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Surviving NirvanaDeath of the Buddha in Chinese Visual Culture$
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Sonya S. Lee

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9789622091252

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: September 2011

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789622091252.001.0001

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(p.2) (p.3) Introduction
Surviving Nirvana

Sonya S. Lee

Hong Kong University Press

This chapter discusses how the nirvana image came to be a part of a new cultural sphere after being introduced from another. It notes that the nirvana image had somehow retained one element of constancy throughout — the basic figuration of a reclining Buddha surrounded by mourners. It considers the functionality of the nirvana image and argues that the multiplicity of meaning in the nirvana image also places a greater emphasis on the role of the beholder in the motif's continuous transformation. It defines nirvana as a state of mind which is more or less equivalent to enlightenment or arhatship. It then presents an account of the adaptation and reinvention of the nirvana image in China from the sixth to twelfth centuries through four major material formats of the motif that attained prevalence successively throughout this period — stone implements, pictorial narratives, cave temple designs, and relic deposits.

Keywords:   nirvana image, China, Buddha, nirvana, stone implements, pictorial narratives, cave temple designs, relic deposits

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