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Introduction

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Chapter Summary

The Heavenly Court is one of the most, if not the most, important subjects in Daoist art. The Chinese name for a Heavenly Court painting, chaoyuan tu, is therefore a direct reference to the Daoist liturgy performed in connection to the paintings. A Heavenly Court painting is a representation of the Daoist audience ritual, at least of the part visualised by the Daoist priest performing the ritual; this would immediately explain the presence of these paintings in the central hall of a Daoist temple complex or monastery where such rituals were performed on a regular basis. The visual context of Heavenly Court painting is provided by other extant wall paintings, scroll paintings, relief and cliff sculptures, and, most importantly, the various kinds of drawings that were used in the process of creating a mural. This chapter presents an overview of how the other chapters of the book are organised.

Keywords: chaoyuan tu; Chinese painting; Daoist art; Heavenly Court painting; wall paintings

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