Katherine R. Tsiang is a scholar of Chinese art of the Medieval Period, a period of extensive multicultural interaction during which the northern part of China was controlled predominantly by non-Han Chinese rulers and Buddhism, initially introduced from India and Central Asia, became the predominant religion. Her recent research has focused on the art and visual culture of Chinese tombs and Buddhist cave shrines and deals with the transformative impact of multicultural, social, religious, and funerary ideologies on artistic production of the fifth through eighth centuries.
In her position as Associate Director of the Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History, Katherine coordinates international scholarly collaborative research projects and annual symposia that invite scholars from various disciplines and institutions to share their research on selected topics. She also oversees publication of the resulting papers. Under her supervision, the Center has developed digital technologies for archiving and viewing collections of East Asian paintings and Buddhist sculptures. It has undertaken initiatives to gather information on handscroll paintings and sculptures from Buddhist cave temples and to create websites for displaying and sharing the results. In the process, the Center has created innovative viewing software allowing interactive access to works of art to simulate traditional painting viewing practices and to restore broken sculptures and ruined cave sites.
Katherine is currently making plans for a collaborative project with the Longmen Caves Research Academy. The Center’s Chinese Buddhist Cave Temples Projects have involved extensive collaborations with museums and institutions around the world and have resulted in museum exhibitions. The most recent exhibition that she co-curated was a collaborative one held at the OCAT Institute in Beijing in 2017. Organized by Wu Hung and Guo Weiqi it was entitled “Sites and Images: Two Research Projects of Oxford University and the University of Chicago.”
In fall 2018 she will be teaching a class on Chinese art and material culture in the collections of the Field Museum of Natural History.