About this Event
"A Path to Paradise: Images of Buddhist Heavens and Pure Lands in Early Medieval China"
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Before the arrival of Buddhism in China, the deeply-rooted indigenous religious culture held that a sole, supreme Heaven above was considered as the ideal paradise for the deceased. This dissertation takes a material perspective to probe into a pivotal issue: while colliding with the strong, local tradition of thanatology and cosmology, how did Buddhism achieve a balance between insisting and adapting its key doctrines, on the battleground of paradise? This project investigates how three types of artwork were designed to facilitate the post-life entry into three different paradises: a Trayastrimśa Heaven modelled after the Chinese one, the quasi Pure Land of Tusita Heaven dwelled by the Buddha-to-be Maitreya and the Western Pure Land of Sukhāvāti. Each of them was once emphatically propagated as the “ideal paradise” by contemporaneous clerics. The three materials tell a story about the Buddhist construction of “paradise” in Early Medieval China, along with the increasing capacity and receptivity of its believers.