China, Southern Song Dynasty / Shakyamuni Descending from the Mountains / 1244China, Southern Song Dynasty
Shakyamuni Descending from the Mountains

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Far East Asian; Chinese
Creator Dates/Places: China
Creator Active Place: China
Creator Name-CRT: China, Southern Song Dynasty
Title: Shakyamuni Descending from the Mountains
Title Type: Primary
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1244
Creation End Date: 1244
Creation Date: 1244
Object Type: Paintings
Materials and Techniques: hanging scroll, ink on paper
Dimensions: Overall: 74.6cm x 32.4cm
AMICA Contributor: The Cleveland Museum of Art
Owner Location: Cleveland, Ohio, USA
ID Number: 1970.2
Credit Line: John L. Severance Fund
Context: Early Buddhist paintings in China, like those in India--land of Shakyamuni's birth and source of the faith--featured compelling narratives, elaborate icons, or paradisiacal scenes of the celestial heavens. Such images were typically drawn in thin unmodulated lines that were subsequently filled with rich mineral pigments that enhanced the splendor and attraction of the religious visualizations. Unlike those paintings, favored by both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist sects, this religious image is sparely painted in tones of gray and black and exemplifies a tradition of Buddhist art unique to Chinese Chan and Japanese Zen sects. The subject is the Historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, shown after six austere years spent in virtual seclusion in the mountains seeking enlightenment. The success of his quest has been debated by theologians and commentators throughout time, but the quatrain on the Cleveland painting suggests that Chan and Zen Buddhists believed that Shakyamuni did achieve enlightenment: Since enteringthe mountain, too dried out and emaciated Frosty cold over the snow After having a twinkling of revelation with impassioned eyes Why then do you want to come back to the world? Seeking enlightenment like Shakyamuni, Chan and Zen believers in East Asia adhered to a kind of Buddhism that diminished the importance of other intervening Buddhist deities. Underlying their faith was a belief in personal responsibility and individual effort. To illustrate this conviction, they choose to represent the Buddha as both divine and human, enlightened yet frail, central but oblique. The use of the monochrome ink medium both distinguished their paintings from the images of other Buddhists and associated them more closely with indigenous traditions of monochrome ink painting. It is thought that the sparse but energetic brushwork of such depictions served as the metaphor for a faith in which enlightenment may come quickly at any time, catalyzed by almost any stimulant. Like secular paintings, images are frequently joined by written inscriptions, in this case by the poetic passage created by the abbot Chijue Daochong (1170-1251) of Mount Taibao in 1244. K.W.
AMICA ID: CMA_.1970.2
AMICA Library Year: 1998
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, The Cleveland Museum of Art

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