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Chapter Summary

This chapter introduces the contents of Heavenly Court painting, and presents a close-up study of the four temple paintings: Yongle gong, the Toronto murals, Nanan and Beiyue miao. The discussion includes the temples' history and architectural layout, scholarship, as well as their iconography. For the temple history and layout, local gazetteers and stele inscriptions provide the most important information, reconstructing the most important event in the history of the temple and providing the dates, if given, of the temple paintings. The chapter discusses the location of the paintings in the architectural layout, which is important for understanding certain compositional features. The description of the iconography constitutes the most important part of the chapter, and is basically a deity-for-deity identification in each of the Heavenly Court painting. The four Heavenly Court paintings were temples under Quanzhen management and all four depict four different pantheons; this discrepancy remains unexplained.

Keywords: Beiyue miao; Heavenly Court painting; iconography; Nanan; Quanzhen pantheon; Toronto murals; Yongle gong



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