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Li-kuei, Chien (2009) The Siwei Bodhisattva: The contemplating image in popular Buddhism of sixth century China. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This dissertation examines the visual characteristics and religious background of a distinctive Buddhist iconographic form, the contemplative or pensive image (banjia siwei xiang).This dissertation aims to shed new light on the long-standing scholarly debates regarding the pensive figure's identity, but more importantly to understand the way in which the image's changing forms and the changing meanings assigned to the image were linked to the formation of a new and distinctive complex of religious beliefs and practices.;This dissertation is based on an examination of more than two hundred sculptures of the pensive image, many of which are accompanied by dedicatory inscriptions. Approximately one-third of the images and inscriptions have not previously been described in any scholarly publication. The geographic and chronological coverage ranges from early Gandhara (the first to third centuries), Dunhuang and Jingta examples (c. 400-470 AD), through the Yungang, Maijishan and Longmen cave-temple complexes (c. 460-530 AD), to sixth-century examples from Shanxi, Hebei and Shandong.;The iconographic development shows a clear progression in the pensive figure's importance, from a minor role as attendant to a prominent deity in its own right. At the same time, my analysis of the accompanying inscriptions reveals that the figure gradually began to take on a distinct religious significance. To reconstruct the religious concepts that the Siwei Bodhisattva represented, I examine both textual and visual evidence relating to this figure, showing how it embodied ideas about mental discipline' in pursuit of enlightenment and the belief in Pure Lands. By reconstructing the religious beliefs and practices surrounding the cult of Siwei, I illustrate the ways in which Chinese religion was constituted through the interaction of texts, images and ritual practices.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:30

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