Dating the "Persian" and Chinese style remains of Uygur Manichaean art: A new radiocarbon date and its implications for central Asian art history

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This paper is a contextualized stylistic study built around a carbon-dated book painting from a well-defined artistic corpus of Mediaeval East Central Asia. Its primary sources of evidence are Manichaean works of art from Turfan, produced under Uygur patronage (8th-11th cc. CE). These sources are subjected to a pictorial analysis that yields the recognition of four stylistic groups. Through the introduction of comparative visual sources, it is shown that the roots of two Manichaean styles are West Asian, while the other two are Chinese. The interpretation of this art historical data in light of historical sources results in new views regarding how pictorial art developed in this region. Until now it has been thought that an earlier "Persian" and a later Chinese style dominated Manichaean art, just as the arts of Buddhist East Central Asia. By demonstrating that the West Asian roots ruled the traditional media of Uygur Manichaean art until the early 11th century, this study eliminates a fossilized assumption within the history of East Central Asian art.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-33
Number of pages29
JournalArts Asiatiques
StatePublished - 2003


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts
  • Cultural Studies

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