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Pictorial Versions of the Mulian Story in East Asia (Tenth–Seventeenth Centuries): On the Connections of Religious Painting and Storytelling

  • Rostislav Berezkin
OriginalPaper

Abstract

In this paper, I analyze pictorial representations of the Buddhist story of Mulian rescuing his mother in China, Japan, and Korea in the pre-modern and early modern periods. I have collected several pictorial versions of the Mulian story in these countries, and comparison shows close proximity of several such works. All of them are related to the narrative texts that represent elaboration of the originally scriptural story (it originated in the apocryphal Buddhist scripture that circulated in China) in vernacular languages. Images of the Mulian story in the countries of East Asia had diverse nature: they could appear as separate scenes in devotional religious paintings, multi-scene handscrolls, and illustrations in the manuscripts and editions. I argue that the subject of Mulian rescuing his mother was of primary importance in the popularization of Buddhist ideas among different layers of society. The related images were used for both storytelling and reading practices and helped different audiences to comprehend the Mulian story.

Keywords

Religious art Narrative images Chinese traditional art Japanese traditional art Korean traditional art 

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Copyright information

© Fudan University 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute for Advanced Humanistic StudiesFudan UniversityShanghaiTaiwan

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