Into the New Wonder House

Visual Images and World-Making in a Buddhist Temple in Chinatown Amsterdam

In: Journal of Chinese Overseas

Abstract

This article explores a series of images at the Foguangshan He Hua Temple in Chinatown Amsterdam, the Netherlands. It considers images in the temple’s halls and on its websites, and it investigates the spectacle of He Hua’s activities, to understand how these images contribute to debates on Chinese transnational experience. What are visual forms of He Hua’s images? How do they comment on the nature of “Chineseness” and cultural identity for one of the oldest Chinatowns in Europe? The article argues that the He Hua Temple is a new “Wonder House”, in Stanley Abe’s use of the term. It functions as an established site of knowledge, where objects are recast and appropriated into a new taxonomy of order. The article shows that the temple is an effort at artistic world-making, and that it exists as a space for questioning issues of tradition, culture and identity.

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