Inspired by Buddhist beliefs introduced from India, Central Asia, and the Himalayas, Chinese devotees created and commissioned out of their own sincere faith a wealth of original, expressive images. The works exhibited include paintings as well as ink impressions (rubbings). Together, these not only represent distinct iconographies and aesthetics but also reflect the intellectual and moral values of their patrons. Images of the historical Buddha and bodhisattva appear serenely reverent, whereas those of monks (luohan) are bizarrely contorted in their ardent search for enlightenment or whimsical in their dramatization of Buddhist beliefs and legends. Finally, a procession of tribute bearers from real and imaginary lands evokes the once-confident supremacy of China’s imperial rulers to receive the outside world on their own terms.
Rahula; impression from stone slab, ink on paper; from a set of Sixteen Luohan engraved in stone; Chinese, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), tradition of Guanxiu (832-912).