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Old Society, New BeliefReligious transformation of China and Rome, ca. 1st-6th Centuries$
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Mu-chou Poo, H. A. Drake, and Lisa Raphals

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190278359

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190278359.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.oxfordscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 November 2019

Life and Death

Life and Death

The Development of Nirvana Images in the Northern Dynasties

Chapter:
(p.183) 11 Life and Death
Source:
Old Society, New Belief
Author(s):

Chuan-Ying Yen

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190278359.003.0012

In early Indian Buddhist art, numerous stupas were erected to store relics commemorating a past Buddha instead of depicting the death of Sakyamuni. Relic cult is the focus of Buddha worship, but in early Chinese Buddhist art, nirvana scenes were not the focus of Buddha’s life, which was an idealized legend. The development and expression of the nirvana image (which symbolizes the transmission of the dharma) with new styles shows how Buddhism adapted to local traditions as it spread into China. From the second half of the sixth century, the nirvana scene was depicted as lamenting the deceased. At the end of the seventh century, nirvana versions were dramatized and glorified in monumental works and blended in with more popular images based on scenes from the Lotus Sutra; this expressed the idea that the dharma is constantly regenerated and was more in line with the hopes and desires of the Chinese people.

Keywords:   nirvana images, iconography, Dunhuang, cave art, Lotus Sutra, Buddhist steles

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