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This presentation introduces the speaker’s ethnomusicological research on the Dunhuang Mural Music and Dance, a multifaceted genre of music, dance, and dramatic performances that was created in the twentieth century and based primarily on images and gestures from the artifacts excavated from the Mogao Caves, one of the UNESCO world heritage sites in Dunhuang, China’s northwestern Gansu Province. The speaker has been conducting multisite fieldwork on the performative images in the Dunhuang arts since 2002. Represented through the performative images in the Dunhuang Mogao wall paintings were dancers and musicians with characteristics of non-Han ethnicities entertaining foreign gods of Buddhism, transmitted from India along the Silk Road. The 492 caves at the Mogao cliff near the modern town of Dunhuang have served as temples, sites for performative events, and an archive that consisted of medieval Chinese paintings and Buddhist sutras. These materials embody a history of negotiation and contestation between monolithic and pluralistic value systems in China. As a number of scholars have demonstrated, choreographers often utilize historical imageries in their performances to construct connections between the past and the present. The sources of Dunhuang Mural Music and Dance consist mainly of images, narratives, and musical tunes depicted in the historical wall paintings and/or documents discovered in the Mogao Caves. The creators of the genre tend to draw primarily from the artistic creations of the Sui and Tang dynasties. Primary research questions include: what stylistic choices do choreographers make and why? Which images among the archaeological materials from the past that they choose, according to specific aesthetic principles or laws, in the process of staging? The speaker addresses these questions by investigating the processes through which images and staged embodiment bring diverse historical, cultural, and religious elements into one performance genre.

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Lanlan Kuang 2212
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