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The Art of Buddhist Sculptures and Its Sociocultural Significance in Liao Dynasty―Based on the Collection of Chung Tai World Museum
Zheng, Yiting Ethan
In the history of East Asia, the Khitan-founded Liao dynasty was special because of its popular Buddhist beliefs and successful reign of different ethnic groups, especially Khitans and Hans. The Liao government promoted powerful military forces and multiculturalism and it led to its conquest of the large landscape in Northern china. One of the characteristics of Liao dynasty was its prosperous Buddhist beliefs. Buddhism was an important cultural component in Liao dynasty, proven by two historical records. First, the “ Avalokiteśvara, ” a famous bodhisattva in East Asia, had been worshiped as a god in Khitan’s ancestral temple. This historical fact shows that Buddhism seemed to have risen to become the state religion of Liao dynasty. Second, the Liao government had often used Buddhism cultural relics as diplomatic gifts to other Eastern Asian diplomats. Historical records showed that Liao dynasty has likely transmitted its culture and beliefs through these Buddhist cultural relics. Through studying the style alteration on Buddhist statues, specifically the collection in Chung Tai World Museum, as well as the historical records of Liao dynasty, this paper aims to discuss the development of Buddhism in Liao dynasty and its relation with Liao’s social and cultural practices. Since all ancient Buddhist statues were handmade by artists during that time based on their various degrees of understanding and identification with their government and social-cultural practices, Buddhist statues from different time and location can reflect the unique characteristics of that contexts. Therefore, through analyzing Buddhist statues from different dynasties, one can discover different styles of Buddhist statues, which mirror the rich and diverse society values in different dynasties. In sum, this paper applies historical records analysis and Buddhist statues appreciation to discuss the social and cultural influences of Buddhism in Liao dynasty.
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