Chinese-Buddhist Encounter: Synthesis of Fuxi-Nüwa and the Cintamani in Early Medieval Chinese Art

  • Fan Zhang New York University Shanghai
Keywords: Fuxi and Nüwa, Cintamani, mural painting, hybridity, cultural exchange

Abstract

The standard pictorial formula of Fuxi and Nüwa, a pair of indigenous Chinese deities, started to absorb new motifs from Buddhist art during the early medieval period when Buddhism became more prominent in China. In this paper, I focus on the juxtaposition of Fuxi-Nüwa and cintamani, a magic Buddhist jewel, depicted on the ceiling of the corridor in the tomb of Lady Poduoluo, Pingcheng, Shanxi (435 CE). Through a detailed visual analysis, I explain the multiple meanings embedded in the combination of the Chinese mythological figures with the Buddhist symbol in the funerary space, thus challenging the previous studies that understand cintamani only as a substitute for the sun and moon. This paper furthers the discussion on the hybrid image by investigating the mural painting on the ceiling of Mogao Cave 285 in Dunhuang. Despite their different spatial and temporal contexts, both the tomb of Lady Poduoluo and Mogao Cave 285 present a similar pictorial formula, featuring the hybridization of cintamani and the Fuxi-Nuwa pair. This phenomenon invites us to explore the transmission of such motifs. I, therefore, situate the production of the syncretic scheme of Fuxi-Nüwa with cintamani within a broader historical context and examine the artistic exchange between Pingcheng and Dunhuang by tracing the movements of images, artisans, and patrons in early medieval China.

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Published
2019-06-28
How to Cite
Zhang, F. (2019). Chinese-Buddhist Encounter: Synthesis of Fuxi-Nüwa and the Cintamani in Early Medieval Chinese Art. Asian Studies, 7(2), 87-111. https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2019.7.2.87-111