This essay explores one of the most delicate and topical questions in relations between India, Central Asia and China during the centuries when Buddhism spread towards East Asia. The specific theme concerns the diffusion of the image of the Buddha, which was believed to have made its way eastwards merely undergoing a gradual stylistic change, without any substantial alterations to the basic Indian iconography, as was the conventional wisdom in the past with regard to Buddhist thought and texts. An analysis of the most ancient images of the Buddha found in China (bronze-gilt sculptures) and other comparable works (Central Asian wall paintings of slightly later date) has however brought to light elements which had previously been overlooked: from its very first appearance in China, the image of the Buddha in meditation, the most widespread icon in the early centuries of Indian Buddhist art, is depicted with the position of the hands inverted and subsequently modified in such a way as radically to alter the Indian gesture. The essay suggests these changes acted to bring the Buddha into closer alignment with the traditional depiction of the Chinese ruler. Iconographic imagery found in tombs from the Han Dynasty on, as well as cosmological concepts in Chinese thought and traditional customs are explored in detail in order to support this new approach.

"A Question of Gestures: Reflections on the Earliest Buddha Images in China"

CELLI, NICOLETTA
2011

Abstract

This essay explores one of the most delicate and topical questions in relations between India, Central Asia and China during the centuries when Buddhism spread towards East Asia. The specific theme concerns the diffusion of the image of the Buddha, which was believed to have made its way eastwards merely undergoing a gradual stylistic change, without any substantial alterations to the basic Indian iconography, as was the conventional wisdom in the past with regard to Buddhist thought and texts. An analysis of the most ancient images of the Buddha found in China (bronze-gilt sculptures) and other comparable works (Central Asian wall paintings of slightly later date) has however brought to light elements which had previously been overlooked: from its very first appearance in China, the image of the Buddha in meditation, the most widespread icon in the early centuries of Indian Buddhist art, is depicted with the position of the hands inverted and subsequently modified in such a way as radically to alter the Indian gesture. The essay suggests these changes acted to bring the Buddha into closer alignment with the traditional depiction of the Chinese ruler. Iconographic imagery found in tombs from the Han Dynasty on, as well as cosmological concepts in Chinese thought and traditional customs are explored in detail in order to support this new approach.
The Yields of Transition: Literature, Art and Philosophy in Early Medieval China
101
133
N. Celli
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/102439
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