Research Projects

Present projects

Transgressive Animals, Territorial Locality, and the Qing Global Histories

Project leader: Dr. Lianming Wang | Term: January 2021 – February 2024
Funded by the Gerda Henkel Stiftung

Animal enjoyed a momentous status in China’s early-modern histories as both the subject and object of long-distance commercial interactions and vibrant global encounters. Defined as “transgressive animals,” ranging from Central Asian steeds and peacocks to Mediterranean coral and hornbill skull, shagreen, pangolin scale, and numerous feather tributes from South Asia, their transterritorial and indeed global movement deconstructed existing ecological, sociobiological, and even geopolitical regimes.  This interdisciplinary project seeks to explore the entangled history of China’s reimagined geopolitics through an analytical “animal lens.” Approaching four themes connected to transterritorial animals – space and built environment, monumentality, materiality, and knowledge –, it attempts to discuss the wide array of agencies that animals performed in shaping economic, diplomatic and artistic connections in terms of their types of movement – physical, conceptual, commercial and intellectual. To be specific, the project explores the multi-layered copying and translation of images, issues of collecting and display as well as the entangled histories of material practices that relate to transgressive animals in order to scrutinize the early-modern transcultural dynamics.


Concept for the Digitization of Japanese Handscrolls in German Collections

Project leaders: Prof. Dr. Melanie Trede, Eric Decker M.A. | Term: November 2016 – July 2017
Academic staff: Johannes Alisch M.A.

The project develops a concept for the digitization of Japanese handscrolls in German collections. The concept focuses on the virtual representation of 266 richly illuminated handscrolls made of paper or silk between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries in Japan. The challenges of the envisioned digitization project are the extraordinary physical dimensions of the scrolls (up to 20m in length) and the development and implementation of a joint digitization process with five partner museums and libraries in Germany, who own the scrolls. The future goal is to provide scholars, students and the interested public access to digital representations of the scrolls and to facilitate research of this unique and understudied material.
A comparable website was developed by the coordinators and a number of collaborators for the “Hachiman Digital Handscrolls project” (HDH),


Invisible Networks: Japanese handscrolls in German Collections around 1900 and in a Digital Future

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Melanie Trede | Term: April 2016 – October 2017
Academic staff: Karolin Randhahn M.A.
Die Laufzeit begann am 1.4.16 mit der wiss. Angestellten Adina Badescu und wurde zwischen dem 1.7. und 31.1.17 ausgesetzt. Danach wurde das Projekt mit der wiss. Angestellten Karolin Randhahn weitergeführt bis zum Laufzeitende 31.10.17.

The Project “Invisible Networks” pursues five goals. The first goal is to identify and investigate the Japanese narrative handscrolls, which entered German museum collections since the late 19th century, and address them from both an art historical and collection-orientated perspective. Narrative handscrolls represent a medium that diverges significantly from woodblock prints, sword fittings and small objects that were fashionable in a period shaped by the Japonist taste. For this reason, the scrolls represent an alternative entry-point for the investigation of different collecting approaches and negotiations with aethetics of different cultures at the turn of the century.

The second aim is the scholarly examination of a pilot handscroll, the Koyasu Monogatari (Linden-Museum, Stuttgart). The results shall be presented digitally, our third goal, based on the model developed in the FoF3 project “Digital Hachiman Handscrolls” ( Aim four is the drafting of a White Paper, which addresses the status quo and digital visibility of Japanese handscrolls in German museum collections, while the preparation for a large application to develop an academically sound, digital presentation of Japanese handscrolls in German collections is our fifth goal.


Hachiman Digital Handscrolls
Field of Focus 3: Pilot study to optimize digital presentations of movable image and text formats

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Melanie Trede | Term: March 2014 – February 2015

Japanese illuminated hand scrolls from the fourteenth to the seventeenth centuries serve as case studies for this pilot study to develop innovative digital presentation forms of monumental and movable image formats. The materiality of hand scrolls requires physical contact and direct interaction: the scrolls have to be unrolled with both hands so as to reveal the calligraphy and painting passages, while the viewer chooses the sections of interest herself. The static fixation of text and image parts in the digital display of databases proves thus to be inadequate for such interactive artifacts.

Based on HyperImage and newly to be developed digital methods for the dynamic presentation and publication of scientific findings, this project seeks to improve the academic infrastructure for interdisciplinary research and to overcome disciplinary, linguistic and regional boundaries. Next to the transliteration and translation of the texts passages as well as annotations and full searchability, a direct comparison between two or more scrolls of several aspects including materiality, iconography, calligraphy ecc. is intended.

This project is a cooperation between Heidelberg University’s Institute of East Asian Art History, the Heidelberg Research Architecture (HRA) at the Cluster of Excellence “Asia and Europe,” and the Collaborative Research Centre (SFB 933) „Material Text Cultures,” as well as the software developer bitGilde IT Solutions UG, Berlin. [more ...]


The Ethnographie Eye

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Sarah E. Fraser

„The Ethnographic Eye: Art during the Sino-Japanese War“ befasst sich mit den Spannungen und Neuerungen, welche die Erfahrung des Sino-Japanischen Krieges (1937-1945) für die künstlerische Produktion in China mit sich führte. [mehr ...]


Buddhist Stonescriptions in China

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Lothar Ledderose | Term: 2005 – 2017

The second half of the 6th century AD was a significant epoch in the history of Chinese Buddhism. In the years 577/578 Buddhist believers were subjected to persecution by the secular state of Zhou. In this period, the monks made great progress in the translation of the writings of Buddha, which led to a completely new understanding of his teachings. Four elements of the religion originally stemming from India were adapted to native Chinese traditions. This historical development was reflected in unique stone inscriptions. In some cases the sacred texts were laboriously carved into the natural rock with characters up to nine feet high. In other cases inscriptions were integrated into the architecture of cave temples. With this „network“ of stone inscriptions the Chinese Buddhists created the most significant monuments to the cultural history of northern China that have come down to us. [more ...]


Deutsch-chinesische Zusammenarbeit im Kulturgüterschutz: Kunsthistorische und religionshistorische Grundlagen der Restaurierung buddhistischer Kulthöhlen in China
Gefördert vom Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Lothar Ledderose


Aspects of Mediality and Materiality in Illuminated Horizontal Scrolls in Mediaeval Japan
Teilprojekt B 07, SFB 933 Materiale Textkulturen

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Melanie Trede | Term: 2011 – 2015


Der buddhistische Kanon in Stein. Materialisierung und Präsentifizierung heiliger Schriften im Wolkenheimkloster (616 - 1180 n. Chr.)
Teilprojekt C 04, SFB 933 Materiale Textkulturen

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Lothar Ledderose | Term: 2011 – 2015


Beichtrituale in chinesischen buddhistischen Höhlentempeln des 6. bis 8. Jahrhunderts / Olfaktorische Elemente im chinesischen Totenritual
Teilprojekt B 6, SFB 619 Ritualdynamik

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Lothar Ledderose | Term: 2005 – 2013



Prof. Dr. Melanie Trede (project member), Prof. Dr. Lothar Ledderose (project member)
interdisciplinary work group, Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften
chairperson: Christoph Markschies
2008 – 2011


Studies on the Transmission of Culture communicated by "Things" and Images: Focussing on Japanese medieval literature and handscrolls

Prof. Dr. Melanie Trede (project member)
chairperson: Ikeda Shinobu, Chiba University
grand-aided by Ministry of culture and education, Japan
2008 – 2010


Responsible: SH
Latest Revision: 2021-04-27
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