Buddhist Studies Review, Vol 29, No 1 (2012)

Reshaping the Jātaka Stories: from Jātakas to Avadānas and Praṇidhānas in Paintings at Kucha and Turfan

Tianshu Zhu
Issued Date: 13 Jul 2012

Abstract


Kucha was the major Buddhist center on the Northern Route of the Silk Road, and well known for being dominated by the Sarvāstivāda school for most of its history. Replacing the jātaka story, the avadāna story (story of causation) became the major theme depicted on the ceiling of the central-pillar caves in this area (fifth–seventh centuries). Turfan is another important cultural center in Central Asia where Buddhism once flourished. The praṇidhāna (or ‘vow’) painting, which was based on the Bhaiṣajyavastu, a vinaya text of the Mulasarvāstivāda school, was a unique subject normally appearing on the walls of Buddhist caves in Turfan (ninth twelfth centuries). Both the avadāna and praṇidhāna stories are derived from jātaka stories, with significant shifts of focus, as well as of the format of the narrative. In this paper, through studying the avadāna and vow paintings at Kucha and Turfan, and comparing them with jātakas in early Buddhist art, I attempt to show how jātaka stories were transformed for different doctrinal messages of Buddhist teaching in some late ‘Hīnayāna’ schools, namely Sarvāstivāda and Mulasarvāstivāda, and how the visual representations mirror the narrative styles in Buddhist texts.

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DOI: 10.1558/bsrv.v29i1.57

References


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