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Images figure prominently in the first extant text dedicated to the Mountain of Five Plateaus (Wutai shan 五臺山): Huixiang’s 慧祥 (seventh-century) Ancient Chronicle of Mount Clear and Cool (Gu Qingliang zhuan 古清涼傳). In addition to renderings of Mañjuśrī, the central chapters of this two-folio work mention statues of Maitreya, Śākyamuni, and Samantabhadra housed in temples, stūpas, and a cavern at the emerging center of Buddhist activity. The total absence of Buddhist statues from the Ancient Chronicle’s little-studied fifth and final chapter is thus striking. Exploring the narratives compiled in the “Miscellaneous Accounts of Branches and Tributaries” (Zhiliu/zashu 支流) chapter I will consider what the absence of images (as well as monastics and Mañjuśrī) from these materials suggests about regional religious life during the period. I will also consider how these records teach us about the roles that images played in the textual construction of mountains as Buddhist sites in medieval East Asia more generally.
The early eighth-century Chinese Buddhist apocryphal scripture known as Lengyan jing or Śūraṃgama sutra contains some vivid and lengthy descriptions of demonic states that may arise for the practitioner in deep states of meditation. In some of these states, the practitioner is said to experience profound mis-perceptions of reality that are said to correspond to the teachings of named non-Buddhist individuals or schools in India. References to Jains or Nirgranthas abound in Chinese Buddhist literature, and the Jains are frequent targets of religious polemic, but other, more obscure, ascetic traditions are also the topic of lively discussion for Buddhist authors. In this paper, I ask why Buddhists in East Asia—especially those who had never been to India—showed such anxiety and concern about non-Buddhist teachings.
Xuanzang returned to China after 14 years spent in traveling through Central and South Asia. When he returned to the jubilation and adulation of the Chinese Emperor, the royal court, monks, and laypeople, he brought with him Indic Buddhist manuscripts, icons, and relics, numbering seven icons of the Buddha, 150 “grains” of relic bones, and “six hundred and fifty-seven books bound in five hundred and twenty bundles (p. 348).” The discrepancy between the number of manuscripts and the number of icons and relics has always stood out to me. What does the difference indicate as to Xuanzang’s value, use, and understanding of icons and manuscripts? The exploration of this question is the topic of my paper.My paper argues that Xuanzang regarded the icons and the manuscripts in very different ways. He considered the icons as reminders of the geography and life stories of the Buddha. The icons are evidence of his having seen certain important places that prove the existence and history of the Buddha, and they are simple and obvious. The manuscripts on the other hand are for Xuanzang difficult and confusing. Their interpretation and meaning are varied, largely determined by who is explaining them. Xuanzang wanted to go to India to find whose interpretation was correct. In this he failed. Rather than a single manuscript that was correct, he returned with hundreds of different manuscripts. Their truth finally relied on simply reading them through translation into Chinese.The paper contrasts icons and manuscripts in a variety of ways, such as their ability to create emotion, their power as indicators of the miraculous, their function as sources of interpretation by singular teachers, and the ability of icons to change by iconographic innovation.
Stone lanterns were important ritual architectures of the monastic compounds in medieval Chinese Buddhism and Daoism. They became flourishing in the Tang dynasty, and both declined afterward. This study examines the textuality and materiality of these stone lanterns by focusing on their inscribed texts and images. In analyzing extant inscriptions and images of these stone lanterns, this study reveals the literary structure, doctrinal ideas, and ritual practices in Buddhist and Daoist liturgical rituals centered on these stone lanterns and their roles in medieval religious life. This comparative study will shed new light on how Buddhist and Daoist monasticism in medieval China competed for their spiritual power by constructing their stone lanterns to carry on their historical traditions, honor their gods and deities, reach their soteriological goals, and serve the worldly needs of their practitioners.
Shengshan si 聖善寺 and the Buddha-statue enshrined there in a pavilion (actually a pagoda), reconstructed and enshrined shortly after Empress Wu’s forced to retirement in 705, were among important religious and political programs Empress Wu’s son and successor Emperor Zhongzong 中宗and his ideologies implemented to tackle a series of crises created by the power vacuum and transition following the fall of Empress Wu’s unique regime. It is believed that the significances of the Shengshansi statue went beyond the borders of the Tang empire, taken as it was as a (if not the) main source of inspiration for the bronze statue of the Buddha Vairocana (16.98 meters high, cast between 747–749) installed in Tōdaiji 東大寺 in Nara 奈良, Japan. The Shengshansi statue underwent a complicated history that puzzled scholars. In my earlier studies, I have attempted to clarify several aspects of the big mystery surrounding this statue. There are, however, aspects that have remain enshrouded in mists. Trying to untangle one of the conundrums related to the Shengshansi and its statue (that is, the statue’s identity), this article will resort to textual and iconographical evidence from different sources, one being the Fayuan zhuyin 法苑珠林 [A Forest of Pearls from the Dharma Garden], a longstanding focus of Prof. K. Shinohara’s research. The examination will also touch on the strategies and values of closely reading image and text.
Built upon Prof. Shinohara’s seminal studies on Tiantai historiography and Buddhist biographies, my paper examines the construction of the Tiantai lineage in late imperial China. It compares the Comprehensive History of the Buddhas and Patriarchs (Fozu tongji 佛祖統紀) with the Tiantai Transmission of the Buddha’s Mind Seal (Tiantai chuanfo xinyin 天台傳佛心印), another — but much shorter — work of Tiantai historiography composed in Yuan Dynasty, which was influential and controversial in the Ming and Qing. It explores how the Tiantai advocates in the Ming and Qing endeavored to fit themselves into the Tiantai narrative of history, trying to distinguish themselves from and, paradoxically, keep a rapport with other Buddhist schools.
The Fo benxing ji jing 佛本行集經 [Sutra of the Collection of the Past Activities of the Buddha], “translated” by the late 6th century Gandharan monk Jñānayaśas – of Dhyānayaśas, as I reconstruct the name – is the first Buddha biography in Chinese which was “translated” into a Western language – into English by Samuel Beal – and has no known Indian original or counterpart (like Aśvaghoṣa’s Buddhacarita or the Lalitavistara). Since then, the text has been used – if at all – uncritically by scholars and no real research has been done on it. This paper will address the possible reasons for this negligence but will then focus on certain features of the text, as, for example, its North-western origin and its potential value for the interpretation of Buddhist narrative art, particularly from Gandhāra.
In recent articles and his book, Spells, Images, and Mandalas, Dr. Koichi Shinohara has written extensively on the evolution of Esoteric Buddhist ritual texts into mandalas that express the earliest Esoteric pantheons and their imagery. Dr. Shinohara discusses a number of images and mandalas within his work, and his innovative studies provide the perfect foundations to study subsequent developments that have a dearth of scholarly attention—namely the origins of the Taizōkai mandala 胎蔵界曼荼羅, the earliest widely-known mandala still used today.In this paper, I will explore the textual and iconographic connections between the texts and mandalas examined by Dr. Shinohara and their connections to the Taizōkai mandala and its origins. I will focus on the Sheda Yigui 攝大儀軌 , the Taizō Zuzō 胎蔵図像 iconographic scrolls, and Yixing’s commentary to the Mahavairocana-sūtra. These materials—often ignored in modern scholarship—bridge the gap between the texts and mandalas detailed in Dr. Shinohara’s recent studies and are all associated with the Indian monk Śubhakarasiṃha.I argue that Śubhakarasiṃha consciously built upon the framework established by many of the works studied by Dr. Shinohara, expanding Taizōkai-related teachings to both encompass and eclipse the Esoteric Buddhist teachings that had already been transmitted to China. Rather than focusing on the pantheon present in the sūtras he himself translated, Śubhakarasiṃha used the Taizōkai-related teachings to engineer a complete and systematized pantheon of Esoteric Buddhist deities—each with an established spell, image, and presence in the most populated mandala in the history of Buddhism.In highlighting the ritual and iconographic connections between these works, this paper will serve to connect Dr. Shinohara’s aforementioned studies to the greater body of research on the ritual and iconography of Chinese Esoteric Buddhism as well as Japanese Shingon Buddhism.
The early biographies of the Buddha are always fragmentary, scattered in the Buddha’s teachings, either expounding the doctrine or supplying the background of the teaching. Gradually, the biographical stories of the Buddha become abundant. And the reason why the Buddha renounced the family life has caught people’s attention. Then “the great renunciation” of the Buddha stands out, turning into an important theme in Buddhist literature and sculptures. This paper will thoroughly survey the Buddha’s biographical materials in Buddhist scriptures and iconographies, trying to sketch the development of the episode “the great renunciation” in the textual and iconographical traditions. This process reveals not only the interactions between the literary and sculptural traditions, but also the mutual influences among different biographies of the Buddha in different sects.
The fifth chapter and twelfth fascicle of Daoshi’s 道世 seventh-century Forest of Pearls from the Dharma Garden (Fayuan zhulin 法苑珠林) features a mini-anthology of over ten mythological accounts of the Buddha and his disciples coming together to preserve the dharma for posterity (Shinohara 2019, 201-225). Most of these accounts are copied over from Chinese Buddhist scriptures, but the final one is copied from a compilation of divine revelations recorded from Daoshi’s close colleague, the renowned vinaya master Daoxuan 道宣, in a work called the Daoxuan lüshi ganying ji 道宣律師感應記, a special text on cultic objects preserved nowhere else that Shinohara has returned to teach us about (2000, 2003). Now that Shinohara has fully translated this chapter of the Forest of Pearls, even more of us can take a closer look at Daoshi’s accomplishment.I argue that Daoshi’s mini-anthology about the canon’s “collections” jieji 結集 strives to offer his readers a useable multiplicity of accounts about the recurring origins of the dharma at Buddhist councils. Just as entire canons of the Buddha’s teachings were preserved in order to reach a diversity of sentient beings, so too did Buddhas and their disciples meet multiple times in order to preserve multiple collections. I show how, precisely, Daoshi adapts and amends a parallel mini-anthology about compiling the Buddhist canon from the first prefatory fascicle of Sengyou’s 僧祐 Chu sanzang jiji 出三藏記集 of the sixth century, returning to the scriptural sources Sengyou cited to quote more fully from them, replacing other quotations, and adding entirely new excerpts. While the scriptural accounts of Buddhist councils attest to the dharma’s oral preservation, only Daoxuan’s revelation promises that these scriptures have been written down in multiple scripts, stored in heavenly deep storage in caves and stupas, and entrusted to reliable dragons, gods, and demons. Daoshi’s expansion of Sengyou’s forest suggests, in the early Tang, a deepening interest in the origins and ontology of Buddhist scriptures, a greater confidence in managing discrepant sources, as well as a background insecurity concerning the scriptural tradition’s continued accessibility.
The study of texts, images, saints and sages, encyclopedias, historiographical and hagiographical Buddhist literature written in the Sinitic language are all topics transformed by Prof. Koichi Shinohara’s research. Although he addressed the transmission and dissemination of esoteric Buddhist texts in medieval China and Japan, he has not yet investigated the books and images and transmission documents preserved and safeguarded in medieval Shingon 真言宗 libraries during the medieval period in Japan (ca. 1185-1603), including but not limited to Daigoji 醍醐寺, Ninnaji 仁和寺, Tōji 東寺, Chishaku’in 智積院 (where remaining materials from Negoroji 根来寺 are kept), Amanosan Kongōji 天野山金剛寺, and Shinpukuji 真福寺. To the best of my knowledge, Brian Ruppert (2009) was the first scholar outside Japan to address in English the overabundant texts from many of these medieval libraries that were painstakingly copied to ensure transmission documents from the “authentic hand” (jihitsu 自筆) of key teachers. In this paper I review and update Ruppert’s overview of sacred teachings documents (shōgyō 聖教) as “authentic hand” copies, and discuss how these documents functioned simultaneously as texts and images. Many of these ritual (jisō 事相) documents contain visual guides; scholastic or study-guide (kyōgaku 教学) documents almost always have colophons (okugaki 奥書 or shikigo 識語) to guide students, disciples, and patrons to view these documents as texts and images of transmission, practice, and study. Long after the period when many historians have restricted their research to the arrival and dissemination in Japan of Chan (Zen) Buddhist teachers from China, the transmission of these sacred teachings documents produced large, notably regional, libraries where hand-copied manuscripts and special printed texts preserved not only the idea that late Tang-era (618-907) Buddhist teachings were kept alive, so to speak, hundreds of years later, but that specific texts written or copied by instructors for debates and ritual performances—especially at Negoroji in the 12th – 14th centuries—required reproduction as texts and images. An overarching question addressed in this paper is: how and why were texts, images, sets of texts (‘canons’), commentaries, and ritual manuals explicitly perceived to be authentic in medieval Japan only if they could be shown to be legitimate copies from the hands of certain masters?
Despite mediocre artistic traits, a jowly-faced stone Buddha image stored in the collection of Shaoxing (Zhejiang) Museum is worth our keen attention. The image bears an extraordinary inscription, specifying the seldom witnessed iconographic subject in Chinese Buddhist art, Weiweifo 維衛佛 (or Vipaśyin, the first among the so-called Seven Buddhas of the Past). More intriguing is its alleged date. It is dated to 488 CE or the sixth year of Yongming 永明 (483–493), the regnal era belonging to Emperor Wu Di 武帝of Southern Qi 齊 (479–502), making the specimen as the earliest and largest freestanding stone Buddhist devotional image known to us from the lower metropolitan hydrosphere of Yangzi, a crucial, but archaeologically underrepresented, center of Buddhist activities during the Southern Dynasties period (420–589). At the same time, one may well quickly recollect a lore cited in Fayuan zhulin 法苑珠林 (T2122) under the section ‘Ganying yuan’ 感應緣 (juan 12) that Daoshi 道世 says to have gleaned from the obscure text Shi’er lingyan 十二靈驗. In 313, a certain Zhu Ying 朱應 of Wu Xian 吳縣 discovered a stone image of Vipaśyin, along with another Past Buddha Kāśyapa (Jiashe 葉), floated to the coast, so he transported them to Tongxuansi 通玄寺. Thereafter, in 488, his great-grandson Zhu Farang 朱法讓, too, discovered a piece of floating stone, so he presented it to Chanlingsi 禪靈寺. Curiously, the latter date 488 matches with the inscribed date of the Shaoxing image, and Zhu Ying’s Buddha was indeed Vipaśyin. To make things more complicated, we also recognize that several antiquarian epigraphic records, for instance, the gazetteer of the Kuaiji 會稽 region compiled as early as the Jiatai 嘉泰 reign (1201–1204) of the Southern Song 宋 (1127–1279) by Shi Su 施宿 (1164–1222), cite an inscription that is verbatim identical to what is written on the Shaoxing image. Nevertheless, the image frustrates modern art historians, for it hardly follows the late fifth-century Southern Chinese style. Further suspicious is the peculiar calligraphic writing itself engraved awkwardly on the back, where an aureole is otherwise expected. What is going on? Is this image a forgery? The presentation aims to unravel these problems and to demonstrate a fascinating juncture of Buddhist historiographical tradition with the so-called “metal and stone study” (Jinshi xue 金石學), a growing intellectual pursuit of post-Song China.
The story of the ‘Swift-Eyed King’ (Ch. Kuaimu wang 快目王) sacrificing his eyes, as recorded in the Xianyu jing 賢愚經 (Skt. Damamūka-nidāna sūtra; Sūtra on the Wise and the Foolish), is a popular Buddhist jatakatale that highlights the theme of bodily sacrifice. According to the story, the ‘Swift-Eyed King’ gorged out his eyes as an alms-offering but later miraculously recovered his sight. The painting of this story could be found in the murals in Kizil and Dunhuang, as well as in Buddhist statues in the later epochs. This story is often depicted along with other stories related to the bodily sacrifice, together forming a collective theme. The story of ‘Swift-Eyed King’ is particularly important, as it contains a strong symbolism about eyes: that the sacrifice of mundane eyes is reward with the transcendental “eyes of wisdom” (Ch. huiyan 慧眼); and this symbolism may be related to the practices involving the visualization of bodily sacrifices which were practiced by the monks who visited the grottos. In terms of artistic expression, we could observe, as the history advanced, an increasing accretion of indigenous Chinese elements in the representation of the story. More importantly, the story of ‘Swift-Eyed King gorging his eyes is much more than a Buddhist story and an artistic theme but has concrete relationship with the monastic practices in the medieval China. By bearing in mind this cultural context, we could better fathom the popularity of the sacrifice stories and images during the medieval China and better reflect on the common Buddhist narrative which involves the sacrifice of the mundane body and the subsequent recovery of a “sacred” body and experience.
This study aims to explore the textual provenance of an obscure scripture entitled Chinjō yasha hō/Ch. Zhenjiang yecha fa 鎮將夜叉法 [Ritual Manual of the Chinjō Yakṣa]. The deity Chinjō yasha, also known as Bishamon 毘沙門 (Vaiśravaṇa), is a Buddhist protective heavenly being. According to the Kōchō tendai shiryaku/Ch. Huangchao Tiantai shilüe皇朝天台史略 [On the Tendai sect in Japan], it is believed that this scripture was transmitted from monk Shunxiao 順曉 (fl. 805) to Saichō 最澄 (767–822) during the latter’s visit to southern China, even though the exact name of this text is not mentioned in the catalogues listing all items Saichō acquired in China. The epilogue of this scripture as preserved in the Dengyō Daishi zenshū 傳教大師全集 [Complete Collection of the Works of Dengyō Daishi Saichō] contains valuable information of its advocates and enables a plausible explanation on its origin. The historical and political background of Saichō’s promotion of this scripture involves the competition between Tendai and Shingon Esoteric traditions in Japan, as well as the Sino-Japanese networks of his time.
In 1947, Prof. Lao Gan identified the “Liuya baixiang” (六牙白象) in Teng county of Shandong province as a Buddhist image. Then Prof. Yu Weichao made the conclusion circulated as he published “Donghan fojiao tuxiang kao” (On Buddhist images in the Eastern Han Dynasty) in the 1980s. Afterwards, the issue of Buddhist images of the Eastern Han Dynasty has been a crucial and long-debated topic in the circles of art archeology in China, as seen in recently published works. However, if we put together what was artistically developed in India and Central Asia of the same period, we tend to believe that Buddhist images should be emerging around the middle and late 1 century AD instead of 1 century BC. This will bring two important consequences to our understanding of Buddhist images of the Han Dynasty.Firstly, to what extent could we believe the written records of the Han Dynasty which stated that Buddhist scriptures and images were introduced in the Emperor Ming of the dynasty? The paralleled shrines of Laozi and Buddha offered by Liu Ying, the lord of Chu, and the sacrifices made to Laozi and Budda under the imperial canopy of the Emperor Huan of the dynasty, were they actual images or just abstract symbols? Prof. Wu Hung has provided an example of two images of such sacrifices offering to memorial tablets instead of actual images. This will be probably bring us some reflections upon the phenomenon.Secondly, the Buddhist images of the Eastern Han Dynasty that have been widely accepted among Buddhist scholars and art historians in China are mostly Buddhist symbols that lack the original type in India and Central Asia and thus are deemed atypical. If these original images do not exist, how could Chinese Buddhists produce these Buddhist images? The actual archaeological artifact that has been verified so far is the Buddhist image carved on the money tree of the year 125, which was excavated in Fengdu, Sichuan province. If we use this as the reference to examine the Buddhist images in the Emperor Ming of the Han Dynasty and the so-called Buddhist images in the northern part of the dynasty, we should have new thoughts on this issue.In summary, bearing in mind the actual situations of the Gandhara area where Buddhist images first emerged, we should reconsider the authenticity of those Buddhist images of the Eastern Han Dynasty excavated in archaeology. They were probably not Buddhist images at all in the first place.
In honor of Koichi Shinohara, much of whose work has focused on the interplay between Buddhist images and texts, we would contribute an essay on sacred mountains as sites which assemble images and texts in particular ways, whose long histories have witnessed significant alterations as the cult sites accommodate to local and national historical changes. We propose to examine three sites: Kuaiji Mountain, as largely pre-Buddhist cult site dedicated to an ever-popular culture hero; Tiantai Mountain, and Yandang shan (both with a significantly larger Buddhist presence).Kuaiji Mountain saw temples erected to the Great Yu, the legendary flood-queller, and thus was a site supposedly visited by the First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shihuang) on his progress south, which “took off” in Eastern Han as a result of local infrastructure improvements, to become a center of pilgrimage equipped with local academies. The Tiantai and Yandang Mountains constitute two geologically related corridors of mountain ranges southeast of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province. Both are noted for the exceptional beauty of their aquatic and rock-based landforms, as well as the significant Buddhist and Daoist communities they were (and still are) home to. The body of literature attributed to them over the centuries reflects these geomorphological and cultural similarities, progressing from early travelogues (youji 游記) to mountain records (shanji 山記) and mountain gazetteers (shanzhi 山志). With the shift from imperial to state patronage in the modern era, another genre of literature becomes the formative, dominant force that determines the fate of the area: that new genre is the so-called Famous Mountain Scenic Area Masterplan (mingshan fengjingqu zongti guihua 名山風景區總體規劃). In the case of the Yandang Mountains, its masterplan brought a UNESCO inscription as a World Geopark in 2005. In the case of the Tiantai Mountains, its more modest masterplan boosted tourism and improved local infrastructure. Both mountains have long been on the agenda of noted travelers, itinerant monks, painters and poets, such that the accumulated body of literary and visual art is quite overwhelming.We hope in our paper to raise larger questions of heritage preservation of relevance to today’s world, among them: (1) What is required to develop a cult site and popularize it? (2) What is required to sustain the cult site, under different regimes? (3) How have the modern PRC policies marginalized the religious presence of these sites in recasting them as “scenic sites” and “tourist destinations”? (4) How have international connections affected historical preservation in the modern period at different sites? (Tiantai Mountain has always had international connections, but Yandangshan has only recently acquired these. Kuaiji Mountain, by contrast, has never had them.)
This talk is based on recent research I have carried out using the documents found inside Chinese deity images from Hunan province. One of the striking characteristics of these images is that the documents clearly name who the image is of and provide further information that allows us to know quite a lot about the image. Among the thousands of images studied, I have become increasingly interested in particular figures related to different guilds (woodcarvers, hunters, metalworkers, physicians, boat-builders, etc.). While we know much about guilds and religion in Europe, little has been written about the religious nature of guilds and their deities (hangye shen 行業神) in China. I will focus much of my attention on one particular deity, a certain Yangsi Jiangjun 楊四將軍, since I recently discovered an image of this figure in a private collection. Yangsi Jiangjun 楊四將軍 is the patron god of boatmen who work the rivers and lakes of China. This talk will also explore the religious nature of guilds and how the training of those within a guild is comparable to the training of a disciple by a master in a religious context.
Although Buddhist monastic rules were undoubtedly meant to solve problems they also could create them, or have unintended consequences. The rule against theft, for example, seems straightforward. But almost from the beginning, it seems, whether or not an action constituted theft was determined in part by the value of the thing taken. This meant that when the thing taken was a relic determining whether or not that constituted an act of theft would require determining its value, or putting a price on the sacred. The issue was even more complicated by the fact that relics were often said to be “priceless,” and if they had no price taking them could not be theft. Similarly, the various Prātimokṣas have a rule making it an offence to touch or pick up a rant or “jewel.” But since an image of the Buddha could be thought of and treated as the Buddha himself, and since the Buddha himself was considered one of the “Three Jewels,” could you pick one up or touch an image without offence? The paper will explore these issues in one Indian vinaya tradition.
The medieval Japanese Buddhist teacher Nichiren (1222-1282), known for his message of exclusive devotion to the Lotus Sūtra, devised a calligraphic mandala as an object of veneration (honzon) for his followers. It is composed entirely of Chinese characters, along with two Siddham seed syllables representing the esoteric protector deities Fudō and Aizen. Down the center is inscribed the title of the Lotus Sūtra in the mantric formula Namu Myōhō-renge-kyō, flanked by the names of two buddhas Śākyamuni and Prabhūtaratna as attendants and surrounded by the names of representatives of the Lotus Sūtra assembly on Eagle Peak. Nichiren’s “great mandala” (daimandara) has the dual aspects of image and text. As image, it represents an enlightened cosmos, the realm of the primordially awakened buddha of the Lotus Sūtra; by chanting the sūtra’s title, Nichiren asserted, one enters the Lotus assembly and participates in the timeless enlightened reality that it represents. The mandala’s spatial, imagistic rendering makes the Lotus Sūtra accessible, both by representing the Lotus assembly in visible form, and in terms of social location, being available to devotees unable to acquire a copy of the Lotus or to read the sūtra itself. At the same time, its use of characters, rather than anthropomorphic or symbolic images, preserves and underscores its connection to the Lotus text.Nichiren’s calligraphic mandala would become an identity marker for his later tradition. However, the logic informing it—as discernable from Nichiren’s writings—places it at the center of broad medieval Japanese Buddhist discourses about the relationship of practice and enlightenment, and about the nature of both sacred texts and images and why they can be ritually equivalent. One such discourse involved a conceptual shift, represented by the Tendai Lotus Sūtra-based doctrine of original enlightenment (hongaku hōmon), which reconceives buddhahood, not in linear terms as the end result of a long process of cultivation, but in a “mandalic” sense as always already present in the act of practice. Expressed in the phrase, “The Eagle Peak assembly is still awesomely present and has not yet dispersed,” this reconception inspired multiple spatialized representations of the Lotus Sūtra, including painted, architectural, and geographic mandalas as well as Nichiren’s calligraphic honzon. Other related discourses interpreted both scriptural texts and images in terms of the buddhahood of the insentient, especially grasses and trees (which supply the materials for sūtra copying and for wooden and painted images) and the nonduality of form and mind. The written characters of the sūtras were understood as the Buddha’s mind and voice, translated into an enduring form. Within the Tendai school and among others who revered the Lotus as the Buddha’s highest teaching, one finds the particular claim that its words possess a holographic quality, such that each of its 69,384 characters embodies the entire text. Nichiren assimilated these ideas to the “eye-opening” rite by which insentient paintings and statues are empowered as living buddhas. The more profound the content of the text used in the rite, the more potent the image, he said. Using the Lotus Sūtra to ritually empower an image—a practice also relevant to Nichiren’s mandala—transformed that image into the primordial Śākyamuni Buddha who continually preaches on Eagle Peak. Recent scholarship has emphasized that Buddhist scriptures have been revered, not only for their discursive content, but as potent objects with talismanic powers; what mattered about sacred texts was not necessarily what they said but their ritual efficacy. Yet the case of Nichiren’s mandala suggests that, even if the connection was recognized only by an educated few, in some instances, the power of a text as sacred object and its intellectual content were deemed to be inseparable.
The concept of “visual narrative” is a can of worms. The term, largely taken for granted, is bandied around with ease and facile assumptions. Yet, what do we really mean by the term? Where precisely do we locate the “narrative?” What is the narrative about? There are easy and hard cases. The easy cases are straightforward: a text contains a narrative; it is subsequently illustrated, i.e., visualized in material forms. The narrative is thus to be located in the source text. The hard cases are less straightforward, often in the form of assemblages of pictorial or sculptural scenes. The medley of source texts informing them are unrelated to one another. These texts may contain narratives. Yet they do not explain the latent threadline that ties up the assemblage of scenes cobbled together from various source texts. It is this organizing threadline that concerns us here.My focus is on visual programs featuring meditation scenes that embellish Buddhist cave sanctuaries. While the scenes appear to be about meditations, the logic behind the assemblage of “narrative” scenes featuring meditation and other contents is irreducible to the source texts. Nor are they about meditation per se. A latent narrative informs the assemblage of these otherwise unrelated scenes. This is this deep script that my paper attempts to uncover.
While Zunsheng Dhāranī tomb pillars in the Tang almost always included the entire Zunsheng Dhāranī Sutra and its ancillary texts, their counterparts in the Liao-Jin-Yuan periods saw a trend of inscriptional texts overshadowing the space and importance of scriptural texts. Many Zunsheng pillars did not even inscribe the Dāranī itself, whose very presence allegedly imbued the pillars with miraculous religious power, such as relieving the deceased from the hells and removing bad karma. Focusing on the region of northern Shanxi where Mt. Wutai is located, this paper analyzes the shift of documentary claims of Zunsheng Dhāranī tomb pillars from privileging scriptural texts to inscriptional texts from the Tang to the Song, Liao, Jin, and Yuan dynasties. This location is significant because the sacred Buddhist mountain had close association with the popularity of the Zunsheng Dhāranī Sutra and Zunsheng pillars in Tang China. From the Tang onward, pious Buddhists installed Zunsheng pillars carved with all or part of the Zunsheng Dhāranī Sutra near their ancestors’ tombs. Such Zunsheng pillars, naturally called tomb pillars, often also bore epitaphs or other inscriptions about the installers’ families. The paper discusses the trend of change in Zunsheng tomb pillars by foregrounding the following questions. How did changes in people’s epigraphic practices in northern Shanxi affect their perception of a Zunsheng pillar’s imagined power? Was the material presence of the Zunsheng Dhāranī crucial for a pillar to sustain its supposed religious power? How did people define a tomb pillar without scriptural texts a Zunsheng pillar? The paper makes two arguments. First, material and visual forms of a Zunsheng pillar gradually overtook textual forms to convey religious messages that were inherently attached to the pillar. Second, the importance of Zunsheng tomb pillars as a medium for kinship records increasingly surpassed that for scriptural texts in northern Shanxi after the Jin dynasty, attesting to the shifting dynamics in the relationship between Buddhist followers and Buddhist texts or objects.
King Qian Chu 錢俶王 (Zhongyi 忠懿; r. 947-978) was the longest reigning ruler of the Wuyue state 吳越國 during the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms 五代十國 period. Known for their support for Buddhism, Wuyue monarchs established a significant number of Buddhist institutions and monuments, branding the region as a “Buddha land” 佛國, a legacy that continues to the present day. One of the hallmarks of Qian Chu’s reign was his invoking of the Aśoka model of erecting an alleged 84,000 stūpa reliquaries throughout his territory. He was abetted in his quest by the presence of an Aśoka stūpa 阿育王塔 in Mingzhou 明州 (contemporary Ningbo), based on the legend of the Aśoka’s dispersion of śarīra reliquaries of the Buddha’s remains throughout the known world in the 3rd century BCE. On three occasions, Qian Chu minted miniature Aśoka-style stūpa reliquaries and printed copies of a dhārani sūtra, The Precious Chest Seal Dhārani Sūtra (full title: The Precious Chest Seal Dhārani Sūtra of the Whole-Body Relics Concealed in the Minds of All Tahtāgatas (Yiqie rulai xin mimi quanshen sheli baoqie yin tuoluoni jing 一切如来心秘密全身舍利寶篋印陀羅尼経, Skt: Sarvatathāgatā-adhiṣṭhāna-hṛdaya guhyadhatu karaṇḍa-mudra-dhāraṇī-sūtra; CBETA T 19-1022A). The sūtra was acquired in Śri Lanka and translated into Chinese by Amoghavajra, or Bukong Jin’gang 不空金鋼 (shortened to Bukong 不空; 705-774). It has a rich history of transregional dissemination stemming from its origins and transmission throughout China and to Japan. My presentation aims to examine Qian Chu’s printed text from several angles, including the advent and use of printing technology, the role of the Aśoka stūpa cult in Wuyue, the relation between the illustration on the frontispiece of Qian Chu’s printed copy and the contents of the dhārani sutra, and the place of esoteric teachings in Wuyue Buddhism.
The purpose of this paper is to examine the Sūtra of the Great Divine Spells of Auspiciousness (Da jiyi shenzhou jing 大吉義神咒經) and its profound influence in image-making and liturgical functions of the religious sanctuaries in Yungang, a 5th century court cave monastery complex. The paper will first investigate the translation of the text, and moves on to contextualize its content and significant meaning with protection of kingship, power struggle and Dharma protection. The focus will first be on ritual practices emphasized in the sūtra, exploring Dhāran practice instructions, and how they accordingly made a significant impact not only on imagemaking, but also on the construction and function of religious spaces in a rock-cut monastery at the ancient capital Pingcheng (present-day Datong). I will argue that the visual representation of many types of Dharma protectors, deities, gods and demons are primarily based on this Da jiyi Dhāran sūtra. I will also argue that the reason the visual representation of Mahesvara in Yungang differentiates itself significantly from other early images in India, Khotan and Dunhuang, and was not phallic, is precisely because the image was depicted based on the Da jiyi sūtra, and had little to do with the Chinese tradition, as was previously suggested. It is significant to note that the sacred texts translated in Yungang by Tanyao, the founder of the Yungang monastery, played a significant role in image-making, function and ritual practices.
《延壽命經》是見錄於《大唐內典錄》《大週刊定眾經目錄》《開元錄》等歷代經錄的一部偽經，由中國人假托佛說所撰，不被古代各種藏經所收。敦煌藏經洞中出有甲、乙兩種《延壽命經》，均為一卷，其中甲種後被日本《大正藏》收入第85卷。方廣錩先生曾經做過初步研究。甲種《延壽命經》北圖有秋66等七號，英、法等亦藏有S.2293、S. 2428、P.2171等近二十號。經中講述如來將入涅槃，延壽菩薩請佛住世以救眾生之苦難，佛為說此《延壽命經》，謂若抄寫、散轉、受持、讀誦，可令短命眾生長壽，並獲如來救護。 乙種《延壽命經》有北李84、字66、日93、新328、龍谷大學圖書館藏一件。經中謂佛在香華國，有比丘命欲終，從佛求延壽。佛為說十七神名。謂「結黃縷百枚，即延壽十八年」。持此經誦十七神名，可眾患悉除。若持此經常著清潔處，若隨身常使清潔中，則十七神常擁護不離，使所願成就。敦煌本《延壽命經》有的文書上寫有題記。P.3110題記謂:「清信弟子陰會兒敬寫《摩利支天經》一卷、《延壽命經》一卷，逐日各持一遍。先奉為國安人泰，社稷會昌，使主遐壽，寶柞常興。合宅枝羅，常然吉慶。過往父母，不歷三途。次為己躬，同沾此福，永充供養。丁亥年四月十四日，書寫經人僧會兒題記之耳。」P.2374題記謂:「維大周顯德陸年(959)四月五日，瓜州永興禪院禪師惠光，發心敬寫《延壽命經》《續命經》《天請問經》叄卷，計寫肆拾玖卷。同發心施主，報宜清吉，永充供養。」S. 5563題記為:「丁丑年六月十三日，施主弟子僧陰願成捨此經一卷。」龍谷大學藏本之題記謂:「維大周廣順叄年(953)歲當癸丑正月二十三日，府主太保及夫人，為亡男太子早別王宮，棄辭火宅，遂寫《延壽命經》四十三卷，以濟福力，願超覺路，永充供養。」反映了當時人們祈求福佑的美好願望。敦煌藏經洞中也出有不少延壽命菩薩的畫像，今天收藏在英國、印度、法國、俄羅斯等國的博物館裡。日本松本榮一先生曾經做過初步研究。這些延壽命菩薩像題名作延壽命菩薩、延壽命觀音菩薩、延壽命金剛藏菩薩、延壽命如意輪菩薩等，多數為單尊立像，也有少數作為主尊的坐像，較多地作為幡畫使用。四川地區也發現過背面銘刻有延壽命菩薩題記的石雕像。《延壽命經》與延壽命菩薩像反映了中國中古時期的民間信仰。