Getting to know… Youn-mi Kim


A series introducing the Visiting Scholars & Fellows in residence at HYI this year

Youn-mi Kim ( Associate Professor of Asian Art History, Ewha Womans University; HYI Visiting Scholar, 2023-24)
“Space, Body, and Ritual in Chinese Medieval Buddhism: Liao Pagodas (907-1125)”

What got you interested in your research topic?

My current book project on the Liao Empire’s pagodas has been a long time in the making. It all started when I was a first-year graduate student at Harvard. My dear advisor, Eugene Wang, suggested I write a term paper on the Chaoyang North Pagoda—a topic that immediately captivated me. I think it was back in the spring of 2005. Then, in 2007, I conducted my first field research, thanks to the generous help of Prof. Liu Guoxiang, whom I had the pleasure of meeting during his time as a visiting scholar at the Yenching Institute. With Prof. Liu and his archaeology team, I was fortunate to visit many Liao pagoda sites and examine objects excavated from the pagodas, housed in museums across Inner Mongolia and Liaoning Province. I am immensely grateful to Prof. Liu and his team for their invaluable support. Now, as I wrap up my book as a visiting scholar at Yenching, I reflect on how pivotal Yenching has been from the outset to the final stages of this project.

Outside of work, where can we find you?

As an art historian, I not only visit museums for research but also for enjoyment. There’s a good chance you might bump into me at one of the museums in the Greater Boston area. When I’m not exploring art, you can find me jogging around Cambridge and Somerville, often with a stop at PRB Boulangerie to pick up some treats. If you are looking for decent French baguettes and croissants, I recommend this place! For a quicker meet-up, head to the Yenching Library’s reading room, my usual spot for daily work. As one of my senior colleagues in Chinese art history once described it, it is a “heaven for scholars”!

What would you want to do most as a career if you were not in academia?

I love to grow plants and flowers. I am also fond of making floral arrangements. I think I could be a good florist. I have dozens of potted plants at home in Seoul. I had a tough time putting down my desire to buy plants during my stay in Cambridge, and I bought only 9 plants so far. Whew . . . glad that I did not buy more. By the way, no worries about these plants—I’ve found a friend who will “adopt” them when I return to Korea. One day, I hope to have a house with a garden or a spacious terrace for outdoor plants, although that’s a challenging dream to realize in Seoul.

Read Prof. Kim’s bio on our website!

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