The Making of a Savior Bodhisattva: Dizang in Medieval China
In modern Chinese Buddhism, Dizang is especially popular as the sovereign of the underworld. Often represented as a monk wearing a royal crown, Dizang awaits the faithful to help them navigate the complex underworld bureaucracy, avert the sufferings of hells, and arrive at the happy realm of rebirth. The author examines this important Buddhist deity during his formative period--before he settled into his modern role as beneficient ruler of the underworld, when his iconography and hagiography were still rife with possibilities. She begins by problematizing the reigning evolutionary model of Xizang as the gradual sinicization of the Indian Ksitigarbha, a relatively unknown bodhisattva, into Dizang, an underworld deity. Such a model obscures the many-faceted personality and iconography of Dizang. Rejecting it, the author deploys a broad array of materials (scripture, epigraphy, art, ritual texts, and narrative literature) to recomplexify Dizang and restore what this figure meant to Chinese Buddhists from the fifth to tenth centuries. Rather than privilege any one genre of evidence, the author treats both material artifacts and literary works, canonical and noncanonical sources, to uncover forgotten aspects of the medieval Dizang. Through her analysis, the Dizang cult, far from being an isolated phenomenon, is revealed as integrally woven into the entire fabric of Chinese Buddhism, functioning as a kaleidoscopic lens encompassing a multivalent religio-cultural assimilation and so resists the usual bifurcation of doctrine and practice or "elite" and "popular" region. The Making of a Savior Bodhisattva presents a fascinating wealth of material on the personality, iconography, and loreassicated with the medieval Dizang, while it elucidates the complex dynamics underlying the making of a savior cult in Chinese religion.
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Careful, solid research! Dazzling in its range of evidence, engagingly and detailed in its analysis ... vividly brings to life the cult of the bodhisattva Dizang (the Chinese Jizō) in its complex formative period in medieval China (P. Tan, Ph.D., independent scholar)
I am personally drawn to the bodhisattva Jizo in modern Japanese Buddhism, and have long wanted to know about the sources for this deity in Indian and Chinese Buddhism. This book amply satisfies my curiosity. It paints a brilliantly detailed, nuanced overview of the early Chinese development of Jizo. One particular strength is the engaging and compelling analysis of the visual images and popular narratives.