Idea Proposal: Essay

What is Chinese Buddhist art? Compare two sculptures and address the question of change in art and religion when Buddhism arrives in China. The images need to be from lecture or from the Asian Civilizations Museum.

Realised I’ve done my essay wrongly (skewering more towards theology and the comparison only occupies a small portion) so I redid my proposal.



Define Chinese Buddhist art

Brief description on the changes in art forms and religious tolerance (also, the relationship between Buddhism and Confucianism/Taoism/folk religions) affects Buddhist art in China.

Brief introduction of two sculptures.

Claim: Chinese Buddhist art is the sinicisation of Buddhist art that first comes to China from India.

Screen Shot 2016-03-04 at 4.47.35 PM
sculptures I’m using to compare


  •  subject matter
    • earlier one is Buddha, the later sculptures are predominantly bodhisattvas
    • Explore why the change in popularity for subject matter
      • buddha vs bodhisattva
      • bodhisattva embody different virtues, “powers”.
        • devotee can seek a specific bodhisattva for specific things e.g. mercy from Guan Yin.
  • Composition
    • Buddhist elements in art (if present on sculptures)
      •  mudras
      • 32 major characteristics
    • 80 minor characteristics
    • Difference in style
      • Gandhara vs something more sinicised
      • why so?
  • Use
    • Different usage between the two
      • a form of worship/ iconex-voto (offerings to buddha)
    • context on the period at which they are conceived
      • what is happening during that time period?
      • are there factors that affects the way the culture is created?


Restate claim: Chinese Buddhist art is the sinicisation of Buddhist art that first comes to China from India.

However, there has always been a constant influx of Indian influence up till the Gupta period, which has an impact on the Tang “International style” of the Tang dynasty which spreads to Japan and Korea, before the decline of Buddhism in India.

As the influence of other religions in China is still strong, they have a considerable influence in Chinese art as well, this result in a syncretised culture and art that becomes distinctly Chinese.

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