in Journal

Essay Proposal


Chosen Question:

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.


Introduction Paragraph:

  • Buddhism originated in India
  • Spread to China around the 1st/2nd century
  • Gained traction during the late Han Dynasty, and experienced new heights of popularity in the Tang Dynasty.
  • This is especially evident in later Buddhist art such as those found in the Tang Dynasty.
  • Bring focus to the Buddha Vairocana in the Longmen caves (983CE)

    Thesis Statement:  Buddhism successfully became more accessible and assimilated into Chinese culture and society through sinicization.

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 11.14.38 pmSeated Buddha, Gilded Bronze (338CE)

Screen Shot 2016-03-10 at 11.15.01 pmBuddha Vairocana, Longmen Caves (983CE)


1st Paragraph:

  • Comparison between early Buddhist art and late Buddhist art
  • Chosen artworks:
    • Buddha Vairocana, Longmen Caves (983CE)
    • Seated Buddha, Gilded Bronze (338CE) (Earliest known Buddhist art)
  • Visual Analysis between the two
  • Comparisons:
    • Buddha Vairocana is more naturalistic and realistic (perhaps reflecting Taoist beliefs?)
    • Materials
      • Usage of limestone in the Buddha Vairocana – softer and rounder, allowing for more serene and realistic depictions of the figures
    • Scale
      • the Buddha Vairocana is 17m tall and on a very large scale (why?)
      • Perhaps a testament to its influence and significance such that people are willing to pour in the amount of money and time needed to create it.
      • Contrasts with the Seated Buddha, which is on a much smaller scale.


2nd Paragraph:

  • Contextual Analysis
  • China was in a time of turmoil and instability, and people were seeking other forms of salvation (need proper citation!)
  • Buddhist beliefs and practises were rejected because it was the opposite of pre-existing Taoist and Confucianist thinking
    • Both were focused on the individual’s relation to the family and community, while
    • Buddhism focused on being aware on one’s self and enlightenment
  • Buddhism thus had to undergo several changes
    • It eventually gained the acceptance of scholars, and was influenced and partially ‘fused’ with existing taoist beliefs
    • (Reference to visual analysis and link the cultural/religious growth to the aesthetics of the Buddha Vairocana)
  • Another sign that it had assimilated/was accepted in China:
    • Most statues were commissioned by emperors/empresses to gain good karma
    • Highlights the strong presence of Buddha such that even royalty participated in it



  • Re-state/summarise the cultural influences on Buddhism (and therefore) Buddhist Art.
  • It wasn’t just Buddhism that changed when it arrived in China. It developed a mutual relationship with Taoism and Confucianism, and they influenced and changed the other.
  • Buddhism underwent changes to suit China, and sculptures became more natural and realistic.



  1. Your current thesis statement is too broad. It is also a fact. In other words, no one can disagree with you.
    Make a thesis statement that addresses both similarities and differences.
    Where is your plan for the paper?
    Your first and second paragraph would be stronger if they were about the comparison. So, weave in the contextual analysis into all paragraphs. Don’t make it a separate paragraph, unless you have to.