Performing Memory: Artistic Production & Religious Practice at the Kofukuji Nan’endo

External online event - The Japan Society

Monday 20 July, 2020
6:45pm BST

Dr Yen-Yi Chan (Sainsbury Institute)

About the Talk

We are delighted to welcome Dr Yen-Yi Chan for our monthly Japan Society lecture online in July. She will discuss her recent research on the Nan’endo building at Kofukuji temple in Nara. Please join us as we explore the history and memories of this ancient site.

Situated in a bustling area of Nara City, the Nan’endo (Southern Round Hall) is an eight-sided structure at Kofukuji temple. The history of the Nan’endo began in the ninth century and has been linked to the prominent Northern Fujiwara clan. This talk explores the interplay between memory and materiality, examining the process in which memory of the Northern Fujiwara clan became identified with the Nan’endo and was transformed and reshaped along with the history of the hall from the ninth to the eleventh century. It analyzes how visual production and memorial rituals at the site expressed religious piety, marked kinship relationship and created memories of ancestors as well as narratives of family history. Attention is also given to setsuwa tales of the Nan’endo and replications of the building, which indicate the transformation of the site into a miraculous space. While derived from Buddhist devotion, such a transformation manifests an ever-changing familial “memoryscape” that was framed in and embodied by the hall and its images.

About the Speaker

Yen-Yi Chan is currently a Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Fellow at the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 2018. Her research is situated at the intersection of art, religion, and social history with a focus on how visual production at Buddhist sites shapes social relations, human memory, and collective identity. She is also interested in artistic exchanges between Japan and China, reconstruction of Buddhist heritage sites, and creation of images of “living Buddhas (shojin butsu)” in the medieval time. Yen-Yi also has worked at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan and Spencer Museum of Art.

If you have any questions, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email us at:

Image: Nan’endo of Kofuku-ji temple in Nara (by tak1701d – wikipedia)

How to book

Book online at The Japan Society website here.

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