A few later works depicting itinerant monk figures have survived, such as the relief decoration of the Fan Pagoda in Kaifeng, Henan Province, dated to the 10th or 11th century, Along the River during the Qingming Festival
from the 12th century, and Decent of Honorable Ones
from the 13th century. In addition, this figural type was employed in several Kamakura era (1185–1333) paintings in Japan. The focus of this essay, however, is the group of paintings from 9th and 10th century Dunhuang, which are the oldest extant examples and represent itinerant monk as the independent subject of the painting. For later examples of itinerant monk images, see (Ide 2008, pp. 22–28
; Xie 2009, pp. 82–84
; Hara 2011, pp. 216–19
The paintings bearing this inscription are respectively housed in the National Museum of Korea, theTenri Library, the Musée Guimet, the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and the State Hermitage Museum. For the image of the Tenri Library piece, which is not included in this paper, see (Ōsaka Shiritsu Bijutsukan et al. 1992, p. 133
; Dainobu 2002, pl. 34
(T 293, 10: 801c1; T 440, 14: a6–7; T 441, 14: 237b13–16). Although not as detailed as the Jinguangming jing, the Dizang pusa benyuan jing also mentions that when one hears the name of Baosheng Buddha, he or she will not fall onto an evil path and will be reborn in heaven (T 412, 13: 786a19–20).
(T 663, 16: 353a19–b2, 396a19–b3).
(T 1318, 21: 471a1; T 1320, 21: 478a26–b8).
Only some excerpts of the Mingseng zhuan
survive in the Mingseng zhuan chao
(Manuscript Copy of the Biographies of Famous Monks) in Shinsan Dainippon zokuzōkyō
(新纂大日本續藏經) ed. Watanabe Kōshō
Kokusho kankōkai, (1975–1989
), 1523, 77: 358b13–23. It is available online through Zhonghua Dianzi Fodian Xiehui (cbeta.org) and I have used this electronic edition. The story of Sengbiao is also discussed in (Soper 1959, p. 44
). Regarding “Yubin” as a mistake for “Yutian,” see (Kumagai 1958, pp. 97–98
; Rhi 2005, p. 173, footnote 19
(T 2061, 50: 846a25–c12). Muru’s story is also found in several later sources, including the Fozu tongji
(Chronicles of Buddhas and Patriarchs, comp. 1269) (T 2035, 49: 375c18–376a22; T 2036, 49: 598b1–13; T 2064, 50: 1000c17–1001a23). It has been suggested that Muru was either the son of King Sŏngdŏk or the fifth son of King Sinmun (Yŏ 1998, pp. 166–71
; Sŏ 2016, pp. 361–92
Some scholars regarded Muru’s worship of Baosheng Buddha to be esoteric based on Muru’s association with Amoghavajra and the reputation of Baichaogu as an esoteric establishment as attested in the biographies of Zengren (813–871) and Daozhou (864–941) in the Song gaoseng zhuan
. Although it is difficult to disregard the possibility, no direct evidence remains that substantiates the association (Wang  2016, pp. 102–5
; Yŏ 1998, pp. 172–75
; T 2061, 50: 877a24–b25, 859a20–b12).
This translation of the dedicatory inscription has been adapted with slight modification from (Mair 1986, p. 33
Wang Huimin also pointed out that a similar context is found in a manuscript from Dunhuang (Tst 4532) that consists of four sūtra copies commissioned by Zhai Fengda for his deceased wife in the fifth year of the Xiande reign (958). The colophon in one of the sūtras mentions that they held the feast on the seventh day after Mrs. Ma’s death and Zhai Fengda reverently copied Wuchang jing
無常經 (Sūtra on Impermanence) on one scroll and reverently painted one picture of Buddha Baoji (寶髻如來佛). Wang regarded Baoji Buddha is a variation of Baosheng Buddha (Wang  2016, pp. 100–2
). For more discussions on the manuscript commissioned by Zhai Fengda, see (Teiser 1994, pp. 102–21
The lines in the upper part of the cartouche were created as part of repair. Akiyama also noted that the missing upper part could be only a few centimeters long considering the missing portion of the cartouche, and that it is unlikely that there was a small Buddha in this painting. On the other hand, Roderick Whitfield suggested the possibility of a small Buddha represented in the missing part of the painting (Akiyama 1965, pp. 165, 167
; Whitfield 1982, p. 337
; Giès et al. 1995, p. 317
Another unusual feature is the backpack. It has a round shape and we cannot ascertain whether or not it holds scrolls (Giès et al. 1995, p. 317
For the primary sources mentioned by Xie Jisheng, see T 2120, 52: 828a25–28, b15–18; T 1349, 21: 863a21.
Xie further suggested that the tiger accompanying the monk in the paintings was the White Tiger that represents the west among the Four Directional Animals, yet the tigers in the surviving paintings mostly have brown fur (Xie 2009, pp. 83–86
). For more on the meaning of the tiger images in this type of paintings, see (Feltham 2012, pp. 1–29
According to the Da Tang Da Ciensi Sanzang Fashi zhuan
(Biography of the Tripiṭaka Master in Great Ciensi Monastery of the Great Tang), Xuanzang obtained the Bore xinjing
from an old man during his visit to the Shu region and that he recited the sūtra whenever he encountered danger. He also translated the Da bore xinjing
in 600 fascicles (Matsumoto 1940a, pp. 12–19
; T 2053, 50: 224b07–13). For the role of Xuanzang in popularizing the Bore xinjing
, see (Nattier 1992, pp. 179–99
A textual reference for the illustration of small Buddhas coming out of a monk’s mouth is found in the biography of Xiaokang, a follower of Shandao (Kobayashi 1954, pp. 21–22
; T 2061, 50: 867c11–13).
For the relevant changes attested in the worship of monks’ relics in the 10th century, see (Lee 2010, pp. 202–53
(T 2061, 50: 867b28–29).
(T 2920, 85: 1463b28–1464a08). For the translation of the Sengqie Heshang yu ru niepan shuo liu du jing
, see (Yü 2001, pp. 218–20
(Zhongguo shuhua yanjiu ziliao shi 1983, vol. 1, pp. 42, 43, 46, 50, 54–55, 57; vol. 3, pp. 1383, 1386–87, 1396, 1405
The earliest example was executed by Wang Ding 王定. The other painters mentioned are Wu Daozi 吳道子, Zhou Fang 周昉, Han Gan 韓幹, Zhao Wutan 趙武壇, Liu Xingchen 劉行臣, Lu Yao 陸曜, Lu Lengqie 廬楞伽, Zuo Quan 左全, Li Guonu 李果奴, Wang Shaoying 王韶應, Dong Chong 董忠 (Sirén 1956, pp. 14–23
; Nagahiro 1977, vol. 1, p. 221
; Yu 2011, p. 103
; Yu 2016, p. 90
If the itinerant monk figures in these caves were guardians, it would be more fitting for them to face outwards so that they could protect the sacred space from any harmful forces outside. However, those in Mogao Cave 308 are facing inwards. See (Xie 2009, p. 83
; Zhongguo bihua quanji bianzuan weiyuanhui 1996
, Explanatory Text for Plate 2).
(Yu 2011, pp. 103–8
). The textual sources on xingdao seng
and xing seng
murals demonstrate that a portion of them can be categorized as portrayals of eminent monks and patriarchs. Dashengci Monastery in Chengdu had murals of xingdao gaoseng
行道高僧 that included Aśvaghoṣa, Āryadeva, and 28 patriarchs. The expression “xingdao gaoseng
” also appears in the description of the murals in Baoli Monastery in Chengdu, and Dashengci Monastery is said to have housed murals of 60 xingdao luohan
(arhat) figures. Jing’ai Monastery in Luoyang had a xing seng
mural that featured Tang Sanzang 唐三藏 (Tripiṭaka of the Tang), which indicates Xuanzang (Zhongguo shuhua yanjiu ziliao shi 1983, vol. 3, pp. 1383, 1386, 1396, 1405
). As for the painting of Xuanzang in Jing’ai Monastery, it is unlikely that he was represented as an itinerant monk carrying a backpack since it is widely accepted that it was only in the later period that this figural type was adopted to represent Xuanzang. Rather, it would have been more similar to the walking image of Xuanzang found on the door panel of a Buddhist shrine housed in Shōsōin (Wong 2002, pp. 43–81
; Hara 2011, p. 217
; Miyake 1998, pp. 59–93
Of particular interest in this context are the images of 24 Indian patriarchs in Dazushengku Cave at Lingquan Monastery dated to 589, which is related to the patriarchal lineage in the Fu fazing yiyuan zhuan
. The monks are depicted in seated poses (Henan Sheng Gudai Jianzhu Baohu Yanjiusuo 1992, pp. 17–18, 294
; Young 2015, pp. 96–111
). Textual sources on monastic portraits survive in various sources, and whenever mentioned they are mainly found in seated poses. As for the standing poses, we can see numerous examples when monks appear as attendants of a Buddha or bodhisattva.
For example, see (T 2060, 50: 546b10–11, 20–21, 575c17–18, 583a10). Monks traveling outside the capital area and participating in various activities in the Northern Dynasties are examined in the following (Liu 1995, pp. 19–47
Wei-cheng Lin explores this issue regarding the Dunhuang murals of the Tang period. Although in different context, Lothar von Falkenhausen’s discussion on the three modes of figure representation is also useful in considering the meanings of figures in action (Lin 2013, pp. 172–78
; Falkenhausen 2008, pp. 51–91
For example, the biographies of Fakai in the Liang, Facheng, Jingye; and Sengshi in the Sui; and Daoji in the Tang periods recorded in the Xu gaoseng zhuan all mention of monks traveling with zhi (帙) on their backs. This term refers to a book cover for either a single book or a set (T 2060, 50: 474a8–9, 499c6–8, 517b22–23, 532b16–17).
Matsumoto Eiichi mentioned several stories involving monks and a tiger, and particularly noted the story of Qiyu, a monk from the Western Regions (Matsumoto 1937, pp. 519–20
; T 2059, 50: 388a17–24). Nakamura Kōji explained the tales of monks’ subjugating tigers in the context of Sinicization of Buddhism (Nakamura 1984, pp. 20–22
(Wang  2016, pp. 105–15
). Although a large portion of textual descriptions of Li Tongxuan’s career and images overlap with the iconographic features of the itinerant monk paintings, some of their important features cannot be explained in relation to Li Tongxuan, such as the foreign look of the primary figure.
It is difficult to determine the materials used for crafting the hats worn by the main figures in the itinerant monk paintings. Soymié explained that the hat is made of bamboo leaves (Soymié 2000, p. 41
(T 2061. 50: 826c10–827a12). The text is also discussed in (Itō 1978, p. 12
Another image of Buddhapālita with similar attire is found in a scene in the mural that illustrates his second encounter with Mañjuśrī (Sun 1999, pp. 202, 234–36
Soymié found the reason for the lack of a backpack to be rooted in the incompleteness of the painting (Soymié 2000, p. 50
). However, the rectangular frame for the cartouche located behind the figure leaves no room for a backpack to be inserted.
The function of clouds in the Tang Buddhist paintings of Dunhuang is also discussed in (Lin 2013, pp. 172–78
At the foot of the cartouche are preserved three characters “Yin lu pu,” which seem to have been intended to refer to the bodhisattva as “Yinlu pusa” (Soul-Guiding Bodhisattva) (Whitfield 1982, p. 302
The painters mentioned in this context are Yan Lide 閻立徳, Zhao Deqi 趙德齊, Li Sheng, Sun Zhiwei, Wu Zongyuan 武宗元, and Shi Ge 石恪 (Lu 1993, vol. 2, pp. 64, 67, 69–71, 75, 81
(T 24, 1: 339c15–341a5).
(T 1, 1: 130b21–27; T 23, 1: 293c27–294a3; T 24, 1: 340a20–b3; T 25, 1: 395a19–b3).