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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.

Abstract

An intriguing group of paintings in the collection of the Hermitage, originally from Karakhoto, features Amitābha Buddha receiving the soul of a devotee into the Western Pure Land. Due to the broad geographic distribution of welcoming descent imagery across medieval China, Korea, and Japan, the origins of this iconography have been keenly debated by scholars. This paper focuses on the motif of Amitābha’s welcoming descent in order to illuminate the stakes of transcultural research. Previous scholarship emphasised chronology, artistic style, and iconography in order to situate the paintings from the Tangut Empire (ca. 1038–1227, in Chinese sources known as Xixia 西夏) in between Song China (960–1279, ) and its neighbours. In contrast, I consider the mediating role played by print culture, as well as the material features of Tangut welcoming descent paintings that distinguished them from similar paintings produced elsewhere in Asia. In the process, I consider the transcultural resonances of this visual motif.

Open Access
In: Buddhism in Central Asia II
In: Maṇḍalas in the Making
In: Maṇḍalas in the Making
In: Maṇḍalas in the Making
In: Maṇḍalas in the Making
In: Maṇḍalas in the Making
In: Maṇḍalas in the Making
In: Maṇḍalas in the Making
In: Maṇḍalas in the Making