that the tray held with both hands by the bodhisattva serves to exhibit the relic for veneration. The character peng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], contrary to what Scarpari seems to understand, does not mean "to contain" but "to hold up in both hands" reverently offering something, which is precisely what the bodhisattva is doing, offering with both hands the tray on which the relic is placed.
p. 254b: Scarpari states that Gaozong "was buried in Qianling in August 684" and that Wu Zetian "was buried at Qianling in May 706." However, we know that Gaozong was buried in September (not August) 684, while Wu Zetian was buried at Qianling in July (not May) 706. How can we explain these mistakes? A look at the sources reveals that the eighth month and the fifth month of the ancient Chinese calendar were the months of burial of Gaozong and Wu Zetian, respectively. The author has simply taken "eighth month" for August and "fifth month" for May, apparently assuming that the months of the Chinese traditional calendar corresponded to those of our calendar.
Caption for illus. 254-55: Concerning the groups of headless statues at the Qianling imperial mausoleum, Scarpari states: "Statues of 61 kings and ambassadors from nearby countries who had been awarded prestigious honorary titles by the Tang court stand in two separate groups at Qianling. The statues, now headless, have inscriptions on the back that have long been illegible; however, the recent discovery of ancient paper copies has enabled many of the personalities portrayed to be identified." One is curious about what "the recent discovery of ancient paper copies" might be, and what Scarpari means by "ancient paper copies." He tells us that this discovery has enabled the identification of many of the figures, but, as far as I know, some thirty-nine names with titles have been known since the late eleventh century, as pointed out by Omura Seigai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in his famous work on the history of Chinese sculpture. Omura published his work in 1917 and, well aware of earlier evidence, he did not consider this a discovery. (3) After him, other works have appeared, proposing emendations and suggesting additional readings of some missing characters, together with a regrouping of the characters that adds up to an overall different counting (thirty-six names), but these have always been based on the same evidence. Now, even admitting that Omura should be considered the first modern scholar to have given the list of the identified persons (in any case, Omura is not even mentioned by Scarpari), it does not seem to me that we can call this a "recent discovery." If the author knows of a truly recent discovery adding a new series of characters relevant to the figures as yet unknown to us, thus increasing the number of overall identifications, we would be happy if he would clarify this point.
p. 259 (caption for illus, 259): Concerning the eunuchs represented in the tomb of Li Zhongrun (682-701), we read that they "were highly influential at court, especially towards the end of the Tang dynasty." Then Scarpari adds a quotation of Huang Zongxi's severe judgment on the eunuchs in the seventeenth century. I am afraid that at the time to which the image in question refers the eunuchs were not yet so influential. Their influence began to be significant with Xuanzong. In any case, the quotation of Huang Zongxui's judgment is out of place here. Exoticism seems to prevail here over sound historical criticism.
p. 262b: In the Italian version we read that the name of Dunhuang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] means "Faro Fiammeggiante" (which to Italians signifies "blazing lighthouse" or "blazing light [of a lighthouse]"). Thousands of miles from the seaside!? I do not know how Scarpari arrived at this curious translation and I wonder whether exoticism has not once more taken the upper hand. It is usually preferable not to translate proper names, unless this is necessary or meaningful. In the case of Dunhuang, translation becomes completely gratuitous, especially if it is the transcription in Chinese characters of a non-Chinese name, as Janos Harmatta suggests. (4) In the English version of the book, fortunately, there is no translation for the name Dunhuang.
p. 265 (caption): "The statue on the left is Kasyapa, shown here at an advanced age to emphasize his wisdom and proverbial prudence." As far as I know, Kasyapa is always (not only here) represented as an old man.
p. 266a: Dealing with the "magnificent 26-m (85-ft) high sculpture of Buddha Maitreya (cave no. 130)," Scarpari states that it is "attributed to Ma Sizhong, an artist of the early 8th century." Rather than Ma Sizhong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], mention should be made of Chuyan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] whose name in the inscription appears before that of Ma Sizhong. After that of Ma Sizhong other names are mentioned. In any case, neither Ma nor Chuyan was the "artist," but both were promoters of the image, unless we assume that Lingyin and Yin Zu, mentioned in cave no. 96, also were "artists."
p. 267: Dealing with the Dunhuang manuscripts, Scarpari states: "This priceless treasure consisted of religious texts, mostly Buddhist, although there were also important Confucian and Daoist documents." Why ignore the Manichaean and Christian documents? They have greatly attracted the attention of scholars, especially the so-called Traite manicheen, which was the starting point for Chavannes and Pelliot as early as 1911 and 1913, when they published an epoch-making study. (5)
p. 268: "The finds are now on display in major museums and cultural institutions in Beijing, London, Paris, Saint Petersburg, Kyoto and Delhi." Usually, with some rare exceptions, the Dunhuang manuscripts are not "on display" and often it is not easy, even for scholars, to consult them. Besides, why mention among the places where the manuscripts are kept Kyoto and Delhi, where there are very few of them, and why omit the much more remarkable collections in Gansu, Shanghai, Tianjin, Osaka and Taipei?
p. 278: Scarpari states that in Longmen there are "3,608 inscriptions." However, in the catalogue of the Longmen Caves inscriptions edited by Liu Jinglong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Li Yukun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], published in 1998, we find 2,881 (2,852+9+20) inscriptions in all.
pp. 278-79: "The Fengxian temple, carved in 672-3 by order of emperor Gaozong and empress Wu Zetian, is perhaps the most spectacular cave ...; the focal point is a colossal Buddha, over 11 m (36 ft.) tall.... He sits ... on a throne in the shape of a lotus flower consisting of thousands of petals.... This is Vairocana, the Buddha of Endless Light, the first cosmic principle from which all things originated." The Fengxian temple is not to be confused with the cave belonging to it. The temple, in fact, was constructed south of the caves, outside them. Besides, it is not true that the cave was "carved in 672-3." The date of the carving and the other dates are unequivocal as they appear in the inscriptions of 723 at the basis of the great statue: Xianheng 3.4.1 (3 May 672), edict ordering the construction of the statues; Shangyuan 2.12.30 (20 January 676), completion of the statues; Tiaolu 1.8.15 (25 September 679), founding by edict of the monastery and ordination of fourteen monks; Tiaolu 2.1.15 (20 February 680), calligraphy of the name of the monastery by Dadi (that is, Gaozong); Kaiyuan 10.12.5 (16 January 723), edict ordering the merging of the Fengxiansi with the Longhuasi.
As to the "colossal Buddha, over 11 m (36 ft.) tall," it is well known that this statue is over 17 m tall. Concerning "Vairocana, the Buddha of Endless Light," the author should know that the "Buddha of Endless Light" is not Vairocana but Amitabha. Besides, it is curious to read that Vairocana is "the first cosmic principle from which all things originated." There is also the issue that the Buddha is not Vairocana, but rather Rocana, a question that cannot be dealt with here.
I have already pointed out that Scarpari's information is often not up-to-date. Sometimes it is so old that he gives the impression that his text was written at the end of the nineteenth century rather than at the end of the twentieth century. A case in point is his statement concerning Longmen. On p. 278, in the explanation referring to the illustration in the lower part of p. 279, we read: "The Longmen cave temples were only rediscovered relatively recently, even though they are close to Luoyang. This site, which was once the capital of ten dynasties, is now an ordinary industrial city, its illustrious past forgotten." If we exclude the remark on the "industrial city" what he writes shows how far Scarpari is from the reality and from the most elementary information available. By whom were the Longmen cave temples rediscovered and how "recently" was this? Evidence from Qing and later Chinese authors clearly shows the contrary. Even foreigners were long ago aware of the site. Leprince-Ringuet visited Longmen in 1899 and brought to Paris pictures and rubbings. Edouard Chavannes published a long article on Longmen in 1902; (6) he visited the site in 1907 and took about one hundred and fifty photographs as well as more than one thousand rubbings (above all from inscriptions). (7) Meanwhile, a description of the Binyang Cave was given in 1905 by Philippe Berthelet. (8) After his return to Paris, Chavannes was at work on his Mission archeologique dans la Chine Septentrionale (published in 1909, 1913, 1915) which includes a great quantity of illustrations and his valuable study on Longmen. (9) Parma is not far from Venice. If Scarpari has occasion to go there, I would suggest he have a look at the three albums containing 395 rubbings of Longmen inscriptions which since 1925 have been kept in the local Museum of Chinese Art. They were collected by Eugenio Pelerzi who two years earlier had published a book on Longmen in Shanghai. (10) The Longmen caves were so well known that, taking advantage of the period of political and social instability in China, many statues, or heads of statues, were removed and sent abroad to enrich foreign art collections. As soon as the political situation stabilized, a special structure was set up. The creation of a special institute in 1953 began a new epoch of study and preservation of such great cultural heritage. Moreover, it is unfair towards the city of Luoyang to say that its illustrious past is "forgotten." For many years the city administration has been very attentive to and active in the protection of its cultural heritage and its publicization at home and abroad. Luoyang has excellent museums and one of the richest epigraphical collections in China, not counting the great collection of 1,360 epitaph stones at the Qian Tang zhi zhai built in 1935 in nearby Tiemen. From 6 to 12 September, 1993, the "International Symposium for the 1500th Anniversary of the Longmen Grottoes" took place in Luoyang. The conference celebrated also the fortieth anniversary of the foundation of the special institute for the study and preservation of the grottoes. This was organized by the city. Collaboration from the Italians was requested at the time, which resulted in joint Chinese-Italian archaeological activities that began in 1997 with the objective of bringing to light the monastic complex of the Fengxiansi (the same monastery that Scarpari confuses with the cave: see above) and have been since the start directed by our archaeologist Giovanni Verardi. The Tang sculptures that have come to light from the site, thanks to the work of Chinese and Italian archaeologists, have been shown at exhibitions in Japan and in Germany. Just to mention two Italian journals, which Scarpari should certainly have found in his own university library, the important (especially for archaeological matters) journal published in Rome, East and West 44.2-4 (1994): 507-16, as well as Annali dell'Istituto Orientale di Napoli 56.3 (1996): 365-87; 58.3-4 (1998): 409-62 provide details on this Italian collaboration with the city of Luoyang and its Longmen research institute, thanks to special agreements duly listed also in the freely distributed publication IsIAO (Istituto Italiano per l'Africa e'Oriente [Rome, 1999], 21), put out by the same Institute. Venice is neither the desert nor the moon. If Scarpari had made his remarks in the year 1900, one might partially agree with them, but one is speechless upon reading such statements made in 2000.
pp. 281a-b: "The Cave of the Ancient Sun (Guyangdong), famous for a statue of Buddha which is compared with Laozi, the legendary founder of Daoism, because of his serene expression, contains some reliefs which are a very useful source of information about the costumes and architecture of the 5th century." How could the Buddha be compared with Laozi here and how could "his serene expression" have anything to do with this supposed comparison? The cave was for a certain time called Laojundong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] simply because the main statue of Sakyamuni was considerably modified in order to make it into Laozi by adding plaster and colors, which obviously obliterated the original aspect of the statue. Chavannes lamented the fact that in his time the Buddha "a ete si bizarrement restaure et peint qu'il fait tache au milieu des excellentes sculptures dont il est entoure." (11) Moreover, most of the sculptures here are from the sixth century, not from the fifth century. As to the "Ancient Sun," it sounds odd and I would not be as certain as Scarpari in interpreting Guyangdong in the sense of Cave of the Ancient Sun, unless the reason for such a name could be convincingly explained. Here, again, why translate a place name whose origin and meaning remain unknown? Is this the only possible translation?
p. 283 (caption for illus. 283): In the Italian version we read that the expressions "mille budda" (a thousand buddhas) or "diecimila budda" (ten thousand buddhas) "sono usate anche per indicare. piu genericamente, il nome di un tempio" (are also used to indicate, more generically, the name of a temple). If this were true, we would have good cause to add to the richest of Chinese dictionaries, that of Luo Zhufeng, where Scarpari's contention is not found. In the English version, by good luck, we find a more acceptable explanation: "The terms 'a thousand Buddhas' or 'ten thousand Buddhas' are also often used in the name of a temple."
I have indicated here just a few points from a virtually endless list of similarly disputable or erroneous views expressed by the author in his text. It may be best not to raise other points. The reader may realize the degree of reliability of this text, enfolded in so attractive an attire of illustrations and written by an author whose memberships, titles, and academic positions are enumerated grandly on the inside back dust-cover. One is startled to learn that, among other achievements, the author was "a member of the Science Committees" of two exhibitions of Chinese art and archaeology, "a member of the Science Committee of the journal Asiatica Venetiana" and "is Science Editor of the series Cina e altri Orienti published by Libreria Editrice Cafoscarina of Venice." In fact, "science" has nothing to do with this context and the use of the word here is owing to an insufficient knowledge of English. As far as I know, Scarpari is not interested in science (at least not in Chinese science), and the intent here is to say that he participated in these "scholarly Committees." This display of poor English is astonishing because otherwise the English rendering of the Italian of the text itself is very good indeed, as I have already mentioned; it is possible that the same translator was not responsible for the English of Scarpari's curriculum on the dust-cover.
I note here some other mistakes and inconsistencies. Throughout the book Fu Xi, Sui Ren, Shen Nong, Nu Wa, should properly be written as Fuxi, Suiren, Shennong. Nuwa (or Nugua). On pp. 34a-b, Di-xin (in the Italian we have Di Xin) (or Zhou Xin) should be Dixin or Zhouxin. On p. 36b Gong He should be Gonghe. On p. 70a Ming Huan should be Ming Huang. A certain amount of consistency would, in fact, be appreciated. If Scarpari prefers, he may write Chen[g] Di (caption of p. 59 of the Italian version) and Wen Cheng (as on p. 272) instead of the now usual Chengdi and Wencheng; however, in this case he should consistently write Jing Di, Wen Di, etc. The same may be said of religious names. As Tan Yao was a monk (p. 272, second caption), his name should be given as Tanyao, in the same way that Scarpari writes Xuanzang in one word elsewhere when indicating the famous monk who went to India. Shaanxi in "Taiyuan in Shaanxi" (p. 223a) is to be emended to Shanxi. On p. 271 (and elsewhere) of the Italian version we always have the wrong spelling Majishan instead of Maijishan. Fortunately this is corrected in the English version. "Yushu dafu (Imperial Counselor)" (p. 46a) is to be emended to Yushi dafu (Censor-in-chief). Qingtujiao (p. 94) is to be emended to Jingtujiao. The term lohan (p. 231, caption for the superior image of 231) should be luohan. On p. 10 (caption for illus. 12-13), we read that in the mausoleum of the First Emperor, there were "over 7,000 fully-armed soldiers," but later (p. 41, caption for illus. 40) we are informed that there were "over 6,000 statues." On the same p. 10 (caption for illus. 14-15), concerning the great statue of Mount Lingyun, we read that "at over 70 m (230 ft.) tall it is the largest Buddhist statue in the world." This is usually called the Leshan Grand Buddha [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Sichuan, begun in 713 (Kaiyuan 1) and finished in 803 (Zhenyuan 19), whose body measures 58.7 m, whose head is of 11.7 m, etc. Scarpari forgets that, just to mention a nearby example, not far from this statue, in the same Leshan there is another sculpture measuring 170 m. Liang Wudi did not just retire to a monastery (p. 59c), but on three occasions (528, 546, 547) he gave himself up to a Buddhist temple to serve as a menial.
As to dates, the author is not as accurate as is required. On pp. 28a and 43a of the Italian text Sima Qian's dates are given as c. 149-90 B.C. In the English version. Sima Qian's dates become c. 149-86 B.C. on p. 28a and c. 145-90 B.C. on p. 43a. Moreover, on p. 245a we read that "Sima Qian ... lived in the 1st century B.C., just over a century after the death of the First August Emperor." Indeed, Sima Qian lived some years into the first century B.C., but he lived most of his life in the second century B.C. By the way, considering that Ying Zheng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (the First August Emperor) died in 210 B.C., what does Scarpari mean when he writes that Sima Qian "lived in the 1st century B.C., just over a century after the death of the First August Emperor"? Was not Sima Qian alive before 110 B.C.? The dates of Chengdi's reign (caption of p. 59) are not 37-7 B.C., but 33-7 B.C. On p. 6 (caption for illus. 4-5), the dates of Liu Xiang are not as certain as Scarpari suggests (78-8 B.C.); the same for Gu Kaizhi who is given the dates 354-406 in the Italian text but 345-406 in the English version; in the case of Xuanzang (600-664) (p. 62b), in reality the year he was born is uncertain; Yijing (p. 62b) died in 713, not in 717; Li Bai (p. 63a) was born in 701, not in 710. On p. 69, the date 697 is to be emended to 687.
One gets the general impression that Scarpari has composed his text by copying various bits of information from different secondary works without bothering to give them a certain uniformity. This must be the reason why he passes with absolute nonchalance from correct transcriptions (for example, Manjusri and Avalokitesvara) to those in which he seems unaware of the existence of diacritical marks: Kumarajiva (p. 63c) instead of Kumarajiva; nirvana (pp. 94, 95a and elsewhere) instead of nirvana; Saddharmapundarika (second caption of illus. 114, caption of 118) instead of Saddharmapundarika; in the explanation of p. 65, concerning the illustration on pp. 64-65, we read Sakyamuni without diacritical marks and elsewhere, always, Sakyamuni. Of course the correct transcription is Sakyamuni. And we find Tachibana Zuicho (p. 268) instead of Tachibana Zuicho; Yoshikawa Koichiro (p. 268) instead of Yoshikawa Koichiro.
At the end of the volume, there is an index, but it is far from complete.
Despite all this, the book maintains a certain value for the quality of its over four hundred splendid illustrations and its attractive layout. The publishers are, in any case, to be commended for their initiative and for having put within everyone's grasp these images which speak for themselves. It is unfortunate, however, that a precious occasion offered by generous and open-minded publishers was lost here. No one demands a brilliant and original overview, but we have the right at least to expect sound and correct information.
1. Antica Cina: La civilta cinese dalle origini alla dinastia Tang (Vercelli: Edizioni White Star).
2. Wudi was the posthumous name of Sun Quan's father, while his own was Dadi.
3. Shina bijutsu shi choso hen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Tokyo, 1917; rpt. under the title Chugoku bijutsu shi choso hen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] [Tokyo: Kokusho kankokai, 1980]), 623-26.
4. "Origin of the Name Tun-huang," in Turfan and Tun-huang: The Texts, ed. A. Cadonna (Florence: Olschki, 1992), 15: "The Chinese name probably represents some local toponym of Yueh-chih origin."
5. Edouard Chavannes and Paul Pelliot, "Un traite manicheen retrouve en Chine," Journal asiatique (1911): 499-617; Journal asiatique (1913): 90-199, 261-392.
6. "Le defil de Long-men," Journal asiatique (1902): 133-59.
7. See his note of September 5. 1907 sent to Henri Cordier from Xi'an and published as "Voyage de M. Chavannes en Chine," T'oung Pao, ser. 2, 8 (1907): 561-65. See especially p. 564.
8. See Comptes rendus de l'Academie des Inscripions, 186-204.
9. The work consists of four volumes of plates (in six sections) published in 1909, and two volumes of texts, published in 1913 and 1915 by Ernest Leroux, Paris. Plates on Longmen are found in vol. 2 (figs. 278-398), in vol. 3 (figs. 538-747), and in vol. 4 (figs. 955-61), while vol. 2 (Tome I, deuxieme partie: "La sculpture bouddhique") of the texts devotes to Longmen the entire second section (pp. 320-561). This consists mainly of annotated translations of 423 inscriptions. At the end of the volume are the Chinese texts of 422 inscriptions (figs. 1274-1695) and reproductions of eight rubbings (figs. 1732-39, only the last, fig. 1739, being an inscription) from Longmen.
10. Les grottes de Loungmen (Honan) (Shanghai: Oriental Press, 1923).
UNIVERSITY OF NAPLES
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|Publication:||The Journal of the American Oriental Society|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2003|
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