Breaking God's Flail: Chan Sculpture and the Death of a Great Khan in Song Dynasty Hechuan

Front Cover
Kim Hunter Gordon, Sep 1, 2012 - Art - 143 pages

In the Southern Song dynasty, Hechuan was the wealthiest county in the Sichuan basin, sat at a strategic point at the confluence of three major river routes. The two spectacular relics left here from the period demonstrate how two outside influences, one cultural and one military, left their mark not just in Sichuan but changed the face of the whole Chinese empire.

The lucid sculpture at Laitan’s Erfo temple is the only three-dimensional representation of the Chan school’s defining transmission narrative. The emphasis on monastic lineage, real personages and achievable enlightenment for the laity is clearly expressed in the sculpture here and was designed to conform to, and court, the Chinese Confucian elite. This book gives a statue-by-statue guide to the iconography at this unique cliff site plus an introduction to the Chan school and its relationship with local elites.

The Song stronghold at Diaoyu fortress is lauded in patriotic historiography as the ‘Mecca of the East’, credited to have broken the dreaded ‘flail of God’ (that is, the Mongol war machine) as it poised to ravish Europe and the Islamic world. But with Europe and Islam at war with one another and the Mongols set to establish a glorious but short-lived new dynasty in China, the narrative is reassessed in this the first English language work on the subject.

 

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