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The Mapping Of Sacred Space: Images Of Buddhist Cosmographies In Medieval China

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Chapter Summary

This chapter includes discussion of both the single-world and the multiple-world systems of Buddhist cosmologies, and the images associated with each category. It also discusses the transmission, reception, and transformation of Buddhist images of cosmologies in China, most of which pertain to the single-world system of pre-Mahāyāna Buddhism. When examining the images of Mahāyāna Buddhist cosmologies that prevailed in China from the seventh century onward, the chapter argues that the introduction of Buddhist cosmologies impelled Chinese artists to find new ways to visually represent the novel ideologies. In examining Chinese images of Buddhist cosmographies, it draws primarily on the rich repertoire of sculptures and paintings from the Dunhuang cave-chapels and nearby sites on the Silk Road. Dating from the fifth through the thirteenth century, the art of Dunhuang is predominantly Mahāyāna in content, although there are also subjects associated with Theravāda and Tantric Buddhism.

Keywords: Buddhist cosmologies; China; Dunhuang; Mahāyāna Buddhism; seventh century; Silk Road



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