Thus Have I Heard – Abstracts

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  1. Henry Albery (Ghent 比利時根特大學): On the Philosophical Premises of Sarvāstivādin Avadānas

    Abstract forthcoming.

  2. Christoph Anderl 安東平 (Ghent比利時根特大學): “Have I thus really heard?”: A study of Vernacularized Life Stories of the Buddha Preserved in Dunhuang Manuscripts – With an Emphasis on Non-canonical Elements and Inconsistencies in the Narrative Structure | “當真如是我聞?”:敦煌文書中方言化的佛傳故事研究——以藏外元素和敘事結構的矛盾處為重點

    Among the semi-vernacular Dunhuang manuscripts discovered at Dunhuang, there is a significant number of texts narrating episodes in the life of the Buddha, many of them extant in fragmentary form. While some loosely follow the story lines of canonical biographies of the Buddha, others significantly divert in terms of content and sequence of events, altering the timeline of the main episodes of Buddha’s life and/or introducing new elements, such as highlighting the role and significance of his wife in Śākyamuni’s quest for salvation. In this lecture I will focus on these “abnormalities” which occasionally lead to serious distortions in the narrative structure, as well as reflect on the motivations behind the introduction of this type of innovative elements.

  3. Naomi Appleton (Edinburgh 英國愛丁堡大學): The Role of Narrative in the Rise of Buddhology in Early India | 早期印度地區敘事對佛學興起的作用

    Abstract forthcoming.

  4. Stefan Baums (Munich 德國慕尼黑大學): Praise as Narrative: Representations of the Buddha in Gāndhārī Stotras and Epithets | 敘事式讚頌:健陀羅歌讃和修飾語所展現的佛陀

    The Buddhist culture of ancient Gandhāra (modern northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan) has preserved for us numerous narratives of the Buddha and of Buddhist ideals. Gandhāra is best known for its rich architectural and artistic heritage, including narrative panels from stūpas recounting events from the Buddha’s life, and statues in stone and clay representing the Buddha in idealized human form. In recent years, this material heritage has been augmented by the discovery of close to two hundred birch-bark manuscripts in the Kharoṣṭhī script and Gāndhārī language that are being intensively studied and gradually published. They preserve for us a well-rounded sample of Gandhāran Buddhist literature from the first century BCE up to the third or fourth century CE. Among them are Buddhist narratives, both sparse prose sketches and elaborate metrical compositions, as well as at least two accounts of episodes from the Buddha’s life in prose and verse. This paper will briefly introduce these narrative genres, and then focus on a special kind of narrative – praises of the Buddha’s person and accomplishments. Among the earliest Gāndhārī manuscript finds are two containing an assortment of hymns of praise (stotra; British Library fragment 5C and Bajaur Collection fragment 8) and one containing a prose text praising the Buddha (Bajaur Collection fragment 10). The later Gāndhārī tradition at Bamiyan has preserved a unique text consisting of short phrases in which the Buddha enumerates his major deeds in the first person. To these can be added numerous epithets descriptive of the Buddha’s attainments both in manuscript texts and in inscriptions (such as that of King Senavarma). This paper will provide a collation and analysis of these early Gandhāran expressions of praise, and paint a comprehensive picture of the Buddha, of his deeds, and of his spiritual attainments as it emerges from these sources.

  5. Rostislav Berezkin 白若思 (FudanU 復旦): Miracle Stories in the Formation of Precious Scrolls Narratives: With an Example of the Subject of the Miaoying Baojuan 妙英寶卷 | 靈驗故事與寶卷文體的形成:以妙英寶卷的故事為例

    The Precious Scroll of Miaoying (Miaoying Baojuan 妙英寶卷) is still often used in several traditions of ritualized storytelling in southern Jiangsu, mainly areas around Suzhou. This text represents a narrative of female self-cultivation, which is related to the worship of the so-called White-Robed Guanyin, a popular female form of this Buddhist deity in late imperial China. The earliest extant recension of this text dates back to the beginning of the nineteenth century, but its subject can be traced to the earlier period. Despite the prominent place of the Precious Scroll of Miaoying in modern storytelling traditions using texts of precious scrolls (scroll recitation) in Jiangsu, there are no detailed studies of this text, including the origins of its subject, thus far. I have traced the core story in this text to the stories of miracles preserved in the form of written vernacular novels of the fifteenth-seventeenth centuries. These materials demonstrate the importance of Buddhist miracle tales in the formation of popular narrative precious scrolls in the late imperial period, as well as connections between baojuan and vernacular novel. The author has used written sources and materials obtained during fieldwork in Suzhou and adjacent areas.

  6. Ming Chen 陳明 (PekingU): 印度早期佛教敘事:以木鹿城出土譬喻故事集為中心的考察 | Early Buddhist Narratives in the ancient India: A Focus on the Avadāna Anthology from Merv, Turkmenistan

    漢唐時期的絲綢之路不僅是商貿之路,也是文學與文化交流之路。中亞、中國西北的吐魯番、敦煌等地出土了一批多語種的佛教譬喻故事的寫本,其內容和形式與南亞本地的佛教故事有密切的關聯,對研究印度早期佛教文學作品的敘事具有重要意義。本文以中亞木鹿城出土的梵文佛教譬喻選集為中心,結合敦煌、吐魯番出土的漢文佛教譬喻,以及傳世的漢譯佛教文學作品,進行對比研究,梳理這些故事的書寫方式和敘事手法;並從文圖關係的角度,揭示這些佛教譬喻的流傳形態及其在文學史上的具體價值,從而為深入理解一帶一路的文明互鑒之複雜面貌提供例證。

  7. Chen Yingjin 陳映錦 (Beijing Language and Culture U 北京語言大學): 佛教創世神話在部派文本間的流變 | The Development of the Creation Myth of Buddhism in the Sectarian Buddhist Texts

    Abstract forthcoming.

  8. Max Deeg 寧梵夫 (Cardiff 英國卡迪夫大學): “Once upon a Time” – So What? The Importance of Place in Buddhist Narratives | “一時”——然後呢?地點在佛教敘事中的重要性

    Abstract forthcoming.

  9. Imre Galambos 高奕睿 (Cambridge 英國劍橋大學): Jātaka Elements in the Story of Shun 舜 the Filial Son | 孝子大舜故事所見本生元素

    The stories of filial sons (xiaozi 孝子) are known from a variety of textual and pictorial sources, although the earliest written witnesses are from Dunhuang. Among the most popular stories is that of Shun the filial son (Shunzi 舜子), connected with the sage Emperor Shun 舜帝 who features in early Chinese texts such as the Shangshu 尚書 and the Shiji 史記. In Dunhuang, the story of Shun is known in two different versions: the first, known as Shunzi zhuan 舜子傳, is part of the cycle of stories of filial sons often regarded as “Confucian”, whereas the other, entitled Shunzi bian 舜子變, is a “transformation text” (bianwen 變文) of Buddhist inspiration. This presentation examines the two versions, arguing for the presence of jātaka elements in both of them. I also hope to account for some of the changes the image of Shun underwent as it transformed from the sage emperor of classical texts to the filial son of medieval narratives.

  10. Han Oonjin 韓雲珍/Ven. Kyoungwan sunim (DonggukU 韓國東國大學): 《南海記》的律藏敘事模因(meme)小考 | A Preliminary Investigation of the Meme of the Vinayapiaka Narratives in the Nanhai Ji南海記 [Account of Southern Sea] (i.e., Nanhai Jigui Neifa Zhuan 南海寄歸求內法傳 [A Record of Buddhist Practices Sent Home from the Southern Sea])

    Abstract forthcoming.

  11. He Yansheng 何燕生 (Kuriyama Women’s U 郡山女子大學/KyotoU 京都大學): 柳田聖山禪學敘事中的臨濟、良寬和一休 | Linji 臨濟 (?-867), Ryōkan 良寬 (1758-1831) and Ikkyū 一休 (1394–1481) in the Chan Narratives by Yanagida Seisan

    Abstract forthcoming.

  12. Oskar von Hinüber 封興伯 (FreiburgU 德國弗萊堡大學): From Vinaya to Avadāna: Remarks on the Structure of the Mahāvastu | 從戒律文到《譬喻經》——剖析《大事》的文體結構.

    Abstract forthcoming.

  13. Ho Chiew-Hui 何秋輝 (Sydney 澳大利亞悉尼大學): Afterlife Abodes in the Lotus Sutra Tradition: Parasutraic Narratives and the Formation of Cultic Repertoire | 法華經傳統的來世處:副佛經敘事與信仰體系里的要素形成

    Until recently, the study of parasutraic literature in forming and sustaining the system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward the sutra has not received the attention it deserved. Within this genre of literature, parasutraic narratives have been employed to not only extol a particular sutra but also shape believers’ conception of the sutra in contradistinction to other scriptures in its message, powers, benefits, as well as how it should be treated. By examining narratives of the Lotus Sutra of the Tang period, especially those related to afterlife abodes, this paper argues that the Lotus Sutra cult is not only informed by factors within the scripture but also shaped by the legacy of its proponents, such as its believers, translators, and exegetes. The cultic repertoire of the Lotus Sutra, constituted by a collection of core elements fashioned through the complex intersection of the two sets of variables, which distinguishes the cult provides an apt ground for discussing the broader nexus of issues regarding similar formations and their implications for our understanding of medieval Chinese Buddhism. 

  14. Haiyan Hu-von Hinüber 胡海燕 (Freiburg/Erfurt德國弗萊堡/埃爾福特大學): Some Remarks on the Buddhist Terminology for Narratives |探究佛教為其敘述文學創新的梵文術語——與印度傳統文學以及耆那教術語的比較

    In an Indian historical context, the teaching of Śākyamuni Buddha can be regarded as ‘innovative’ in many respects. This is also true of its terminology designating the various genres of narrative. The traditional Indian words for narrative include kathā (‘story’), ākhyāna (‘narrative’), prabandha (‘literary composition’), varṇanā (‘description’), śaṃsana (‘reciting’) and others. Apart from myriads of folk tales included in both major epics, the Mahābhārata (classified as Itihāsa or ‘history’) and the Rāmāyaṇa (Ādikāvya or ‘first poem’), genres like the Purāṇas (legends of the past) and the Nāṭaka (dramas) also belong to the treasury of Indian narrative literature in the broad sense. 

    In contrast, Buddhist literature inhabited its own shifting space in the Indian tradition; for their two main genres of narrative, Buddhists introduced two new terms with specific meaning: Jātaka (stories of Buddha’s former lives) and Avadāna (stories of great deeds). These terms had not previously been used to designate literary genres. Moreover, the term Pūrvayoga, ‘connecting (stories) to (Buddha’s) former (life),’ corresponds loosely to the Jātaka category, and appears to be utilized primarily by Buddhists. Scholarship has demon-strated that manifold materials of traditional Indian literature found their way into Buddhist narratives and played a crucial role in spreading the Buddhist teachings in the world. 

    My paper aims to shed more light on the fact that the early Buddhists did no doubt avail themselves of the material preserved in Vedic literature, old legends as told in the epics and in Jaina narratives. Furthermore, it should be pointed out that the Buddhists did not – consciously – use the antithetic pair of concepts cariya and kappiya as distinguished by the Jainas. However, the term cariyā occurs in the title of a book, the Cariyāpiṭaka of the Khudda-ka¬nikāya. In addition, the Sanskrit form of the term carita was also used by Aśvaghoṣa in the title of his long poem Buddhacarita. In both cases, the meaning of the Buddhist term is the same as the one used by the Jainas,  that is ‘life of a human hero’.

  15. Jin, Son/Ven. Jeongwan sunim (DonggukU 韓國東國大學): The Narrative of a Buddhist Statue from Water | 一個有關水上佛像的敘述

    Abstract forthcoming.

  16. Kishino Ryoji 岸野亮示 (Kyoto Pharmaceutical University 京都薬科大学): The Narrative Story about the One Who Became a Poisonous Snake preserved in the Mūlasarvāstivāda-vinaya and the Avadānaśataka |《根本說一切有部律》和《撰集百緣經》所見人變毒蛇的故事

    Abstract forthcoming.

  17. Li Can 李燦 (Beijing Foreign Studies U 北京外國語大學): 佛教教化故事的修辭、改寫與敘事動力:以《僧伽羅譬喻》在南亞與東亞的傳播為例 | Rhetoric as Dynamics in the Rewriting of Didactic Narration: A Case Study of Siṃhalāvadāna from South Asia to Eastern Asia

    Abstract forthcoming.

  18. Li Wei 李薇 (SuzhouU蘇州大學): 佛教律藏的判罪邏輯 | The Logic of Conviction in Vinayapiaka

    Abstract forthcoming.

  19. LI Xiaorong 李小榮 (Fujian Normal University  福建師範大學): 陳瓘佛偈創作綜論 | A Comprehensive Discussion on the Composition of Buddhist Verses by Chen Guan 陳瓘 (1057-1124)

    Abstract forthcoming.

  20. Li Ying 李穎 (Beijing Foreign Studies U 北京外國語大學): 佛教律藏文學敘事特徵分析——以巴利語《藥犍度》為例| The  Bhesajjakkhandhakam as Biography: A Case Study of Buddhist Narratives in Vinayapiṭaka

    Abstract forthcoming.

  21. Ma Xi 馬熙 (NankaiU 南開大學): 肇紀律教:中晚唐佛教碑銘敘事的轉向與律學的興轉 | Going Forth to Vinaya: The New Turn of Narrative in Chinese Buddhist Epigraphy and the Spread of Monastic Precepts during the Eighth and Ninth Centuries

    Abstract forthcoming.

  22. Victor Mair 梅維恆 (UPenn 美國賓夕法尼亞大學): Hybridity in Medieval Buddhist-Chinese Narrative | 中古時期中土佛教敘事的混雜性

    Neo-Confucianism — a system of thought and practice — was not the invention of 11th- and 12th-century Northern Song intellectuals.  Its gradual emergence had begun already in the mid-9th-century.  In one sense, we may say that Neo-Confucianism was a response to Buddhism, a response that was revealed in a wide range of cultural phenomena:  religion, art, literature, language, and so forth.  Since response does not necessitate rejection or replacement, a preferred analytical approach for what transpired when Buddhism / India encountered Confucianism / China is to examine the fusion that resulted through the lens of hybridity.  The resultant cultural amalgam was neither purely Buddhist / Indian nor wholly Confucian / Chinese.  Naturally, such considerations have broad implications for the question of Chinese identity, i.e., what is “Chineseness” after the advent of Buddhism.  The focus of this particular investigation will be on “transformation” (biàn 變) as broadly conceived and as more narrowly manifested in such dimensions as popular literature, religious art, performed narrative, and linguistic expression.

  23. Katarzyna Marciniak (WarsawU 波蘭華沙大學): Some Observations on the Jātakas in the Mahāvastu | 評《大事》所見本生故事

    Mahāvastu – a Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit text belonging to the Vinaya of the Mahāsāṃghika-Lokottaravādins – contains a rich collection of jātaka stories. Interestingly, in many cases they constitute a part of a peculiar pattern, or a scheme, in which a versified jātaka is accompanied by a prose parikalpa and, sometimes, a prose pūrvayoga as well. The relationship between the two (or three) elements is not entirely clear – sometimes the parikalpa repeats the content of the jātaka, in other cases there are major differences between the two. We can be fairly certain that in most cases the verses were composed first, while the prose part, whose language is easier and more comprehensible to a reader, is an elaboration of the verses. Still, there are some exceptions to this rule. The proposed paper presents an outline of the peculiar jātaka-parikalpa(-pūrvayoga) scheme as developed and preserved in the Mahāvastu.

  24. Matthew Orsborn (Oxford 英國牛津大學): Chiasmus in Bodhisattva Literature: Ring Compositions for Cyclic Journeys | 菩薩文獻中之交錯結構:為循環遊歷之環形構造

    Abstract forthcoming.

  25. Jessie Pons (Bochum 德國波鴻大學): The Bodhisattva and the Stairway to Heaven: Patterns of Representation of Jātakas in Gandhāra | 菩薩與天階:健陀羅表現本生故事的諸形式

    Abstract forthcoming.

  26. Michael Radich何書群 (HeidelburgU 德國海德堡大學): The Mainstream Rebooted: Mahāyāna Twists on Mainstream Narrative Motifs | 重啟下的主流:主流敘述題材的大乘式新手法

    Abstract forthcoming.

  27. Rao Xiao饒驍 (U. of N. Carolina Greensboro 美國北卡大學格林斯伯勒分校): Jeering at Masters before the Rise of Chan: Jokes about Buddhism in Medieval Chinese Jestbook Qiyan Lu | 禪宗之前的呵佛罵祖:《啟顏錄》中的佛教笑話

    This paper examines jokes featuring Buddhism that are preserved in the medieval Chinese jestbook Qiyan lu 啟顏錄, the oldest extant version of which is found among Dunhuang 敦煌 manuscripts dating to 723. These jokes feature the failures of Buddhist authorities in public debates when they were challenged by witty jesters, scholars, and even kids who deliberately misinterpreted Buddhist doctrines and themes with a wry sense of humor. These jokes provide a rare opportunity to examine the role of laughter in the interplay between Buddhism and Chinese vernacular literature before the rise of Chan Buddhism in which wit and humor was found more common in Buddhist hagiographies. Whereas in later Chan Buddhist texts laughter, together with riddles and non sequiturs, was regarded as a skillful means to convey Buddhist teachings of illusion and non-duality, jokes about Buddhism in the Qiyan lu appear to be recorded for entertainment. It has been argued that trickster figures in Chan Buddhism can be seen as the domestication of the earlier thaumaturge tradition. The jokes in this medieval Chinese jestbook may shed new light on the rising popularity of laughter in medieval Chinese Buddhist literature. 

  28. Ulrike Roesler 鄔瑞可 (Oxford 英國牛津大學): Framing the Path to Awakening: Tibetan Adaptations of the Jātaka Genre | 匡範覺悟之路:西藏對本生體裁的改動

    Jātaka and avadāna stories belong to the staples of Buddhist narrative literature. While the Pāli jātakas provide a relatively stable template for the basic narrative format of these stories, jātakas have been told and preserved in a wide variety of languages and literary forms, from simple prose narratives, to complex poems, to visual representations.

    My paper will discuss Tibetan adaptations of the jātaka genre, paying particular attention to the frame story, as this is where the Tibetan narrators are perhaps at their most innovative. The narrative frame of jātakas is typically set in India at the time of Buddha Śākyamuni, who tells the story of the past (Pāli atītavatthu) and identifies the characters from the Jātaka story with the characters present (Pāli samodhāna). This is also the case in most Tibetan collections of jātaka stories. However, we also have examples in which the narrative frame is shifted from India to Tibet, and the main characters of the frame story are newly converted Tibetan Buddhists and their Indian teachers. This highly original appropriation of the jātaka genre allows us to draw conclusions on the role of narrative literature in the Tibetan adoption and adaptation of Buddhism.

  29. Eviatar Shulman 舒爾曼 (Hebrew U. of Jerusalem 以色列耶路撒冷希伯來大學): The Saāyatana-saṃyutta as a literary text | 作為文學文本的《六處相應》

    The discourses attributed to the Buddha in the Sutta-piṭaka of the Pāḷi canon are, more often than not, literary texts. While presenting themselves as a recording of the Buddha’s teaching events, they weave together aesthetic motivations, devotional moods, ideological, doctrinal and philosophical visions, and carefully constructed, often entertaining or emotionally moving, storytelling. This is a theme I have addressed in different publication, mainly in my recent monograph Visions of the Buddha: Creative Dimensions of Early Buddhist Scripture, while focusing primarily on the Dīgha- and Majjhima- Nikāyas. There we can see a method of oral composition I call the play of formulas, which emphasizes the creative dimensions of the literature and its generative modalities that shape Buddhist imagination and understanding.

    In this paper, I will extend the analysis to the Saṃyutta-nikāya, while focusing on the important collection that consists of the opening, major section of book IV of this book, “The Collection of the Senses” – Saḷāyatana-saṃyutta. The Saṃyutta-nikāya has its own creative logic, interweaving formulas in order to investigate the potential depths of Buddha-vacana and to draw out its inner meanings. If these are records of the early teachings, they are not historical recordings, but authorized reworkings of traditionally cherished articulations, which employ specific conceptual patterns in order to take the dhamma to new levels of expression. Within this dynamic that integrates philosophical exploration, meditative training, and literary expression, we find crystalized pictures of monks in rich moments of affect – requesting transformative teachings, speaking poetry, troubled by sickness, even dying, and perhaps doing so in a realized state of mind. These stories give the collection its aesthetic appeal and some of its rhetorical punch.

    Here we will explore the inter-relations between these different levels of discourse, in order to unravel the literary techniques in the composition of this foundational collection from the Saṃyutta-Nikāya. Especially, we will observe the interplay between philosophy, storytelling, meditation theory, devotional attitudes, religious authority, and doctrinal elaboration. The synchronization of these perspectives reveals the creative modes of early Buddhist orality. The unique methods of expression that are particular to the Saṃyutta-nikāya, will help us suggest that each Nikāya (or Āgama) relies on its own idiosyncratic techniques of composition. 

  30. Peter Skilling (EFEO 法國遠東學院/Chulalongkorn University 泰國朱拉隆功大學): Eva me suta: Who Heard What? | 如是我聞:聞者何人?所聞何事?

    My paper does not go much beyond the first four words of the conference title, ‘Thus have I heard’. But these four words have propelled Buddhist literature across Asia and beyond from its beginnings to the present. The deceptively simple phrase is the logic and the basis (nidana) for the authority of the scriptures. The ‘who’ of the matter is who heard what and where? Another question is what degree the authority of words depends on speakers’ identities.

  31. Wang Bangwei (PekingU 北京大學): 《方廣大莊嚴經》中的《示書品》| The Chinese Translation of the Lipiśālāsaṃdarśanaparivarta in the Lalitavistara

    Abstract forthcoming.

  32. Wang Junqi 王俊淇 (Renmin U of China 中國人民大學): 遮詮與表詮——一組佛教哲學概念的形成| On the Formation of Zhequan 遮詮 (Apophatic Discourse) and Biaoquan 表詮 (Apothatic Discourse) into a Pair of Philosophical Concepts in Chinese Buddhism

    Abstract forthcoming.

  33. Wang Lina 王麗娜 (National Library of China 國家圖書館): 漢譯說一切有部佛典中之“未曾有”文體研究 | On the ‘Adbhuta-dharma-paryāya’ Literary Form Seen from the Chinese Translation of Sarvāstivādin Texts

    Abstract forthcoming.

  34. Wu Weiling 吳蔚琳 (Sun Yat-sen U 中山大學): 造像的開眼:以古代南印度和斯里蘭卡佛教和印度教文本為中心 | The Eye-opening Ceremony in Image-making: On Buddhist and Hindu Narratives in Pre-modern South India and Sri Lanka

    Abstract forthcoming.

  35. Yamabe Nobuyoshi 山部能宜 (WasedaU 日本早稻田大學): Pure Land Paintings in Dunhuang: A Reconsideration of the Relationship between Text and Art | 敦煌的淨土變:文本與藝術之間關係的再思考

    The Guan wuliangshou jing, or the Sūtra on the Visualization of Amitāyus Buddha (hereafter: Visualization Sūtra), is a well-known sūtra that explains how to visualize Sukhāvatī and Amitāyus. The content is highly pictorial, so, as one might expect, numerous paintings were executed based on this sūtra. Today we can still see many examples of these paintings in or from Dunhuang. As has been noted by previous scholars, however, except for some early paintings, many of them show serious deviations from their source text, the Visualization Sūtra. In this paper, I shall attempt to explain how these deviations came about. This investigation will shed light on the relation between Buddhist art and texts, and on the process by which Buddhist paintings were produced.

  36. Zhanru 湛如 (PekingU 北京大學): 西明寺文學與藝術傳統 | The Ximingsi literary and Artistic Traditions

    Abstract forthcoming.

  37. Zhao Jinchao 趙晉超 (NYU-Shanghai 上海紐約大學): Loving-kindness, Filial Piety, and Transcendence Seeking: The Tension between the Textual and Visual traditions of Syama Jātaka in Early Medieval China | 善行、孝道、與修仙:从睒子本生看魏晉南北朝時期本生文本与圖像傳統之差異

    Abstract forthcoming.

  38. Zhao You 趙悠 (PekingU 北京大學): 再議“四句分別”:一種論辯邏輯的形成 | Once Again on Catuṣkoṭi: A Buddhist Logical Formula in the Making

    Abstract forthcoming.

  39. Zhou Liqun 周利群 (Beijing Foreign Studies U 北京外國語大學): How One Bhikṣuṇī Met Indian Astrology?: A “Modern” Story Popular Along the Silk Route | 比丘尼如何遇上印度天文?—— 一個絲綢之路上流行的摩登故事

    Abstract forthcoming.

  40. Monika Zin (Leipzig University): Maitreya, the saviour?

    Narrative art requires pictorial conventions to convey the content of the pictures to the viewer. Artists have to provide information about the social status of a person, the place and time of an event, etc. without being able to use words. It goes without saying that pictorial conventions, once they have been established, have to be used consistently since otherwise they become unintelligible. On the other hand, the viewer will notice any deviation from a successfully implemented convention and will detect the meaning behind it.

    In the paintings of Kucha a clear distinction is made between the headgear of a king and the staked jaṭās of a Brahmanical ascetic. However, in a number of jātaka representations the self-sacrificing king – even in stories as universally known as those of King Śibi – is shown with the hairstyle of a Brahmanical ascetic. There even are jātaka paintings in which the Bodhisatva is shown with a mandorla – a feature reserved in Kucha exclusively for the samyaksaṃbuddhas and the “Mahābodhisatvas” like the future Buddha Maitreya. It is obvious that the paintings are transmitting a particular message. But how would a viewer in the past have understood for example an image of the King Pradīpapradyota – shown guiding the merchants on their way with his hands burning – if he is represented with the ascetic hairdo of Maitreya … or maybe rather of Avalokiteśvara?