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Indigenizing deities: the Budai Maitreya and the group of eighteen luohans in niche no. 68 at Feilaifeng.

From the tenth century onward, China experienced a tremendous transformation in its religion and art. In the area of Buddhist art, this transformation was manifested in increased sinicization and popularization. As the modern Chinese scholar Xu Pingfang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] suggests, the common people provided the social foundation for the popularization of religion during the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368). The result of the popularization of religion was the multiplication of deities worshipped by the people and the social popularity of religious rituals (Xu Pingfang 1996, 56). In contrast with earlier periods, Buddhism and its art became increasingly associated with scholars and common people rather than with aristocrats. Chinese creations, such as spurious Buddhist sutras, images produced based on fake sutras in Chinese, and Chinese accounts of Buddhist deities differing from Indian prototypes abandoned by "orthodox" Buddhists before the tenth century, were developed and widely admired during the Song and the Yuan. One result of this shift was the evolution of new indigenous subjects and styles that perfectly matched the common people's aesthetic tastes instead of imitating Indian works of art. The reincarnation of the Buddha and bodhisattvas as Chinese Buddhist monks or lay Buddhists and some new Chinese indigenous deities that entered the original Indian pantheon reflect one aspect of this change. (1) The carving of Budai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Cloth Bag), a Chinese version of the Maitreya Buddha, and the eighteen luohans [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], an indigenous group of luohans based on a group of sixteen from India, in niche no. 68 at the rock-cut cave temple complex of Feilaifeng [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Peak that Flew [from India]) typify the new forms of Buddhist deities in China.

Feilaifeng, the largest extant site of Buddhist art in the Hangzhou area, is notable for its caves and cliff sculptures produced from the tenth century onward. More than two hundred carven images survive from the Song dynasty, and over one hundred remain from the Yuan. (2) Niche no. 68 was created during the Southern Song (1127-1279) period, and it is now the most famous niche in Feilaifeng. (3) At its highest point in the center, this open-air, semicircular arched niche measures 330 centimeters from top to bottom. The circumference of the entire niche is 900 centimeters. Budai sits in the middle of the niche with the eighteen luohans sitting or standing on either side of him. The figure group is depicted in a rocky setting, an appearance that the artists achieved by working with the natural qualities of the rock face (fig. 1).


From the tenth century onward, the Chinese created indigenous Buddhist deities by adopting Indian deities and reconciling them with Chinese beliefs and artistic traditions. The ways in which Indian Buddhist sutras, revisionary Chinese texts, and the Chinese artistic tradition interacted to create indigenous deities in China calls for careful study. Niche no. 68 perfectly demonstrates the process of creating indigenous Buddhist deities. Because people regard this niche as the representative work of Feilaifeng, it has been widely studied, but most previous discussion has presented only a general introduction. Further study of this niche is therefore necessary in order to clarify its iconography and textual references, as well as its religious contexts, for the purpose of clarifying how the Chinese indigenized Buddhist deities in general. I will first analyze texts on Budai, explaining how this local monk came to represent the Future Buddha (Maitreya) in China, as well as how artists visualized the Budai in niche no. 68 based on descriptions of the deity in hagiographies and previous iconographies. I will also discuss the important role that niche no. 68 played in the development of subsequent images of the Budai. Because Budai is believed to be an incarnation of the Maitreya Buddha who appears as a common Chinese monk, I will briefly summarize Chinese religious beliefs about the incarnation of Buddhist deities. Finally, I will discuss the origin of the eighteen luohans, a Chinese group based on the Indian group of sixteen, and their relation to Budai.

Textual Accounts of Budai & the Budai Image in Niche No. 68

The story of Budai is recorded both in Song Gaoseng Zhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Biographies of Eminent Monks Compiled in the Song), which was compiled by Zanning [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (919-1001) in 988, and in Jingde Chuandenglu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Jingde Record of the Transmission of the Flame) by the Northern Song (960-1125) monk, Daoyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (active first half of the eleventh century). According to these texts, Budai is the hao or informal name, of a Chan monk named Qici [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] who lived from the second half of the ninth century to the early part of the tenth century. He was well known as a free spirit and famous for the large bag that he always carried. Budai is connected with Maitreya because of the poem referring to that deity that he spoke before his death. Helen Chapin and Richard Edwards have presented a limited picture of Budai based on preliminary explorations of the textual record (Chapin 1933; Edwards 1984, 11-5). In this section I will trace Budai's transformation from a Chinese monk to his manifestation or reincarnation as Maitreya based on a more thorough examination of Chinese Buddhist texts.

Beginning in the late tenth century, more information about Budai became available. Zongjing Lu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Record on the Great Mirror) by the monk Yanshou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 975) is probably the earliest extant text related to Budai. In chapter nineteen of this book, Yanshou records a Buddhist poem by Budai and refers to the monk as Budai Heshang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (The Monk Holding a Cloth Bag), but does not provide any information about the monk's life or career (Taisho 48. 523a). Later, Zanning's Song Gaoseng Zhuan explained that Budai was a native of Siming (present-day Ningbo in Zhejiang province) and died during the Tianfu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] reign (901-4) of the Tang period (618-907). According to Zanning, he was an eccentric figure with an upturned nose and large belly. He spoke in an obscure fashion, often confusing those with whom he tried to communicate. He wandered through markets begging, carrying his cloth bag tied to the end of a staff, and sleeping wherever he wished. His identification as a manifestation of Maitreya comes from his famous poem in which he writes: "Maitreya, true Maitreya. People today fail to recognize him" (Taisho 50. 848bc). (4) Zanning's record is the first to detail Budai's appearance and character, and to connect the Chan monk with Maitreya.

The large image of the monk in niche no. 68 has most of the basic iconographic features of Budai mentioned in Song Gaoseng Zhuan. He sits leaning to the right, left leg bent upward at the knee, left foot exposed and planted firmly on the ground, right knee bent outward, right foot tucked under his left leg. The back wall supports his ample weight, as does a rock positioned under his right arm. He places his right hand, palm downward, on a large bag. In his left hand he holds a Buddhist rosary. He wears a monk's robe tied loosely with a rope. The oval head has a protruding forehead, a relatively high brow, an upturned nose, large ears, plump cheeks, and a double chin. The jovial figure laughs with his mouth partially open. The outer corners of his closed eyes turn upward, further imparting joyful expression. His shoulders seem to shrug, hiding his neck. The upper half of his body is partially exposed, showing his plump arms, fleshy chest, and extremely round belly (fig. 1).

There are several Indian scriptural references to the cloth bag. According to these texts, the Buddha once told his disciples that they should have with them a cloth bag about one chi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (33 cm) square, in which to carry a begging bowl. This bag would not only make the bowl easier to carry, but it would keep the bowl from getting dusty. The Tang dynasty monk Yijing (635-713) notes that the actual use of this type of bag did not originate in China (Yijing, Taisho 24. 372c), so Indian Buddhist traditions probably inspired Chinese monks like Budai. In the iconography of Budai, the cloth bag visually echoes his large belly and reaffirms something of his personality.

The Northern Song monk Daoyuan synthesized Yanshou's and Zanning's writings, partially altering their accounts while providing more information of his own. Daoyuan, for example, claims that Budai was a native of Fenghua county in Mingzhou (present-day Ningbo in Zhejiang). He relates that when asked about Buddhist doctrine, Budai, in true Chan tradition, would obscurely respond by putting down or picking up his cloth bag. According to Daoyuan, Budai recited a poem just before his death in Yuelin Si [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Mountain Woods Monastery) in Fenghua in 916 during the Late Liang dynasty (907-23): "Maitreya, true Maitreya. [He] manifested [his] body in a hundred billion [different disguises]. [He can] manifest [himself before] the living at any time. [But] the living do not recognize [him]" (Daoyuan 1004, Taisho 51. 434a). (5) This poem underscores Budai's identity as a manifestation of Maitreya. Daoyuan's text was influential among later Buddhists, to some extent supplanting Zanning's text. (6)

Budai's legend gained currency during the Song period (960-1279), and records of the period connect him with the worship of Maitreya. Chapter twelve of Dahui Pujue Chanshi Yulu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Discourse of the Wise and Enlightened Chan Master), compiled by the Song monk Yunwen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (dates unknown), observes that "if we bow down to the Maitreya Buddha we can rely on [Budai's] broad intestine and big belly" (i.e., his generosity). The implication is that to worship the Maitreya is to worship Budai. In addition, Yunwen describes Budai holding a cloth bag and a staff on his shoulder, from which hangs a pair of broken wooden shoes (Taisho 47. 859a). The "eccentric" (Wensu, Taisho 48. 131c) nature celebrated by Song monks is evident in niche no. 68 at Feilaifeng, where he appears as a laughing monk with big belly, lying casually on his side, his open robe exposing his plump body.

The Southern Song monk Zhipan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] based his book Fozu Tongji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Comprehensive History of Buddhism, second half of the thirteenth century) on the works of Zanning and Daoyuan, but added new information about Budai. He claims, for example, that Budai kept his alms in his cloth bag. The bag aroused the curiosity of sixteen children, who chased him and tried to seize it (Edwards 1984, 18). This text is the earliest extant account connecting Budai with the sixteen children who appear as the sixteen luohan (plus two indigenous luohans, as discussed below) in niche no. 68. Zhipan also mentions that Budai, amid a throng of people, would open his bag and inexplicably remove things like a bowl, wooden shoes, food, or a stone. Another anecdote relates that the lay Buddhist Jiang Mohe [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], while bathing with Budai, saw an eye on the monk's back. Jiang touched the eye and asked Budai, "Are you a Buddha?" Budai cut him off and asked him not to mention the incident to others. When Budai traveled to Min (present-day Fujian province), a lay Buddhist named Chen asked his age. Budai answered that his cloth bag was as old as the empty sky. He also told Chen that his family name was Li and that he was born on the eighth day of the second lunar month (Taisho 49. 390c). Zhipan's account further illustrates the development of the legend of Budai, as well as his eccentric personality.

Niche No. 68 & the Tradition of Budai Images

Niche no. 68 clearly belongs to the Chinese artistic tradition and the traditions of the Budai image. During the Song and Yuan (1279-1368) periods, Budai was a popular subject in Buddhist art. Zanning says that after Budai's death, people from the Zhejiang and Jiangsu regions enthusiastically painted his image (Zanning, Taisho 50. 848c). This indicates that Budai's image was already widespread in these two provinces (including Hangzhou) during the tenth century, probably because Budai was a native of Zhejiang. Daoyuan states that Buddhists and lay people were equally eager to paint Budai's image, but he does not indicate where this phenomenon was most prevalent (Daoyuan, Taisho 51. 434b). It seems that Budai had already become a favorite subject in Northern Song Buddhist art and that by the eleventh century his popularity was no longer regional. The Yuan dynasty monk Juean [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] likewise records that during the Yuan period there was a general eagerness to paint Budai images and to make offerings, indicating the continuing popularity of Budai images after the Southern Song period (Juean, Taisho 49. 848a).


The Budai figure in niche no. 68 can be related to traditions in both painting and sculpture. There are no extant images of Budai from the tenth century when Budai first began to rise in prominence, but images from the eleventh through thirteenth centuries show some similarities and differences. Two northern Chinese stele images, known through rubbings and probably based on painted images, depict the monk standing and facing left. The first one, probably the earliest extant image of Budai, has an inscription attributed to Su Shi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1037-1101) and dated 1088, in which Su says he once saw a Budai image painted by Cui Bai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], who was skillful in painting birds, flowers (Guo Ruoxu 1963, 60), and Buddhist and Daoist images, during the Xining reign (1068-77) (fig. 2). The image shows a plump Budai holding a long staff on his right shoulder while a large cloth bag hangs from the staff. In contrast to the Feilaifeng Budai, this Budai is not smiling (Soper 1951, frontispiece). Perhaps this was an image popular in the north during the late Northern Song period when Su Shi was active. The second rubbing is inscribed with the Jin dynasty reign title Yuanguang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and dated 1223. The iconographic characteristics of this Budai are similar to the Budai of 1088, including the large cloth bag hanging from his staff, but, as Edwards suggests, this figure is stylistically closer to the sculpted Feilaifeng Budai (Edwards 1984, 12). The round head, smiling face, and fleshy chin and neck are standard features, but the Budai of 1223 differs from the Feilafeng image in three respects. It has a proportionally larger head and plumper body, dons a necklace rather than holds a rosary, and, most importantly, stands rather than sits (Tao Jinsheng 1977, 94).

Some Southern Song Budai paintings depart from the 1088 stele rubbing attributed to Cui Bai. For instance, a Southern Song painting of a standing Budai in the Umezawa Kinenkan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] collection in Japan depicts the monk facing right, as opposed to the image on the 1088 stele rubbing, which faces left. Although the figure has a plump body and large belly, his posture is different from the Budai figure of 1088 (Osaka shiritsu bijutsukan 1980, fig. 288). He turns his head to look back, as his right hand grasps a large cloth bag behind him.

A painting from the Shanghai Museum illustrates an early example of what may be a seated Budai sharing some features with the Feilaifeng Budai. This painting bears the signature of the artist Liang Kai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (died early thirteenth century) and depicts the head and torso of the Budai. His hunched shoulders are bare, and he appears to be grasping his garment with both hands, which are hidden under the fabric at his chest. The large cloth bag, outlined by a single brushstroke, appears at the lower right of the painting. Edwards illustrates the similarity between the facial expressions of this painting and the Feilaifeng Budai: "the full laugh--an intricate pattern of curve and angle--takes on an importance similar to the openmouthed laugh of the Maitreya carving" (Edwards 1984, 13). This laughing, full-faced Budai is not seen in the Northern Song rubbing of 1088, and thus may represent a standard feature of the Budai images later popularized by Southern Song artists (see the discussion below).

Southern Song artists also created images of Budai that vary in their facial features and gestures. An image called Budai Stroking His Stomach, housed in a Japanese collection and attributed to the famous Southern Song monk painter Muxi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (i.e., Fachang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], ca. 1220-80), is one such example (Osaka shiritsu bijutsukan 1980, fig. 283; Xia Wenyan 1995, 131). (7) Like the painting attributed to Liang Kai, this work is a half-length portrait and the figure has the same round head, heavy cheeks, and wide, gleeful smile. Here, however, Budai's left hand is exposed, resting on his bare belly. The eyes do not have the common inverted crescent shape seen in many Budai figures but are instead small and slant upwards beneath a furrowed brow. The inscription notes that Budai "fully laughs with [his] mouth opened. [His] hand touches [his] chest." The Song monk Wensu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (dates unknown) provides a similar description of Budai: "the wind whistles through the pine trees, [Budai] tilts [his] ear to listen, laughs, and touches his abdomen" (Wensu, Taisho 48. 131a).

A Southern Song hanging scroll in the collection of the Tokugawa Reimeikai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Foundation in Tokyo depicts a seated, full-length Budai. Budai's pose is similar to that of the sculpture in niche no. 68; he leans languidly to his right and rests his left hand on his left knee. However, this Budai turns his head to the right, where his hand grasps the cloth bag, and glances at a child who has put his arms on the bag and fallen asleep (Tokyo kokuritsu hakubutsukan 1971, fig. 28). This painting is similar to the standing Budai figure in the Umezawa Kinenkan collection in Japan in that both figures turn their heads and grasp a cloth bag. The latter gesture was probably a characteristic of painted Budai images in the Southern Song and connects these images to the Feilaifeng Budai, who rests his hand on his bag.

Unlike the painted images, most extant Budai sculptures are seated figures that share similar features with the Feilaifeng Budai. The Budai in niche no. 68 is probably not the first sculpture to depict this posture, but it is difficult to find an earlier sculpted example. (8) A Yuan dynasty Budai in niche no. 45 at Feilaifeng is similar but has a more formal appearance. He sits upright with his left leg crossed and right knee pointing upward. Like the Budai in niche no. 68, his left hand grasps a rosary (fig. 3). This figure is also similar to those installed in typical Tianwang Dian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Guardian King Halls) in later eras. Figures of Budai as the Future Buddha apparently became standard in Guardian King Halls in the Ming, Qing, and modern periods (Ferdinand Diederich Lessing 1942, plate 10), eras when Budai was popular across the country, not just in his native Zhejiang province.


Religious Contexts of the Budai Image

The carving in niche no. 68 cannot be separated from the belief in incarnate Buddhist deities, which extends back to the Tang dynasty. Baozhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (i.e., Zhigong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 425-514), Sengjia [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (617-710) and Wanhui [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (632-712) were monks with an eminent place in Chinese Buddhist history (Chu-fang Yu 2001, 198-222). As early as the later Tang period, people worshiped these monks. The Japanese monk, Ennin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (active ninth century), who came to Chang'an (present-day Xi'an) in 840, saw the images of all three monks worshiped in a niche in the Tang dynasty capital of Chang'an. Ennin brought a similar group of images back to Japan (Ennin, Taisho 55. 1084c). However, the representation of the three monks was not generally popular in Tang Buddhist art. Song texts confirm the belief that Baozhi, Sengjia and Wanhui were incarnations of Guanyin and performed numerous miracles during their lifetimes (Li Fang 1961, 638; Zanning 1987, 448). Beginning in the tenth century, Sengjia became a highly popular object of worship and subject of Buddhist art. Many monasteries, monastic halls, and stupas were built for the worship of Sengjia. In addition, Buddhists created many individual images of Sengjia in which he is portrayed as a seated monk (Xu Pingfang 1996). One Song-era anecdote describes Baozhi revealing his "true" appearance as the eleven-headed Guanyin (Alan Berkowitz 1995, 581). (9) There are Song dynasty images of Baozhi, Sengjia, and Wanhui carved at Beishan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Northern Mountain) Cave Temples in Dazu County. (10) Chapter one of the Yuan-era Qiantang yishi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Anecdotes of Qiantang) by Liu Yiqing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] records that the people from the Southern Song capital Lin'an (present-day Hangzhou) liked to make offerings to Wanhui and called him Wanhui gege [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Brother Wanhui) (Ding Bing 1976, vol. 6, 3404). Many believed that the three monks were incarnations of Guanyin and that Guanyin had come to live amid the people of China.

By the late Southern Song period, people believed that many Buddhist deities had appeared in various incarnations in China and that many Chinese monks who lived in the Song or earlier periods had been incarnations of Buddhist deities. The representative expression of this belief system is Zhipan's Fozu Tongji. Under the title "Shengxian Chuhua" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("The Appearance and Incarnation of Saints"), Zhipan lists many Chinese and Indian monks whom he believed to be incarnations of Buddhist deities in China (Taisho 49. 462ac). We cannot find any such references in pre-Song texts or in Indian Buddhist scriptures. Apparently, Song people created these legends based on the biographies of eminent monks from pre-Song periods. According to these legends, many Indian Buddhist deities became Chinese monks or lay Buddhists and appeared in China, all of which demonstrates the increasing Sinicization of Buddhism during the Song period. Belief in incarnate deities made Song Buddhism and Buddhist art more secular and popular. Amid this atmosphere, the Chan monk Budai was transformed into an incarnation of Maitreya, and the Feilaifeng Budai appeared in niche no. 68.

The Group of Eighteen Luohans

Luohans, or arhats, are the enlightened and saintly men who are the Buddha's disciples. They have been depicted in Chinese Buddhist art since at least the fifth century, but such images have been more abundant since the tenth century. The eighteen luohans located in niche no. 68 at Feilaifeng add two figures to the group of sixteen of Indian tradition, thereby demonstrating this proliferation. Why and how the Chinese extended the sixteen to eighteen is a fundamental issue for the study of the indigenization of Buddhist deities.

The group of eighteen luohans was based on the group of sixteen. The sixteen luohans primarily derive from pre-Tang and Tang dynasty Buddhist texts such as the Da Aluohan Nantimiduoluo Suoshuo Fazhu Ji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Record of the Abiding Dharma Spoken by the Great Arhat Nandimitra), translated by Xuanzang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (600-64) in 654 (Taisho 49. 12-4). (11) Fazhu Ji records that when the Buddha entered nirvana, he enjoined the sixteen great luohans to protect and preserve the dharma until the advent of the future Buddha Maitreya. This sutra, in addition, introduces the names of the sixteen luohans and the sixteen regions, including Jiufeng Shan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Vulture Peak Mountain), to which they were dispersed after the Buddha's achievement of nirvana (Taisho 49. 13a). (12) Fazhu Ji inspired belief in the sixteen luohans and stimulated the production of images. According to texts, Tang dynasty artists created many paintings and sculptures devoted to the sixteen luohans. Sita Ji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Records of Monasteries and Pagodas) by the Tang scholar Duan Chengshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 863) records that at Linghua Si [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Spiritual Flower Monastery) in Chang'an, there were "sixteen figures of eminent monks standing in the western corridor of the Buddha hall. These [figures] had been removed from the southern palace in the early period of Tianbao (742-56)" (Duan Chengshi 1964, 10). These sixteen eminent monks are probably the sixteen luohans. According to Xuanhe Huapu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Painting Catalogue Compiled in the Xuanhe Reign), the Tang dynasty artists Lu Lenjia [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (active eighth century) and Wang Wei [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (699-759) painted the sixteen luohans (Yu Jianhua 1964, 53, 170), but the validity of this record is uncertain. During the tenth century, the sixteen luohans became a popular subject of painting and sculpture (Zhou Shujia 1991, 706-8). The most famous luohan painter in Chinese history is the monk Guanxiu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], who was active in that period (Huang Xiufu 1964, 55). According to the Song official Cao Xun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1098-1174), there were sixteen gilt bronze luohans installed in a pagoda in Yongming monastery [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (present-day Jingci monastery [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Hangzhou), which was established in 954 (Cao Xun 1970, 751).

In the tenth century, groupings of eighteen luohans began to appear in Chinese Buddhist art. The earliest known images of this new grouping appeared in a set of paintings showing the eighteen luohans done by Zhang Shi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of the Early Shu kingdom (907-25). The Northern Song official Su Shi owned the paintings and wrote one poem for each of the depicted luohans (Su Shi 1997, vol. 2, 73-6). A damaged luohan group, carved in the Wuyue period (907-78) in Yanxia cave [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] of Hangzhou, is the earliest extant example of this subject in China. (13) In the Northern Song, the eighteen luohans were increasingly popular in Buddhist art. The eleventh-century luohans in the Sandashi Dian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Three Great Beings Hall) at Chongqing Si [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (High Blessing Monastery) in Changzi county, Shanxi province, are a good extant example (Zhongguo meishu quanji bianji weiyuanhui 1988, figs. 55-7). In addition to those of niche no. 68, Feilaifeng contains three sets of Eighteen Luohans in niches nos. 9, 17, and 24, produced in the Northern Song (Gao Nianhua 2002, figs. 31, 32, 33-5, 37-55).

Chinese artists and Buddhist monks added two luohans to the group of sixteen. Theories about the identities of the seventeenth and eighteenth are various. In the poems that he wrote about the paintings of the eighteen luohans attributed to Guanxiu, Su Shi says that the seventeenth luohan is Qingyou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Nandimitra) and the eighteenth luohan is Bintoulu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Pindola) (Su Shi 1933, 10). The Southern Song monk Zhipan, author of Fozu Tongji, suggests that the last two luohans in the group of eighteen are Mahakasyapa and Kundopdhaniya, and that Bintoulu is Binduluo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Pindola), one of the original sixteen. In defense of this notion, he cites Fanyi Mingyi Ji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Collection of Names and Meanings from Translations) by the Song monk Fayun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (14) In addition, Zhipan asserts that Qingyou was the author of Fazhu Ji and that he could not have received the orders that the Buddha gave to the sixteen luohans because he was not present. Mile Xiasheng Jing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Sutra on Maitreya's Coming) mentions that Mahakaayapa, Kundopdhaniya, Pindola, and Rahula, the four great disciples of Sakyamuni, postponed their achievement of nirvana and remained in the world to protect the dharma until Maitreya's coming (Dharmaraksa, Taisho 14. 422b). They are the first four luohans who received the orders of the Buddha, and Pindola and Rahula later became members of the group of sixteen. Zhipan, therefore, suggests that the eighteen luohans are the group of sixteen from Fazhu Ji plus Mahakasyapa and Kundopdhaniya, two of the four luohans from Mile Xiasheng Jing (Zhipan, Taisho 49. 319b). Zhipan's opinion is reasonable, but most artists and Buddhists from the Song through modern times still mistakenly believe that the last two luohans in the set of eighteen luohans are Qingyou and Bintoulu, as Su Shi suggests. (15) In any case, Chinese Buddhists rounded out the new group of luohans based on the Indian group of sixteen in roughly the tenth century. Since Budai is supposedly an incarnation of Maitreya and the Buddha is waited on by the Sixteen Luohans in Indian scriptures, it was reasonable to depict the group of eighteen assisting the Budai in niche no. 68 at Feilaifeng.

The popular names of the last two luohans are Xianglong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Subduing the Dragon) and Fuhu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Vanquishing the Tiger), which explains why the dragon and a tiger, respectively, accompany them in the images of the eighteen luohans at Feilaifeng, in keeping with traditions that date from the Northern Song. Su Shi wrote an essay in 1081 in which he mentions seeing a luohan figure flanked by a dragon and a tiger in a temple (Su Shi 1997, vol. 2, 63-4). On this basis, Zhou Shujia [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1899-1970) infers that Xinglong and Fuhu derive from a later period and that their identities were mingled during the Song period (Zhou Shujia 1991, 709). In his poems about the eighteen luohan paintings by the early Shu kingdom painter Zhang Shi, Su mentions two luohans, one accompanied by a dragon, the other by a tiger (Su Shi 1997, vol. 2, 75). The extant earliest example of Xianglong and Fuhu can be seen in the group of eighteen luohans in Yanxia cave (Zhongguo shiku diaosu quanji bianji weiyuanhui 2000, figs. 15-24). These artifacts suggest that the two luohans were probably created in the first half of the tenth century and became the final members of the group of eighteen. By the Northern Song, Xianglong and Fuhu, the dragon- and tiger-taming luohans, had become standard members of the group. (16) Later artists inscribed these two figures' names on their paintings. For example, in chapter eight of Midian Zhulin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Pearl Forest in the Secret Hall), dated 1786, the Qing dynasty Qianlong Emperor (reigned 1736-95) inscribed the paintings of Zhuang Yude [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] with an excerpt from Guanxiu Bu Lu Lengjia Shiba Yingzhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Guanxiu's Supplement to Lu Lengjia's The Eighteen Luohan Who Responded to the Truth). It says that "the sixteenth [should be seventeenth] and eighteenth [luohans] were ambiguous. Consulting Icangskya Khutukhtu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], [I] discovered proof." He asserts that the seventeenth luohan is Xianglong (Mahakasyapa) and the eighteenth luohan is Fuhu (Nadamidala) (Guoli gugong bowuyuan 1971, vol. 8, 97-8).

None of the eighteen luohans in niche no. 68 at Feilaifeng have inscriptions to identify them by name, but Xianglong and Fuhu can be identified based on the animals that accompany them. Luohan 7, to the left of Budai, is a standing figure flanked by a crouching tiger (fig. 5). This figure is presumably Fuhu. Luohan 16, to the right of Budai, sits in a lotus posture and looks to his upper right. There is a dragon carved above his head. This figure is presumably Xianglong (fig. 6). In positioning these two figures, the artists did not follow the sequence of the sixteen luohans given in Fazhu Ji translated by Xuanzang. Artists intermingled and rearranged the figures into a new group that probably followed the tradition of the eighteen luohans seen in niche no. 24 in Yuru cave at Feilaifeng (Gao Nianhua 2002, 36).

The depiction of Xianglong in niche no. 68 differs in its iconography from the traditional form of this figure. The fifteenth luohan of niche no. 24, likewise a depiction of Xianglong, lifts a bowl with his left hand and watches a dragon above him while the fifth luohan from the left in niche no. 9 has similar features but lifts a bowl with his right hand. The ninth luohan in niche no. 17 also bends his right arm at the elbow and raises his right hand holding a bowl. To his upper left is a dragon flying toward him. This identifying iconography was also used by artists in later periods. In a Song dynasty hanging scroll from the collection of the Palace Museum in Taipei, for example, a luohan holds a bowl in order to catch a dragon flying in the heaven (Guoli gugong bowuyuan 1989, vol. 3, 267-8). Luohan 16 in niche no. 68 at Feilaifeng does not hold a bowl but features a dragon, which is the most essential attribute of the figure.

In Buddhist scriptures, the Buddha and many of his disciples have the power to subdue dragons. Chapter one of Shijia Shipu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Pedigree of the Sakyamuni Family), for instance, relates that the Buddha subdued a dragon in his cave in Magadha, a kingdom in central India (Daoxuan, Taisho 50. 92c). Sifen Lu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (The Four Books of the Vinaya) says that Sakyamuni once captured a fire dragon and put it into his bowl (Buddhayasas and Zhu Fonian, Taisho 22. 793b). Among the disciples of the Buddha, Maudgalyayana (Mulian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) had the power to throw dragons to other regions (Baochang, Taisho 53. 75b). Kasyapa and his five hundred disciples also had power to subdue dragons (Gautama Sanghadeva, Taisho 2. 621c). These stories probably had some impact on the development of the Xianglong luohan. At Feilaifeng, the Xianglong luohans in niches nos. 9, 17, and 24 hold bowls in which to capture dragons, and luohan 16 from niche no. 68 is accompanied by a dragon, as described by Sifen Lu.

In ancient times, Chinese people believed that dragons could bring rainfall or cause droughts and floods. People, therefore, revered monks who had the power to control dragons. Chapter ten of Gaoseng Zhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Biography of Eminent Monks) by the Liang dynasty (502-57) monk Huijiao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], for example, tells the story of Shegong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a western monk who arrived in Chang'an, the capital of the Early Qin kingdom (351-84), in 376. He knew incantations that could draw the supernal dragon to the earth for the benefit of the people. During times of drought, Fu Jian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (reigned 357-84), the king of the Early Qin, would invite Shegong to perform his incantations. The dragon would descend into his bowl, and there would then be heavy rain. Fu Jian and his officials once saw the dragon in the bowl, and they respected Shegong as a deity in his own right. From Shegong's arrival until his death in 380, there was no drought (Taisho 50. 389b). According to the scholar Daniel Stevenson, Tiantai monks of the Song period were likewise supposed to have the power to subdue dragons and bring rain (Daniel Stevenson 1999, 356). It was only appropriate, then, to worship Mahakasyapa, who had precisely these powers, and to include him as a member of the eighteen luohans.

Fuhu also has a symbolic accompanying animal as indicated by his name (Vanquishing the Tiger), but the indigenous influence is more notable in his case. Indian scriptures comment on Xianglong and the dragon but do not say anything about a luohan having the power to vanquish a tiger. The texts, however, do introduce the tiger as a theme. Mohe sengzhi Lu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Vinaya of Mahasamghika), translated by Buddhabhadra (359-429) and Faxian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. about 422), includes a parable of monks subduing a dangerous tiger as an allegory of Buddhist teaching (Taisho 22. 257a). In chapter thirty of Abitan Bajiandu Lun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Eight Discourses by Abhidharma), translated by the Early Qin monks Sengjiatipo [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and Zhu Fonian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the Buddha equates human anger with the tiger's ferocious character (Taisho 26. 915b). Chapter five of Dacheng Jipusaxue Lun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Commentary on the Anthology of the Mahayanan Bodhisattva), translated by the Northern Song monk Fahu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] between 980 and 983, asserts that the karma of those with angry hearts manifests itself in fearful encounters with lions, snakes, and tigers (Taishoo 32. 90c). Chapter twenty of Abidamo Fazhi Lun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Commentary on the Abidama's Dharmic Widsom), translated by Xuanzang, conceives the tiger as the symbol of human anger (Taisho 26. 30a). In chapter four of Xin Huayan jing Lun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (New Commentary on the Huayan Sutras), Li Tongxuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (635-730) used a white tiger, one of four traditional Chinese gods, to symbolize an inauspicious or evil scourge (Taisho 36. 745b). Furthermore, Chinese monks used the term fuhu ("vanquishing the tiger") to symbolize certain Buddhist theories. For instance, Chan monks used the concept of "taming fierce tigers" to signify winning over ignorant minds (Chuyuan, Taisho 47. 623b). Zhujing Yaoji [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Collection of Key Thoughts on the Sutras) by the Tang monk Daoshi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] gives an allegorical example in which the monk Tanguang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. by 384) tames a fierce tiger in front of his knee (Taisho 54. 100a). This tradition of symbolism and allegory almost certainly inspired Chinese Buddhists artists to create Fuhu luohan.

Chinese Buddhist texts also include many stories in which eminent monks subdue actual tigers and preach Buddhist dharma to them. In chapter eleven of Gaoseng Zhuan, for example, Huijiao tells the story of the monk Tanyou [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 390-6), who is connected to the legend of the sacred monks at the rocky bridge at Mount Tiantai (Wen Fong 1958). While Tanyou sat in meditation in a mountain cave one day, ten tigers appeared and crouched before him. Despite the presence of the intimidating animals, Tanyou continued to chant the sutras. When one tiger fell asleep, Tanyou tapped its head with a scepter and asked: "Why don't [you] listen to [my chanting] of the sutra?" Eventually, the tigers departed (Taisho 50. 396a). The Fuhu luohan who points his fingers at the crouching tiger in niche no. 24 at Feilaifeng (fig. 4) is associable with Tanyou preaching the Buddhist dharma to a tiger. Xu Gaoseng Zhuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (A Sequel to the Biography of Eminent Monks) by the Tang dynasty Daoxuan 11 (595-667) tells an interesting story about the monk Faxiang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. 630). When he lived in Ninghai (present-day Ninghai county in Zhejiang province), he was told that tigers had become a terrible local menace, injuring dozens of people every day. Just then, a tiger ran into the ritual hall and snatched a human victim. Faxiang commanded the tiger to release the person, and the tiger obeyed. Later, a crowd of tigers gathered in front of the ritual hall. Faxiang touched the tigers' heads with his staff and preached dharma to them (Taisho 50. 605c-6a). In Song Gaoseng Zhuan, the monk Zanning tells a story about the monk Zhiman [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (d. by 805). When he traveled to Huanglian Mountain [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in Xuancheng (present-day Xuancheng county in Anhui province), he was told of the tragic harm done by tigers in the area. Zhiman answered that tigers also have a Buddha nature. He burned incense and prayed, and the tiger attacks never repeated themselves (Taisho 50. 766c). Chapter twenty-five of Song Gaoseng Zhuan records a story about another Tang monk, Daoyin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (active first half of the ninth century). One night, he met a tiger that leapt in the road in front of him and roared. Daoyin sat on the ground, closed his eyes, and chanted from the Jingang Jing [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (The Diamond Sutra). Under the influence, the tiger crouched in the grass and remained by his side until the early morning (Taisho 50. 871c).


The Appearance of the Eighteen Luohans in Niche No. 68

As the sixteen luohans were dispersed after the Buddha achieved nirvana, it was reasonable to produce luohan figures both individually as well as grouped. The sixteen paintings of luohan images by Guanxiu and the luohan sculptures in Yanxia cave are early examples of the luohan group. In niches nos. 9, 17, and 24 at Feilaifeng, most of the luohans are individual figures, but some luohan figures in these three sets form a small group and appear to talk each other (Gao Nianhua 2002, figs. 32, 38, 45, 50). After the Northern Song period, artists continued to produce smaller groups of individual luohan figures within a group of sixteen or eighteen, and this approach continued through modern times.

The eighteen luohan figures in niche no. 68 at Feilaifeng are presented in several small groups. On the left side of Budai, luohans 1-3 face the main figure and make up one group (fig. 5). Luohans 10 and 15 face Budai, and luohan 15 holds a stupa that originated in the Hangzhou area. On the right side of Budai, luohans 12-4 make up another group. The central figure in this group is Luohan 13 who holds a traditional Chinese handscroll (fig. 6). Moreover, luohan 17 grasps a Chinese traditional ruyi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. (as-you-wish scepter) with his two hands. The above three luohans with Chinese elements illuminate the indigenization of the eighteen luohans. Luohans 7 and 9 turn their heads toward Budai and thus seem to form a pair. Although some of the luohan figures have no apparent thematic connections (these include luohans 4, 5, 7, 8, 10, 11 and 15), they are carved in an overlapping manner. The niche seems to depict a scene in which the luohans appear on a mountain and form a circle around Budai.


Like the carvings in niche no. 68, some paintings depict the eighteen luohans in several smaller groups. In one painting, the artists represent the luohans in a landscape setting. A hanging scroll attributed to Li Gonglin [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1049-1106) in the collection of the Palace Museum in Taibei may be the earliest extant painting of this type. The painting depicts four groupsof figures: three seated luohans conversing, two standing luohans conversing, three luohans standing on a bridge looking downward, and four seated luohans conversing. Other luohans are depicted riding a tiger and holding a flaming pearl. It is the landscape setting that unifies them (Guoli gugong bowuyuan 1989, vol. 1, 277). Unlike the scriptural descriptions of luohans (as in Fazhu Ji), which portray the luohans engaged in their specific duties while dwelling in different places, this painting depicts the luohans engaged in Buddhist activities near the same river in the mountains. This painting probably adheres to a certain form of Song-period luohan painting.

After the eleventh century, paintings tend to show the eighteen luohans in a single group, closely connected to each other. Nine standing luohans overlap each other in each of the paintings that make up a pair of Yuan dynasty hanging scrolls in the collection of the Palace Museum in Taibei (Guoli gugong bowuyuan 1990, vol. 5, 179-82). Similarly, a consolidated group of eighteen luohans appears in a Yuan dynasty hanging scroll dated before 1348 in a Japanese collection. These luohans stand in a group to view a handscroll (fig. 7). On the left side, Xianglong lifts a bowl and watches a flying dragon; to the right, Fuhu stands beside a tiger (Osaka shiritsu bijutsukan 1980, fig. 298).



The eighteen luohans of niche no. 68 at Feilaifeng fit within the larger tradition of luohan composition preserved in painting. During the Song period, eighteen luohan figures were often arranged in small groups in alandscape setting. During the Yuan period, luohan figures often appeared in a single group occupying the same setting. The characteristics of the eighteen luohan figures in niche no. 68 represent a midway point in the evolution toward aggregation.

After the ninth century, the eighteen luohans were closely associated with a larger group of five hundred luohans. In his Song Gaoseng Zhuan, the monk Zanning claimed that the five hundred luohans, despite their Indian origins, lived in Mount Tiantai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a holy mountain in present-day Zhejiang province where the Tiantai school was founded. This book also mentioned a great hall there, in which the kings of Wuyue kingdom made their offerings (Taisho 50. 880b). (17) The belief that the five hundred luohans live in Mount Tiantai endured from the Song period onward. The Yuan dynasty artist Wu Zhen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1280-1354) wrote a poem in praise of the Northern Song artist Li Gonglin's painting Da Aluohan tu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Paintings of the Great Luohans). Wu said: "[Do you] know where the five hundred [luohans] from [Mount] Tiantai may be? [You] should confirm [their whereabouts] in the paintings" (Gu Sili 1987, 728).

According to Buddhist texts, the five hundred luohans have multiple duties, one of which is to assist the sixteen luohans that dwell in this world and protect the Buddhist dharma. Fazhu ji mentions that the sixteen luohans dwell in sixteen different regions, each assisted by a group of between 500 and 16,000 luohans. Only the second luohan, Kanakavatsa [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], is accompanied by five hundred luohans, who dwell in Kasmira [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] S to the north. (18) Fazhu ji probably inspired Chinese Buddhists to associate the five hundred luohans with the eighteen luohans. About ninety years after the carving of the roughly hundred luohans in Qinglin cave [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] at Feilaifeng, a stele that mingled the names of eighteen and five hundred luohans was carved in 1098 on the cliff of Bailong dong [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (White Dragon Cave) in Huixian shan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Meeting Immortals Mountain) in Yishan county, Guangxi province. This stele implies that all of the luohans are Sakyamuni's disciples, and the eighteen stay in the world to obey the order of the Buddha, while the five hundred serve as their followers. (19) The group of eighteen luohans was developed from the sixteen, so they share the same duty to remain in the world until the arrival of Maitreya, as described in Fazhu ji. As each of the five hundred luohans has the mission to assist one of the sixteen luohans to protect Buddha's law in the world, Chinese Buddhists reasonably associated the two groups.

A later stele, carved in 1134, clearly associates the eighteen and the five hundred, placing both groups in the residence of the five hundred luohans. The stele was originally located at Qianming yuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Bright Sky Cloister) in Jiangyin county, Jiangsu province. The stele was damaged in 1860, but Beijing Library has a rubbing of the front side made during the reign of Jiaqing (1796-1820) or Daoguang (1821-50) of the Qing dynasty. We can see the titles of "Zhushi Shiba Zunzhe" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Eighteen Luohans Remain in the World") and "Shiqiao Wubai Zunzhe" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] ("Five Hundred Luohans at Rocky Bridge") and the names of the luohans. (20) This arrangement followed that of the stele from the White Dragon cave in Guangxi. Beijing Library has not published rubbings taken from the back of the stele, but the Southern Song official Gao Daosu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] provides notes in Jiangyin xian xuzhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (A Sequel to the Gazetteer of Jiangyin County) by the Qing scholar Miao Quansun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1844-1919). Miao's book lists the names of the many donors, most of them women, carved on the back of this stele, and it quotes an inscription that says that Zhao Miaozhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], Sun Shijiuniang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] and others commissioned a niche to include a Maitreya figure (Miao Quansun 1970, 1209-18). Instead of showing the Buddha served by the sixteen luohans from Indian scriptures, this scene depicts the Buddha being served by the eighteen along with the five hundred, in keeping with later Chinese ideas. The stele of Qianming cloister mingles the names of the eighteen luohans and the five hundred luohans, suggesting that the Song people believed that eighteen and the five hundred shared the same residence. This idea probably derives from the stele of the White Dragon cave and from earlier, now lost works of the Northern Song period, since the notion that the five hundred resided in Mount Tiantai was already accepted during the tenth century.

This assumption is confirmed by an essay in which Cao Xun suggests that the five hundred luohans "disperse and dwell in mountains and forests and appear in different guises [in order to] fill the world with blessed lands [futian [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]]" (Cao Xun 1970, 751). In fact, this is the role performed by the sixteen luohans, according to scripture translated by Xuanzang. Cao's perspective corresponds with those of the two steles mentioned above, and, as noted in the preceding discussion, the original idea can be traced back to the tenth century. The patrons who commissioned the luohan figures of niche no. 68 most likely shared the belief that the eighteen and five hundred luohans occupy the same mountain, which explains their arrangement. The grouping of the figures were probably meant to suggest that they dwelt in the same mountain, Mt. Tiantai, in order to fulfill their duties while waiting for the advent of the future Buddha Maitreya, who is in turn figured as Budai.

Steps Taken to Indigenize Images

Niche no. 68 at Feilaifeng provides a wonderful illustration of how the Chinese indigenized images based on Indian conceptions. From Chinese Buddhist texts, we can trace Budai's transformation from a local Chan monk to an incarnation of Maitreya. The features of Budai in niche no. 68 can be linked with paintings and sculptures depicting this monk, making the figure a midpoint in Budai's evolution from local to pan-cultural deity during the Ming and Qing periods. During the Tang period, people began to believe that Buddhas and bodhisattvas appeared incarnate in China. During the Song period, many eminent Chinese monks were said to be incarnations of Buddhist deities. The carving of Budai in niche no. 68 represents this tendency in Chinese Buddhist art and thought. Carved as companions to Maitreya, the eighteen luohans of niche no. 68 assist the indigenous incarnation of this future Buddha. This new grouping of luohan figures, sixteen from India and two entirely indigenous to China, demonstrates the Chinese appropriation and elaboration of Indian tradition after the tenth century, arranging the figures in a single group, for example, to reflect the Chinese theory that they reside at Mt. Tiantai. The preceding discussion demonstrates the steps by which the themes of Indian texts were indigenized and sinicized, giving rise to unique a Chinese belief system and ultimately to new images and artistic traditions.


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Washington University in St. Louis


(1) For the transformation of Chinese Buddhism and its art during the Song and the Yuan periods, see Chang Qing 2006.

(2) For an overview of Buddhist sculpture at Feilaifeng, see Gao Nianhua 2002 and Edwards 1984.

(3) Huang Yongquan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] suggests that this niche was carved in the Yuan period (Huang Yongquan 1958, 7). In contrast, most modern scholars, such as Yan Wenru [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1912-94), Jung Eunwu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and Gao Nianhua [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], believe that this sculptural group was created in the Southern Song period (Yan Wenru 1987, 294; Gao Nianhua 2002; Jung Eunwu 1994, 206). Richard Edwards offers more evidence in support of a Southern Song date (Edwards 1984). Paula Swart also dates niche no. 68 to the Southern Song (Swart 1987). I agree with Edwards and others who propose a Southern Song date.

(4) Richard Edwards translates: "Maitreya, truly Maitreya / But recognized by none" (Edwards 1984, 12).

(5) Richard Edwards translates: "Maitreya, truly Maitreya / Divides his body into ten thousand million parts/ From time to time appearing to that time / But recognized by none" (Edwards 1984, 12).

(6) The Yuan monk Nianchang's book is one example (Taisho 49. 651c).

(7) According to Edwards, this hanging scroll was probably painted in the late Southern Song or early Yuan period (Edwards 1984, 13).

(8) In Yanxia cave, there is a Budai sculpture without any inscription. Wang Shilun and Zhao Zhenhan suggest that this Budai was carved in the Song period (Wang Shilun and Zhao Zhenhan 1981, 44). However, the Budai sits straight and grasps a rosary with his right hand. This pose is closer to the Yuan-era Budai in niche no. 45 than to the Budai of niche no. 68 at Feilaifeng. In addition, the characteristics of the Yanxia Budai are similar to the Budai sculpture at Yonghe gong in Beijing (Ferdinand Diederich Lessing 1942, plate 10). It is reasonable to infer, then, that the Yanxia Budai was carved during or after the Yuan period.

(9) The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has a Southern Song painting from a set depicting the five hundred luohans. Baozhi appears as eleven-headed Guanyin (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston 1992, fig. 140).

(10) The main figure in Cave 177 of Beishan grottoes is Sengjia sitting in a lotus posture. Two monk figures sit against the two sides of this cave. They are Baozhi and Wanhui (Dazuxian Wenwu Baoguansuo 1984, figs. 47-51; Liu Changjiu, Hu Wenhe, Li Yongqiao 1985, 407).

(11) During the fifth century, Ru Dacheng lun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], translated by the Northern Liang period (397-439) monk Daotai [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (active first half of the fifth century), mentions that the sixteen great disciples, including Pindola and Rahula, dispersed to live on various islands. All of them were charged with protecting the dharma and remaining in the world (Taisho 32. 39b). Chapter one of Xuanhe huapu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Painting Catalogue Compiled During the Xuanhe Reign) mentions a painting of the sixteen luohans by the famous Liang dynasty painter Zhang Sengyao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (active first half of the sixth century) (Yu Jianhua 1964, 31). It is not known whether or not the painting was genuine, but it seems to have reflected the content of Ru Dacheng lun.

(12) On the discussion of the sixteen luohans and their sources in Chinese Buddhist texts, see Wen Fong 1958 and Richard K. Kent 1995.

(13) According to chapter nine of Chunyou Lin'an zhi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Gazetteer of Lin'an Written in the Chunyou Reign), the eighteen luohan sculptures in Yanxia cave were commissioned by the Wuyue king, Qian Ti [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Shi E 1983, 169). Fifteen luohan images survive in Yanxia cave. Songeun Choe suggests that there should have been eighteen original luohan figures (Choe Songeun 1991). I agree with her suggestion. However, traditional Chinese scholarships suggest that there were sixteen original luohan images. See Zhongguo shiku diaosu quanji bianji weiyuanhui 2000, figs. 15-24.

(14) Chapter one of this book says that the meaning of Bintoulu is budong (immovable). Fayun records that someone called him Binduluo (Taisho 54. 1064b).

(15) Another example is Jiangyin jun Qianming yuan luohan Zunhao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (The Sacred Names of the Luohans at Qianming Cloister in Jiangyin jun), a stele carved in 1134 at Qianming yuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Bright Sky cloister) in Jiangyin county, Jiangsu province. It was damaged in 1860. Beijing Library possesses a rubbing probably made during the reign of Jiaqing (1796-1820) or Daoguang (1821-50) during the Qing dynasty. The stele records the names of the eighteen luohans; the last two are Qingyou and Bintoulu (Beijing tushuguan shanbenbu jinshizu 1993, 3).

(16) The painting of eighteen luohans and Guanyin attributed to Li Gonglin (1049-1106) in the collection of the Palace Museum in Taibei shows a luohan riding a tiger (Guoli gugong bowuyuan 1989, vol. 1, 279-80).

(17) Wen Fong's research demonstrates the origin and development of this belief (Wen Fong 1958, 15-6).

(18) However, Xuanzang does not mention images of the five hundred luohans in western regions (Taisho 49. 13a). For an English version of Fazhu ji, see Shan-shih Buddhist Institute 1961.

(19) The stele is titled Gongyang Shijiarulai zhushi shiba zunzhe wubai da aluohan shenghao [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (Offerings to the Sacredly Named Eighteen Luohans who Remain in the World [to Abide the Teaching] of the Sakyamuni Buddha and the Five Hundred Luohans). It was discovered after 1949 and is not recorded in any epigraphy books. This stele lists the names of each luohan in the groups of eighteen and five hundred (Bai Huawen [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] 1991).

(20) The title of this stele is Jiangyin jun Qianming yuan luohan Zunhao (Beijing tushuguan shanbenbu jinshizu 1993, 3).
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Author:Chang, Qing
Publication:Southeast Review of Asian Studies
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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