Contributor(s)Mondes Iranien et Indien
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) - École pratique des hautes études (EPHE) - Université Sorbonne nouvelle (UP3) - Institut National des Langues et Civilisations Orientales (Inalco)
[SHS.ART] Humanities and Social Sciences/Art and art history
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AbstractWhereas the historical connections of Bagan with India, Ceylon or China from the 11th to 13th century are known, the art-historical consequences of these exchanges have been only partly appreciated. The purpose of this paper is to present unpublished aspects of late 13th-century murals found in some temples of the site and more particularly related to the Yuan connection. The overwhelming presence of ornamental motifs having a Chinese or Mongol origin being here put aside, these are two iconographic motifs which will first presently retain our attention, i.e. the representation of Mongols and the depiction of dreadful door-keepers.This study shows how foreigners, in this case Mongols, could be integrated within canonical iconographic topics related to the life of the Buddha which had been illustrated at Bagan since the 11th century. This implies a subtle modification of the iconography with, for instance, the eight rulers having received the ashes of the Buddha being replaced by such characters. And this throws light on the position of these men – foreigners – in the Burmese context of the late 13th or beginning of 14th century, assuming the fundamental function of spreading the Buddha’s ashes in the eight spatial directions. In two further cases, these Mongols worship heavenly caityas hiding Buddha’s relics or replace semi-divine figures flying around the entrance to the monument, gaining thus new significance and importance. The presence of Mongols most probably also explains the depiction of dreadful door-keepers holding vajras or other weapons noted in one temple where they were not part of the initial iconographic program. These various aspects of the late 13th-century iconography at Bagan reflect one side of the relation between the site and the Yuan Empire: another fundamental and complementary facet, presented in the second and last part of this paper, is noted at Khara Khoto, Central Asia where cloth-paintings clearly show the Buddha typical of Bagan, i.e. having broad and round shoulders and head deeply sunken, hiding the neck.