Six Buddhist Symbols: An Analysis of a Poetical Image of Buddha’s Enlightenment from the Song Dynasty
In the present article, I focus on six mutually interrelated Buddhist symbols, that occur in a poem written by Su Shi, a renowned Chinese official and poet from the Song dynasty. By developing an analysis of the background of individual iconographic motives and Buddhist symbols, all of which pertain to the iconography of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the article aims at revealing their inherent connections to certain segments of Chinese Buddhism, which were originally related both to the original (non-Chinese) Buddhist tradition as well as to Chinese native tradition. Consequently, in the subsequent discussion of the emergence and use of Buddhist symbolism in China, the article tries to shed some light on the particular manner in which, throughout many successive centuries, the Buddhist symbolism related to internal and external aspects of enlightenment were gradually entering into the domain of common poetic vocabulary, and hereby co-shaped the symbolic expressiveness of images used by the Chinese poet while disclosing the content of his inner world.
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