17: Guanyin Cult in East Asia

Tue., Aug. 19th, 09:00-12:30

Guanyin Miracle Tales in the Mount Putuo Gazetteers

Bingenheimer, Marcus (Temple University, Philadelphia, USA)

Since the early Song dynasty the island of Mount Putuo 普陀山 near Ningbo has been identified with Mount Potalaka, the abode of Guanyin/Avalokiteśvara described in the Avataṃsaka Sūtra. During the Song and the Yuan Mount Putuo became a popular pilgrimage site and still today thousands of pilgrims and tourists visit every year. Starting in the 14th century Mount Putuo has also been the subject of a series of local gazetteers, which collect texts of different genres, among them descriptions of topography, poems, epigraphy, travelogues, and biographies of monks and lay-people associated with the site. All Mount Putuo gazetteers have a chapter with miracle tales that were taken as proof of the sympathetic response (ganying 感應) with which the Bodhisattva Guanyin answered the supplications of her believers. The importance of miracle tales for the Guanyin cult in China has long been recognized (in English esp. through the work of Chun-fang Yü and Robert Campany), and the early corpus of miracle tales have been well researched and translated. The aim of this presentation is to show how later Guanyin miracle tales concerning Mount Putuo were included in the gazetteers, what the local dimension of these stories is, and in how far they should be considered characteristic for the miracle tale tradition.


Tang Dynasty Thousand-Armed Avalokitêśvara Scenes Accompanied by Images of Monks

Ra, Suijun (Waseda University, Tokyo, JPN)

The cult of Sahasrabhuja or the Thousand-Armed Avalokitêśvara (千手観音) was introduced to China in the 7th century during the Tang dynasty, and thereafter propagated rapidly throughout the country, becoming perhaps the most prominent among the esoteric Avalokitêśvara cults. Today, the majority of the Tang images of this Avalokitêśvara remain in Dunhuang and Sichuan. In comparison with the contemporary works in other parts of Eastern Asia, the most pronounced characteristic among these Chinese images is that the majority of them are presented in the style of “bian 変,” featuring the image of Sahasrabhuja surrounded in many cases by nearly a hundred attendants. These complex images, often recorded as “Dabeibianxiang 大悲変相 (Sahasrabhuja Scene),” contain a wealth of information in the details, and are critical sources in considering the backgrounds of the Tang Sahasrabhuja cult.

This presentation considers the iconography of several Dabeibianxiang niches in Sichuan created from the 8th through the 10th century, such as that from the Qionlai Shisunshan Cliff Images (邛 崃 石笋山摩崖造像) and Jiajiang Qianfoyan Cliff Images (夾江千仏岩摩崖造像). By considering the iconography of the works through comparison with the content of prominent Sahasrabhuja sutras, the presentation will first discuss the nature of the scene presented through Dabeibianxiang. The presentation will then focus on a particular feature in these works, namely the inclusion of monks among the numerous attendants. Taking hint especially from niche no. 3 in the Shisunshan Cliff Images, where monks sit on either side of Sahasrabhuja with a mountain-scape as the background, the presentation attempts to point out that the images of monks correspond to an important element in the Sahasrabhuja cult, or the wish to promote the grade of enlightenment in the pursuit for Buddhahood.


Confession- and Repentance-Rituals of the Bodhisattva Guanyin in China and Japan

Rösch, Petra (Museum of East Asian Art Cologne, Cologne, GER)

Each year in the second month of the lunar calendar the ceremony called shuni’e is taking place in the Nigatsu Hall at Todaiji. 

One part of the shuni’e is a repentance ritual in front of an image of an eleven-headed Kannon Statue. The halo of and the Kannon image itself are both dating to the 8th century, when this ceremony took place for the first time in Japan. The shuni’e ceremony still taking place today is an often modified ritual, to which many elements, Buddhist as well as Shintoist, have been added through the centuries.
The paper wants to use the shuni’e ritual as a starting point for investigating the ritual practice of repentance focusing on the Bodhisattva Guanyin and asks the following questions:
Which elements of the ritual practice at Nigatsudo can be established as dating back to the 8th century having its origin in China? To which Chinese texts and ritual practices do the extant visual evidences in Japan refer? What can we conclude from these Japanese rituals and visual circumstances for repentance ritual practices in China and how many repentance rituals connected to Guanyin did exist and were practiced in China? The talk will answer these questions and uncover the material evidences for these ritual practices.


Buddha Guanshiyin in Polished Cliff Inscriptions in Shandong

Wenzel, Claudia (Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Wörth am Rhein, GER)

Polished cliff inscriptions (moya kejing 摩崖刻經) of the name of Buddha Guanshiyin 觀世音佛 in Shandong Province form a particular group among the rare occurrences of Guanshiyin as a Buddha in sixth century China. We find them in three places: On Mount Hongding 洪頂山 in Dongping County 東平縣, dated around 564, “Buddha Guanshiyin” is carved on a steep cliff in a remote mountain site. With Buddha Amitābha to the right, and Buddha Dashizhi 大勢至 (Mahāsthāmaprāpta) to the left, it forms a sub-group within an array of fifteen Buddha names that have been arranged carefully with spatial and temporal significance. On Mount Culai 粗徠山 in Xintai 新泰, another group of three, in this case Buddha Maitreya, Buddha Amitābha, and Buddha Guanshiyin, was carved on a large, solitary boulder, with a nearby colophon dating to the year 570. This site also has sutra passages taken from the Great Perfection of Wisdom Sutra 摩訶般若波羅蜜經, (T#223, 8: 250b3-7) and from the Sutra on the Great Perfection of Wisdom Spoken by Mañjuśrī 文殊師利所說摩訶般若波羅蜜經 (T#232, 8: 731a15-21). The undated carving on Mount Tao 陶山 in Tengzhou 滕州 puts Buddha Guanshiyin in between Buddha Amitābha and “Prājñāpāramitā” 般若波羅蜜.

A closer look at the topographic context of these three sites with cliff inscriptions will reveal that the manifestation of Guanshiyin as a Buddha cannot be seen exclusively in his role as immediate successor of Amitābha Buddha, known from the canonical Compassionate Flower Sutra 悲華經 (T#157) and the Sutra of Guanshiyin Bodhisattva’s Receiving Prediction 觀世音菩薩授記經 (T#371). It also needs to be understood in connection with the teachings on Emptiness (kong 空) and on the Perfection of Wisdom, prājñāpāramitā. This particular connection is also reflected in native Chinese scriptures like the Sutra on the Ten Great Vows of Guanshiyin 觀世音十大願經, where the bodhisattva takes his vows in front of Buddha Guanshiyin King of Emptiness 空王觀世音佛.


The Digital Avalokitesvara Project

Wong, Dorothy C. (University of Virginia, Charlottesville, USA)

Commencing with the Mahayana movement that began around the beginning of the Common Era, Buddhism developed into a religion with a pantheon of many deities, called celestial buddhas and bodhisattvas. As the personification of compassion, Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva had enormous appeal and grew in significance to supersede almost all other Buddhist figures, except Sākyamuni, the Historical Buddha. Following the transmission of Buddhism via both land and maritime routes, the cult of Avalokitesvara spread throughout Asia, adapting to various cultural, local traditions, and Avalokitesvara evolved into a multifaceted figure with many different names and forms of manifestation. Traces of this fascinating phenomenon are evident in both text and art. Buddhist texts were transmitted, translated, and interpreted locally, while art objects representing Avalokitesvara differed from region to region, stylistically and iconographically.

The goal of the Avalokitesvara Project is to develop a conceptual understanding of the spread of this cultic deity, spatially and temporally, as well as the patterns of this transmission. This is achieved through the creation of a virtual collection of art objects and textual descriptions pertaining to Avalokitesvara, accompanied by detailed analysis of iconographic features and other kinds of information, such as dates, places, historical periods, materials, techniques, styles, and patronage. Going beyond the basic level of cataloging and digitization of any single existing collection, the Avalokitesvara Project will provide a centralized resource that enables in-depth analysis and a richer understanding of this complex phenomenon.


Guanyin and Dizang: The Creation of a Chinese Buddhist Pantheon

Yu, Chun-fang (Columbia University, New York, NY, USA)

The frequent pairings of Guanyin with Dizang in sculptures, miracle stories, prayers, donor inscriptions and ritual texts constitute a new development in Chinese Buddhism. Buddhist cave sculptures in Longmen and Sichuan, for example, either depict the two in the same niche, or place their individual niches side by side. Guanyin and Dizang were often linked together in ritual and art. While the earliest examples are dated to the early Tang (618-907) or the 7th century, this phenomenon became more prevalent after the late Tang around the early 10th century. Such pairing does not have any basis in Buddhist scriptures. Why did such a pairing occur? A related larger question is: What can this development tell us about Chinese Buddhism? 


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