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Religions, Volume 8, Issue 10 (October 2017)
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Cover Story (view full-size image) Miniature pagodas from the Liao empire (907-1125) offer an opportunity to rethink the function of [...] Read more. Miniature pagodas from the Liao empire (907-1125) offer an opportunity to rethink the function of miniatures in religious practice. This paper illuminates how these miniatures effectively offered a virtual pilgrimage to the distant holy land of the Buddha, and powerfully shifted Liao territory from the periphery to the center of the sacred geography. The power of these pagodas, contrary to common sense, originated from their reduced size and intentional rejection of their Indian prototype. This paper complicates Jonathan Z. Smith’s theory on the tendency towards miniaturization in ritual by showing that the virtual pilgrimage and virtual geography enabled by Liao miniatures were not mere “displacements” but rather were regarded as more efficacious and sacred than their real counterparts. View this paper