This essay reconsiders the iconography of the group of paintings from Dunhuang commonly referred to as “itinerant monk paintings.” In an effort to acknowledge the paintings as a tradition unto themselves and highlight their visual language, this study focuses on the issues surrounding Baosheng Buddha and the unique feature of depicting the main icon in motion. The first matter is discussed in relation to the religious and artistic contexts of the inscriptions preserved in some paintings, and possible changes in the main figure’s identity from a monk worshiping Baosheng Buddha to the incarnation itself. The main icon’s mobile nature is examined in terms of its walking posture and cloud vehicle. Considering the tradition of xingdao seng
or xing seng
(walking monks) in monastery murals, this paper illuminates a growing interest in the Tang (618–907) period in portraying walking monks that underscores their position and role in the world of sentient beings. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the cloud vehicle played a critical role in underlining the main icon’s extensive and rapid travel to facilitate his encounter with and saving of sentient beings.
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