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Esoteric Buddhist Art Up To The Tang

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Chapter Summary

A large army of protectors, demon-generals, and ghostly beings inhabit the pantheon of mature Esoteric Buddhism in East Asia. The pre-Buddhist Chinese were significantly engaged in speculations about demonology and exorcism, although the roles and exact function of spirits were not always very clearly defined. Hindu divinities were imported into China together with Buddhism, although for a long time they were mainly relegated to play minor roles in the various Buddhist narratives and the various attempts at portraying them. The earliest pre-Tang images that may be considered clear-cut examples of Esoteric Buddhist iconography are the reliefs of vidyārājas found at the entrance of the Bingyang Cave and at other locations within the Longmen grotto complex. These images reflect the beginnings of the iconographical tradition of depicting the vidyarajas as many-armed, demon-looking protectors that normally characterize mature Esoteric Buddhist iconography associated with the Zhenyan tradition of the mid- to late Tang.

Keywords: Esoteric Buddhist; Tang



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