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By Marsha Smith Weidner

This choice of essays on "later" chinese language Buddhism takes us past the bedrock matters of conventional Buddhist historiography - scriptures and commentaries, sectarian advancements, lives of amazing priests - to envision a variety of extracanonical fabrics that remove darkness from cultural manifestations of Buddhism from the music dynasty (960-1279) during the glossy interval. Straying from well-trodden paths, the authors usually transgress the limits in their personal disciplines: historians deal with structure; paintings historians glance to politics; a consultant in literature treats poetry that gives gendered insights into Buddhist lives. The broad-based cultural orientation of this quantity relies at the popularity that artwork and faith should not closed platforms requiring simply minimum cross-indexing with different social or aesthetic phenomena yet constituent parts in interlocking networks of perform and trust.

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To cite but one counterexample, it was common in the Song and Yuan dynasties for Buddhist monasteries to maintain “life prolonging halls” (yanshou tang) or “nirvana halls” (niepan tang)—infirmaries for sick and dying monks—in which images of Amitabha were enshrined as tutelary deities. The purpose of the images was not to aid the devotions of the bedridden, but rather to serve as the focal point of regular o¤erings and prayers made by the healthy monks who administered the infirmary. What Amitabha was asked to do, not surprisingly given the setting, was to help the sick recover and, failing that, to lead them to rebirth in his Pure Land.

In monk portraits used as icons, as in images of buddhas, bodhisattvas, and other deities, the preferred pose is a formal, abstract one in which the figure stands out against a blank background. A portrait of the seventeenth-century cleric Yinyuan (fig. 10) makes an excellent case in point. Yinyuan is presented frontally, sitting on a ceremonial seat as if giving a sermon in a dharma hall. He wears his most formal robes and holds a sta¤ and a whisk, pieces of regalia emblematic of his authority as abbot.

But this is not a hard and fast rule, and exceptions can be found. Pictures of lohans (arhats) hung in sets of sixteen or eighteen in dedicated worship halls in Chinese monasteries, for example, often depicted the individual figures engaged in activities such as reciting scriptures, sitting in meditation, or preaching (fig. 9). Such activities, however, are t.  Artist unknown, Buddhas of the Three Generations. Qing dynasty, 1744. 1 x 61 cm. Asian Art Museum of San Francisco. The Avery Brundage Collection.

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