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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 5.1 (2022): 56–86;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Text and Image & Buddhist Biography)

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The Transmission of the Four-Pointed Cape Motif: From Gandhāra to the East and West

LI Yicong 李怡淙
University of Oxford

Abstract: This article uses an art-historical perspective to examine the spatiotemporal transmission and stylistic evolution of the four-pointed cape costume in Buddhist images from Northwest India. This costume first appeared between the second century and the fourth century CE on certain Gandhāran sculptures of Kushan donors, and then, by the fifth century CE, in the bejewelled Buddha imagery, denoting the figures’ dominating power. In the postGandhāran period between the sixth century and the eighth century CE, bejewelled Buddha images from north-eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and Kashmir adopted modified and stylised cape motifs that were influenced by Gandhāran, Iranian, and indigenous Indian traditions to different extents. Meanwhile, the stylised capes spread to Central Asia, Byzantium, and China, reflecting the influence of the late Buddhist art of Northwest India on the surrounding regions.

Keywords: four-pointed cape, bejewelled Buddha, Gandhāran art, Buddhist iconography


About the Author: Yicong Li 李怡淙 is currently a first‐year D.Phil. student in Archaeology at the University of Oxford and a member of Wolfson College. Her research focuses on the material culture of ancient Gandhāra, especially the diffusion of Gandhāran royal imagery. Before starting her D.Phil., Yicong obtained her M.Phil. and B.A. in Art History from Tsinghua University. She was awarded scholarships from The Karun Thakar Fund (in collaboration with the Victoria and Albert Museum) in 2021 and The China Oxford Scholarship Fund in 2022.


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