Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Chinese Manichaean Pronounciation of the Christian God's Name Was Yishu = 夷數

For the past 400 years it was a Buddhist work of art; before that, for at least 100 years, it was a Christian icon; and even before that, for ca. 300 years, it was a Manichaean work of art. Tthe iconography of this image is Manichaean from southern China from the 12th/13th centuries. Comparative visual data on ceremonial garments and depictions of deities are supplied by Chinese-style Manichaean works of art from 11th-century Xinjiang and 15th-century Fujian. Textual evidence on the well-known worship of Jesus and the use of images in Manichaeism are provided by primary and secondary literature. One of them is a 12th-century southern Chinese memorial that records the titles of six Manichaean paintings, including Yishu Fo Zheng; the most likely subject of this very image. Studying this painting allows us not only to think about questions of iconography, style, and context, but more importantly, provides a unique opportunity to use the tools of art history for solving a complex case of religious metamorphosis.

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