Maṇḍalas in the Making

The Visual Culture of Esoteric Buddhism at Dunhuang


The first scholarly monograph on Buddhist maṇḍalas in China, this book examines the Maṇḍala of Eight Great Bodhisattvas. This iconographic template, in which a central Buddha is flanked by eight attendants, flourished during the Tibetan (786–848) and post-Tibetan Guiyijun (848–1036) periods at Dunhuang. A rare motif that appears in only four cave shrines at the Mogao and Yulin sites, the maṇḍala bore associations with political authority and received patronage from local rulers. Attending to the historical and cultural contexts surrounding this iconography, this book demonstrates that transcultural communication over the Silk Routes during this period, and the religious dialogue between the Chinese and Tibetan communities, were defining characteristics of the visual language of Buddhist maṇḍalas at Dunhuang.
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Biographical Note

Michelle C. Wang, Ph.D. (Harvard, 2008), is Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History at Georgetown University. A specialist in medieval Chinese art, her publications have addressed Buddhist maṇḍalas, Dunhuang painting, and art of the Silk Road.

Table of contents

Contents Acknowledgements List of Illustrations Abbreviations and Conventions Introduction    Recentering Buddhism at Dunhuang    The Shingon Impact    Maṇḍalas in the Making    Overview of Chapters 1 From Dhāraṇī to Maṇḍala     Dhāraṇī Pillars in Medieval China    Maṇḍalas and Altars    Visualizing the Maṇḍala 2 The Crowned Buddha and Narratives of Enlightenment    The Cult of Vairocana in Early Tibet    The Crowned Buddha    Networks of Transmission    Stylistic Bilingualism in Images of Vairocana    The Eight Bodhisattvas 3 Maṇḍalas and Historical Memory    Mogao Cave 156 and the Victory of Zhang Yichao    The Cult of Avalokiteśvara at Dunhuang    The Maṇḍala of Eight Great Bodhisattvas in the Guiyijun Period    Amoghavajra and the Vajradhātu Maṇḍala    Maṇḍalas and Ritual Space 4 Maṇḍalas, Repentance, and Vision    The Vajra Realm in Ritual Manuals from Dunhuang    The Five Buddhas and Repentance Altars 5 Beyond the Maṇḍala    Bodhisattvas and Repentance    The Kalyāṇamitras as Embodied Experience    The Vows of Samantabhadra    The Ascent to the Dharma Realm Epilogue Bibliography Index


All those with an interest in cross-cultural interactions in Chinese and Tibetan visual culture and Buddhism, as well as specialists in esoteric Buddhism, Silk Road art, and Dunhuang studies.