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UBC Theses and Dissertations

An iconographic study of "Ten Kings" paintings Watanabe, Masako


In China and Japan there are innumerable paintings and texts of the "Ten Kings of Hell" but to date there has been no systematic investigation of them. This thesis makes an attempt to categorize these art works and documents according to iconographic features and format. Classification has been successful in as much as a sequential order was established and new insight, substantiated by tenth century Tun-huang documents, Sung Buddhist records, and Japanese commentaries has been attained regarding iconographic and iconological properties. Tenth century Type A paintings of "Ti-tsang and the Ten Kings," characterized by iconic presentation and in large hanging scroll format, were superseded by mid-tenth century Type B narrative handscrolls consisting of "Ten Kings Illustrations" accompanied by Type Y texts, the edited and modified versions of their precursor, Type X. Textual investigation disclosed an affiliation between Ten Kings paintings and texts, and the unprecedented suggestion that Type A paintings and Type X texts had a close iconographic and iconological relationship Is made in this paper. Comparative analysis of Illustrations and texts shows that the Type X text, with emphasis on the concept of "Chui-shan" and "Yii-hsiu," corresponds iconologically to the large Type A hanging scrolls used in the funeral service, and that the Type Y text, which dealt exclusively with "Yii-hsiu" accompanied the Type B handscrolls used for accruing religious merit. Typological examination of thirteenth and fourteenth century Chinese paintings executed by professional painters in the Ning-p'o area, as well as scrutiny of traditional Japanese hell paintings, leads to speculation that the Ten Kings painting tradition between the tenth and thirteenth centuries was already depicting fully developed hell scenes, despite the fact that there is a dearth of literary and pictorial evidence. Fourteenth century Japanese Ten Kings paintings reveal that Chinese prototypes had undergone "Japanization" and that one particular set of paintings owned by Nison-in was based on three separate Chinese prototypes: two Ning-p'o models, and the tenth century Type B tradition, as well as traditional Japanese motifs. One significant aspect of the Japanization of this set is discernible in the elaboration of the "Honjibutsu" (origins of Buddhist deities) and this fact has been interpreted in the context of fourteenth century Japanese Buddhism, the Zen sect in particular.

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