Associate Professor, East Asian Art
University of Virginia
Friday, October 22, 4- 6 pm
Divergent Paths: Early Representations of Amoghapasa in East, South and Southeast Asia
Amoghapāśa Avalokiteśvara (Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva with the Unfailing Rope; Chi. Bukongjuansuo Guanyi, J. Fukūkenjaku Kannon) is one of the manifestations of Avalokiteśvara, with widespread worship in India, the Himalayas, East and Southeast Asia from around the latter part of the seventh century. However, the beginnings of this bodhisattva in East Asia in the seventh and eighth centuries remain unclear, with only a small number of examples dating from this early period. And yet, the earliest extant representation of Amoghapāśa in Tōdaiji (dated around 748), Nara, attests to the significance attached to the cult of this bodhisattva. Through analysis of textual materials and selected examples, the paper aims to explore the paths of transmission of Amoghapāśa and the various factors shaping the representations of this bodhisattva in diverse regions in Asia. The study demonstrates that images of Amoghapāśa of relatively close dates but from disparate geographical regions have very little in common, and that they probably develop from different textual, stylistic and iconographic traditions. For instance, early representations of Amoghapāśa in East Asia seems to have been based on texts translated into Chinese at the time and developed within the local artistic traditions rather than on image types introduced from India.