UBC Faculty Research and Publications

A Forgotten Eminent Buddhist Monk and His Social Network for Constructing Buddhist Statues in Qionglai 邛崍: A Study Based on the Statue Construction Account in 798 Sun, Mingli

Abstract

By transcribing, punctuating, and analyzing the Statue Construction Account undertaken in 798, this article attempts a refreshed study of the construction background of the Buddhist statues and niches at Huazhi Temple 花置寺 in Qionglai. The aim of this article is twofold. Firstly, it brings to light an eminent monk named Sengcai, who has been forgotten in both secular and monastic histories. Secondly, it tries to clarify the social network formed by various figures recorded in the Statue Construction Account by tracing their roles and relationships in the course of constructing the Buddhist niches. The analysis of this article expounds that in the process of the statue construction project, Sengcai made full use of his social network to support this project and to seek protection for Huazhi Temple. The construction activities of the Buddhist niches at Huazhi Temple not only brought people of different identities together through politics, Buddhism, economics or kinship, but also connected Qiongzhou (in Sichuan) and the capital of Chang’an to the formation of a multi-identity and cross-regional network of power in which emperor, officials, monks, military generals, craftsmen, literati, and so on, participated and interacted with each other. The whole social network can be divided into two sub-networks in Chang’an and Qiongzhou, with Sengcai as the central figure connecting these two sub-networks. Although the Buddhist niches of Huazhi Temple were carved in Qiongzhou, both the decisive preparatory work and the composition of the Statue Construction Account took place in Chang’an. Hence, the power of the Chang’an sub-network was greater than that of the one based in Qiongzhou. This means that the Buddhist niches at Huazhi Temple from Sengcai’s project were not merely a local project, but one that was strongly connected with the capital Chang’an in 798. Lastly, the Statue Construction Account in 798 at Huazhi Temple indicated mutual aid and support between Sichuan Buddhism and Chang’an Buddhism.

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CC BY 4.0