Megan Bryson : Images of Humane Kings: Rulers in the Dali-Kingdom Painting of Buddhist Images: Rulers in the Dali-Kingdom Painting of Buddhist Images


This paper connects the visual depictions of Dali Kingdom 大理 (937–1253) rulers in the Dali-produced Painting of Buddhist Images (Fanxiang juan 梵像卷) with traditions of imperial support and legitimation connected to the Scripture for Humane Kings (Renwang jing 仁王經), a text that was integral to the state-protection Buddhism of the Chinese Tang (618–907) dynasty. Arguing that the expression of the Dali rulers in the painting as “Humane Kings” served to elevate the status of the Dali ruler over and above that of the Chinese Song 宋 dynasty (960–1279) ruler, the study shows how procedures of Buddhist statecraft are constructed in hybrid and regionally-specific ways in order to serve localized political narratives and programs of state legitimation. Specifically, in the case of Dali, such procedures allowed for the independent assertion of imperial authority and cultural distinctiveness against the backdrop of China.