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The ‘Five Elements’ In Manichaean Art

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Chapter Summary

The Museum of Asian Art in Berlin posseses four silk fragments from the Turfan Oasis, which are especially important for the context of the so called Five Elements in Manichaean art. Werner Sundermann has pointed out that according to the Sermon of the Soul the soul has its foundation and origin (Grund undUrsprung) in the Five Elements of Light, being air,wind, light, water and fire, which the Sogdian text calls the gods of this world. Sundermann also stresses that many topics from the Sermon of the Soul were borrowed by the Chinese Manichaean literature, especially in hymnal scrolls, the title being Praise of the Five Lights. Composed by the Teachers. The groups sequence of deities was certainly subject to alterations as can be gleaned both from the texts as well as from the paintings still extant, which, however, seems to have had little bearing on the overall iconography.

Keywords: Chinese Manichaean literature; Sogdian text; Werner Sundermann



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