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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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.


List of Illustrations
Abbreviations and Conventions

   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



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.
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