Daoxuan's vision of Jetavana: Imagining a utopian monastery in early Tang
AuthorTan, Ai-Choo Zhi-Hui
AdvisorGimello, Robert M.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractThis study provides the first complete translation into a Western language of a fairly unknown but yet important Chinese work, titled the Zhong tianzhu shewei guo qiyuan si tujing (Illustrated Scripture of Jetavana Monastery in the Sravasti Kingdom in Central India), which describes Jetavana Monastery through textual and diagrammatic representations. To understand better the background of the text, I first discussed the life and times of its author Daoxuan (596-667 C.E.), an important figure in the history of Chinese Buddhism particularly in relation to the formation of Chinese Buddhist monasticism. I also explored the scriptural and historical records which might have served as sources for Daoxuan's own portrayal for the history and myth of the Jetavana Monastery. Finally, I offered a synoptic analysis of the text itself. The significance of Daoxuan's representation of Jetavana lies precisely in its function as a blueprint of a utopian Buddhist monastery for the early Tang Buddhists rather than as a faithful reconstruction of the historical site in India. The spatial complex and architectural design of the monastery visibly appropriates the symmetrical structure of the Chang'an City. The monastic compound is spatially organized into specialized cloisters and halls for the Buddha, the various ranks of Buddhist saints, the immortals and heavenly beings, the different commoners and laity who are visiting or living in the monastery. The text interfuses fact and fantasy, historical reality and religious vision; its description of extraordinary artifacts, divine creatures, and plants certainly mirror the Buddhist paradisal representations in texts and art. It is equally important to realize that such imagery is also derived in part from the exotic products, cultural curiosities, fantastical creatures imported from foreign lands that pervaded the markets of the cosmopolitan Chang'an in the Tang. Further investigation in my study of Daoxuan's portrayal of Jetavana suggests that the influence of this text is not only found in the Chinese monastic setting and Dunhuang cave art in the later periods, but its impact is also visible in Japanese Buddhism.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
East Asian Studies