Halle O'Neal profile picture

Job title:

Reader in Japanese Art


Co-Director of Edinburgh Buddhist Studies


Room 0.49, Higgitt Gallery, Hunter Building

Office hours:

By appointment


Halle O’Neal is a Reader in Japanese Buddhist art in the History of Art department and Co-Director of Edinburgh Buddhist Studies at the University of Edinburgh. She is also chair of The Art Bulletin

Previously, O’Neal worked as a Mellon Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt University and held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University. Her research and teaching explore areas of word and image, relics and reliquaries, invisibility in material culture, reuse and recycling, performativity, and the spectacular visualisations of Buddhist embodiment. O'Neal is an Associate in Research at Harvard University, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies and sits on the editorial board of Art in Translation. In the winter of 2022-2023, she served as the Ishibashi Foundation Visiting Professor of Japanese Art History at the University of Heidelberg.

She was a recent recipient of a Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship and an ACLS Ho Family Foundation Fellowship in Buddhist Studies, during which time she researched her current monograph project, “Dead Letters: Reuse, Recycling, and Mourning in Japanese Buddhist Manuscripts.” This project explores the materiality of mourning, the visualisation of memory, and the haptic experience of Japanese palimpsests as seen through the reuse and recycling of handwritten letters.

Select Publications:


  • 2018: Word Embodied: The Jeweled Pagoda Mandalas in Japanese Buddhist Art. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center. 
    • Reviewed by Richard Bowring. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 82, no. 3 (2019): 583-85. 
    • Reviewed by Kerry Lucinda Brown. Art Inquiries 17, no. 4 (2019): 492-95. 
    • Reviewed by Christine M. E. Guth. Religion and the Arts 23, no. 5 (2019): 593-95. 
    • Reviewed by Pamela D. Winfield. Material Religion 16, no. 1 (2019): 123-24. 
    • Reviewed by Akiko Walley. caa.reviews (2020):  http://www.caareviews.org/reviews/3672#.YD5IGZP7Q1I 
    • Reviewed by Anna Andreeva. Journal of Japanese Studies 47, no. 1 (2021): 123-27.  
    • Reviewed by Cynthea Bogel. Monumenta Nipponica 75, no. 2 (2021): 333-41. 
    • Reviewed by Rachel Saunders. Art History 45, no. 1 (2022): 198-201.

Edited Volumes

  • 2023: Reuse and Recycling in Japanese Visual and Material Cultures, vol. 52 of Ars Orientalis

Articles and Chapters

  • 2023: “Marking Death: Stamped Buddhas and Reused Letters in 13th-Century Japan.” Ars Orientalis 52, pp. 10-39. 
  • 2023: “Reuse, Recycle, and Repurpose: The Afterlives of Japanese Material Culture.” Ars Orientalis 52, pp. 1-9. 
  • 2022: and Paul Harrison. “Bodies of Words: Translating Sacred Text into Sacred Architecture in East Asian Buddhism.” In Routledge Handbook of Translation and Religion, ed. Hephzibah Israel. 207-231. 
  • 2021: “Materiality.” In Bloomsbury Handbook of Japanese Religions, ed. Erica Baffelli, Andrea Castiglione, and Fabio Rambelli, 129-136. 
  • 2019: “Inscribing Grief and Salvation: Embodiment and Medieval Reuse and Recycling in Buddhist Palimpsests.” Artibus Asiae 79, no. 1, pp. 5-28. 
  • 2015: “Performing the Jeweled Pagoda Mandalas: Relics, Reliquaries, and a Realm of Text.” The Art Bulletin 97, no. 3, pp. 279-300. 
  • 2012: “Continental Origins and Culture of Copying: An Examination of the Prototypes and Textualized Community of the Japanese Jeweled-Stūpa Mandalas.” Journal of Oriental Studies 22, pp. 112-32. 
  • 2008: “Building the Dharma: An Examination of Ryūhonji’s Jeweled-Stūpa Mandalas.” In Opposition and Fusion in Visual Art. Seattle and Kobe: Seattle Art Museum and Kobe University, pp. 26-37. 

In progress

  • Book: Dead Letters: Reuse, Recycling, and Mourning in Japanese Buddhist Manuscripts
  • Article: “There, but Not Seen: The Paradoxical Case of Invisibility in Buddhist Visual Culture.”         
  • Chapter: “Golden Icons, Splashed Ink, and Woodblock Prints: The Material and Visual Histories of Japan.” In Oxford Illustrated History of Japan, ed. Christopher Harding. 

Research interests

  • Japanese Buddhist art
  • Epistolary culture
  • Reuse and recycling
  • Word and image studies 
  • Relics and reliquaries
  • Performativity and haptics of manuscripts
  • Death commemorations in visual and material culture
  • Palimpsests
  • Digital Humanities


  • Blood, bones, bodies: Buddhist relics in Asia (4th year)
  • Visions of the Buddha: Religious art in medieval Japan (3rd year)
  • Lectures for History of Art 1 (1st year)
  • Lectures for Art History: Texts, Objects, Institutions (3rd year)
  • Lectures for Global Middle Ages core course (MSc)
  • Art for the Afterlife: Buddhist Relics in Asian Material Culture (MSc)


Recent fellowships and awards

  • 2022-23, winter: Ishibashi Foundation Visiting Professor of Japanese Art History, University of Heidelberg 
  • 2021-22: Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship
  • 2020-21: ACLS Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Research Fellowship in Buddhist Studies
  • 2017-19: British Academy/Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant
  • 2017: College Art Association (CAA) Millard Meiss Publication Fund for Word Embodied
  • 2017: Japan Art History Forum (JAHF) First Book Subvention Prize for Word Embodied

Current PhD students

PhD Supervision Topics

  • Japanese art
  • Buddhist art
  • Relics and reliquaries
  • Word and image studies
  • Manuscript studies

Related programmes