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Call for Papers – International Conference: Divine and Human Landscapes

International Conference

Kucha and Beyond: Divine and Human Landscapes from Central Asia to the Himalayas

When: 01.11.2021 – 05.11.2021
Where: conference room of the University Library “Bibliotheca Albertina”, Beethovenstrasse 6, 04107 Leipzig

On 1-5 November 2021 the international SEECHAC conference “Divine and Human Landscapes from Central Asia to the Himalayās will be organised by the long-term Research Project “Buddhist Murals of Kucha on the Northern Silk Road” established by the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Leipzig, in cooperation with the European Society for the Study of Himalayan and Central Asian Civilisations (SEECHAC) and the Department of Indology and Central Asian Studies at Leipzig University.


The English word “landscape”, it has often been pointed out, does not refer directly to natural topography. Derived from the Dutch term “landschap” for a painting of rural scenery, a landscape is above all a representation of something that is “out there”, and not the thing itself, though it may also refer to the transformation of that natural environment. What is depicted may be real or imaginary, and the medium of expression may include painting, three-dimensional imagery, or literary description. According to this broad definition, the term landscape would apply equally to give just three examples to Kizil cave architecture, Ibn al Balki’s cartographic tradition, and the written and oral accounts by Tibetan deloks (revenants) of their visits to the realms of the dead.

The conference aims to bring together the top specialists in the civilisations of Central Asia and the Himalaya. Their individual specialisations ensure that the dynamics in the construction, interpretation and representation of these “landscapes” will be approached from different angles employing a wide array of amongst others philological, art historical, historical, anthropological and ethnographical methods. Research on Central Asia and the Himalayas has progressed rapidly in recent years and has seen the documentation of striking new archaeological and art historical find-spots as well as the rigorous reconsideration and revision of established concepts about the history, social and religious structures and development of the region. The conference will provide ample opportunity to present and discuss the most recent insights into the fluid interrelations between different parts of Central Asia and the Himalayas and to bring new material and research results to the notice of the academic public. A particular aim is to foster the reconsideration and innovation of the established methodological and theoretical frameworks used by the disciplines involved.

Research on Central Asia and the Himalayas has only begun to understand the intricate structures and interdependencies of these real and virtual landscapes in recent years and much work still has to be done to link the results achieved by individual researchers and projects. This, however, is the only way to arrive at an adequately differentiated image of the multifaceted, dynamic landscapes of Central Asia and the Himalayas and the projected conference will be an important step towards this aim.


The organisers invite the submission of papers on this theme. Please submit the title together with an abstract (300 words max.) by 15 May 2021 to the organisers at

Due to the high number of expected participants and the limited number of time slots for the presentation of papers, the organisers will have to make a selection based on the abstracts submitted. All participants will be notified by 30 June about whether their papers have been accepted.

We are continuously monitoring the development of the Corona pandemic in Leipzig, Germany and internationally; the prospects of holding the conference in November are promising so far. A final decision on this will be made at the end of June to ensure that participants can make their travel arrangements at reasonable rates. If the situation at this time does not permit us to hold the conference in 2021, it will be postponed to 2022 and a new date will be announced.

One full day of the 2021 conference will be devoted to the presentation and discussion of new research on Kucha, the important centre of Buddhism on the Silk Road and a major hub with links to South and East Asia, Gandhara, Iran and the Mediterranean. Presentations on the remaining four days will represent the full geographical range traditionally covered by SEECHAC Tibet, Iran, Mongolia, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and the Himalaya.
The planned conference will be convened without multiple parallel sessions; this will allow for an in-depth exchange among all participants.

The final programme will be available here in July 2021


Prof. Monika Zin (Team leader, Research project “Buddhist Murals of Kucha on the Northern Silk Road†at the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities) and

Prof. Charles Ramble (Directeur d’études, EPHE -PSL University, CRCAO, Paris)

Funding provided by Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Council DFG).