Cornell University

This is a past event. Its details are archived for historical purposes.

The contact information may no longer be valid.

Please visit our current events listings to look for similar events by title, location, or venue.

Annual Hu Shih distinguished lecture: Victor Mair

Thursday, October 25, 2018 at 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Physical Sciences Building, 120
245 East Avenue

 "An Important Dunhuang Manuscript Formerly in the Possession of Hu Shih"

PLEASE NOTE: Room changed to Physical Sciences Building 120 (to provide more seating)

Prof. Victor Mair of the University of Pennsylvania, world-renowned literary scholar and archaeologist, will give the East Asia Program's annual Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture.

One of the most popular Buddhist vernacular tales preserved among the Dunhuang documents is "Xiàngmó biànwén 降魔變文" ("Transformation Text on the Subduing of Demons").  There are six surviving manuscripts of this text, and one of them was for a time owned by Hu Shih.  The genre in question is a type of storytelling with pictures, and the six manuscripts under discussion constitute the verbal side of the genre.  As for documentation of the pictorial side, we need to follow a trail that leads from cave 17 of the Mogao Grottoes at Dunhuang to Central Asia, India, and Southeast Asia.  As part of our journey, we will see how the combination of biànwén 變文 ("transformation text") and biànxiàng 變相 ("transformation tableau") constitutes the forerunner of aspects of fiction and drama in China, and ultimately of cinema.

More about Victor Mair:

A specialist on classical and medieval Chinese literature, Dunhuang excavations and manuscript culture, and early Chinese archaeology, and translator of such canonical pre-Qin texts as Sun Zi’s The Art of War and the Daodejing, Prof. Mair has spent his life teaching the culture and history of premodern China. He has authored and co-authored numerous books, including The Tarim Mummies, T’ang Transformation Texts, Painting and Performance, and The True History of Tea. He has also edited or co-edited numerous volumes, including Experimental Essays on Zhuangzi, Contact and Exchange in the Ancient World, The Columbia History of Chinese Literature, and the monumental An Alphabetical Index to the Hanyu Da Cidian (Great Dictionary of the Chinese Language).

Victor Mair is a philologist specializing in Sinitic and Indo-European languages, and holds the position of Professor of Chinese Language and Literature in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, United States.

More about the Hu Shih Distinguished Lecture:

On the 100th anniversary of the world-changing philosopher and statesman’s graduation from Cornell, the EAP initiated an annual distinguished lecture in his name. Leading scholars of Chinese and East Asian studies are invited to give a lecture on critical issues in their field of research. 

This lecture series is video archived as a resource for the Cornell community and beyond. For full-length lecture videos and highlights:



Google Calendar iCal Outlook
Event Type



Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, History, East Asia Program




Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Amala Lane

Contact Phone



Victor Mair

Speaker Affiliation

University of Pennsylvania

Dept. Web Site

Disability Access Information

wheelchair accessible, hearing assistance provided with advance notice

Open To


Recent Activity