Medieval Chinese Buddhist Art by fgl12588

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									Medieval Chinese
 Buddhist Art
                     1.     Early Chinese
                          Buddhist Sculpture

Buddhist teachings & practices spread to China from India via trade routes along
both land and sea. Some of the most visible traces of this spread are found along the
famous “silk road” that ran from the Roman & Islamic empires of West Asia all the
way to China, with important side branches descending to North India. The icons
shown here were created primarily in cave monasteries that sprang up & flourished
at important points along China’s portion of the silk road, from the 5th century CE
onward. Although such sculptural styles clearly originated in Northern India, they
had evolved there only a few centuries earlier in the 2nd century CE when Roman
artisans were hired to work for North Indian patrons. Once settled in China,
Buddhist institutions developed primarily during the period of North/South division
from the 3rd-6th centuries CE, and then consolidated their power during the
subsequent unification brought about in the 7th century by the Tang dynasty.
Buddha seated
  on a lotus

 (5th CE,
Wei Dynasty)
sitting Buddha
w/flaming halo

 (5th-6th CE,
  Dunhuang
    Caves)
cave monastery at Longmen (5th-7th CE)
  seated Buddha
    with halo

(5th CE, Longmen)
  standing
 Buddha &
bodhisattvas

(6th-7th CE,
  Longmen
   Caves)
        2. Painting & Sculpture in the
           Sung & Yuan Dynasties
After a brief period of disunity following the fall of the Tang in 906 CE, the
Sung dynasty restored order to the Chinese empire in 960 CE. Over the next
few centuries, Neo-Confucians increasingly criticized the emperors of this
dynasty for their policy of appeasing potential northern invaders rather than
confronting them with military force. Yet there can be no doubt that Song
sponsorship of the arts led to a period of brilliant intellectual & artistic
activity, with talented painters and craftspeople (many of whom developed a
keen interest in realism during this period) being richly rewarded by the
imperial court, and art academies ranking artists according to their
achievements. With the gradual weakening of this dynasty in the 13th century,
however, Mongolian invaders under Kubla Khan easily invaded and took over
the centers of power, installing themselves as the new “Yuan” dynasty after
reportedly killing half of the population in their merciless raids. Surviving
artists, who tended to resent the military weakness of the Song emperors for
which the Chinese had suffered to intensely, developed new and distinct styles
to distinguish themselves from their Song predecessors. Kublai Khan’s court,
for its part, continued to sponsor the arts, inviting new painters from South
China who likewise initiated new trends. The sculptures and paintings of this
section illustrate the ongoing evolution of styles during both periods, and also
reflect the dominance of Pure Land & Chan Buddhist movements.
temple in mountain landscape (12th CE, Song Dynasty)
bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (12th CE, Sung Dynasty)
    bodhisattva Guan Yin,
      standing & seated
(12th-13th CE, Sung Dynasty)
 bodhisattva
  Manjushri

  (14th CE,
Yuan Dynasty)
western paradise
 of Amitabha

  (14th CE,
Yuan Dynasty)
eastern pure land of the “Medicine Buddha” (1319 CE)
(Side View)
(Close Up)
 Bodhidharma,
patriarch of Chan
     tradition

   (14th CE)
       3. Icons & Images in
      Neo-Confucian Tradition
 Developments in Buddhist art & architecture were preceded, for
almost a thousand years, by important developments in Confucian
tradition, which beginning in the 2nd century BCE became the official
ideology of the Chinese empire, a position which it retained until the
early 20th CE. As in considering the impact of Islamic art on Indian
culture previously dominated by Buddhist & Hindu influences, it is
important to look at a few examples of the way Confucian art (and
especially the neo-Confucian forms that became increasingly
influential in the 11th & 12th centuries CE) differed from Buddhist art.
Like Muslims, Confucians almost without exception avoided iconic
depictions, though for slightly different reasons: Confucians regarded
popular iconic representations of divine powers as distractions, which
kept people from seeking the cultivation of jen (“human-heartedness”)
within themselves. This section presents a few striking examples of
Neo-Confucian art & architecture, which reflect the central place of
written classics and honoring human ancestors in Confucian tradition.
stone carving of a Confucian classic (8th CE)
Confucian temple (15th-16th CE, Ming Dynasty)
  vase with
pomegranate
 (symbol of
  fertility &
 longevity)

(late 17th CE)
 painting of
 Confucius

   (1743,
Qing Dynasty)

								
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