Thanks to the ever-growing prosperity of maritime trade, a large number of foreign immigrants came to settle in Quanzhou. Ibn Battuta wrote in his travelogue that “Muslims live in a separate community” in Quanzhou. Among foreign immigrants in Quanzhou, Arabs and Persians had the biggest population, then those from India, Southeast Asia, Europe and Central Asia, in addition to a small number of immigrants from Northeast Asia. Foreign immigrants brought with them temple building designs from different religious traditions. Their family structures, economic life, architectural technologies, languages and cultures, traditions and customs interacted with indigenous cultures and social structures of Quanzhou, resulting in outstanding multicultural traditions. The architectural tradition of multiculturalism is a prominent feature of the serial nomination.
1. The architectural tradition of multiculturalism exhibited by the nominated components
Components and decorations of local Minnan-style buildings in Kaiyuan Temple blend diverse elements of Buddhism and ancient Hinduism, exhibiting the fusion and co-existence of Chinese and foreign religions, cultures, architectural designs and artistic expressions in Zayton Port during the 10th to 14th centuries.
The Sumerupedestal on the front platform and stone pillars at the rear corridor of the Mahavira Hall of Kaiyuan Temple are structural elements of Hinduism. The bracket components inside the hall, in the shape of Karyobinga, a Hindu figure with a bird body and a human head, blend designs of Chinese Feitian (flying Apsaras), Indian Karyobinga and European angel, presenting a rare example in the tradition of Chinese timber-structured buildings.
Kamadenu (a Hindu figure with a lion’s body and a human face) and lion relief figures alternately arranged on the girdle part of the Sumeru pedestal on the front platform of the Mahavira Hall of Kaiyuan Temple
74 Kamadenu relief figures on the girdle part of the Sumeru pedestal on the front platform of the Mahavira Hall of Kaiyuan Temple
The relief figure of Kamadenu in Meenakshi Temple in Madurai, India
Stone pillars of Hinduism at the rear corridor of the Mahavira Hall of Kaiyuan Temple
Citrakhanda pillars in the Mahamandapa of the Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram, Tamil Nabu, India
Hinduism pillars in Tianhou Temple
The bracket components in the Mahavira Hall of Kaiyuan Temple combine designs of Chinese Feitian (flying Apsaras), Hindu Karyobinga and European angel.
An aerial view of Zhenguo Pagoda and Renshou Pagoda
Zhenguo Pagoda and Renshou Pagoda in the courtyards of Kaiyuan Temple are China’s existing largest stone pagodas in the traditional style of storied timber structures. The fa?ades of the pagodas are decorated with relief figures of Indian Buddhism.
Bas-relief figure of monkey (left)?and Male Avalokitesvara (right)
North Elevation (left) and Section (right) of?Zhenguo Pagoda
Islamic Tombs is a mixture of Chinese and Islamic architectural traditions.
The cover stones of Islamic Tombs combine designs of Islamic flame-shaped arch and Oriental lotus petal-shaped pedestal, set in a traditional Chinese-style stone structure of pavilion and corridor
The Arab-style gate tower of Qingjing Mosque contains Chinese-style decorative patterns of cloud and grass scroll at its beam ends. The vault of the gate tower resembles the design of Song Dynasty caisson ceiling and the decorative pattern of tortoise back that symbolizes longevity.
Vault of the gate tower of Qingjing Mosque
Ribbed vault on the gate tower
Auspicious pattern of tortoise back in the Chinese tradition
Drawings of Eight-purlin caisson ceiling, one of Chinese traditional ceilings in Song Dynasty
The component in curved grass pattern on the gate tower of Qingjing Mosque is similar with the sparrow-shaped brace parts in Liusheng Pagoda and Kaiyuan Temple
More than 10 stone components of Islam, Nestorian Christianity and Hinduism, dating back to the Song and Yuan dynasties, have been unearthed at the foundation of the Site of Deji Gate.
An aerial view of the Site of Deji Gate
A Hindu buildingcomponent unearthed at the Site of Deji Gate
The Nestorian pattern (left) and the Islamic pattern (right)
2.Elements of diverse cultures contained in stone carving components of Islam and Christianity
a) Commonly used elements: Humen frame (arch-shaped frame) and cloud pattern
Elements adopted by both Islamic and Christian tombstone designs
Stone carvings on Islamic and Christian tombstones preserved in Quanzhou contain prominent Chinese elements: 1) Humen frame (arch-shaped frame), an element in the Buddhist architectural tradition, was adopted as the design of Islamic and Christian tombstones. The auspicious Humen design symbolizes the Heaven; 2) the decorative pattern of cloud was widely used in Islamic and Christian tombstones preserved in Quanzhou. Cloud pattern, an element of Chinese architectural tradition, was created on the basis of the Taoist concept of air and energy; 3) Other Chinese elements, such as lotus pattern and pattern combining plants with cloud, were also widely used in those Islamic and Christian tombstones.
Not only Chinese patterns but also Chinese carving methods were employed in the creation of Islamic and Christian tombstones.
b) More prominent Chinese influence in Nestorian stone carvings
Nestorian stone carvings with decorative patterns of lotus petals and cloud, preserved in Quanzhou
????Christian stone carvings in Quanzhou, especially Nestorian stone carvings, adopted more Chinese elements as their decorative patterns, such as lotus petals, cloud, canopies and hanging banners. These elements have auspicious meanings and symbolize the Heaven in Chinese cultural context.
c) Diverse images of angel
Nestorian stone carvings of angel figure, preserved in Quanzhou
Four-winged figures were commonly seen in Persian-Assyrian culture. Nestorian figures of four-winged angel in Quanzhou most probably originated from the Persian-Assyrian tradition. In addition, Nestorian stone carvings of angel figure in Quanzhou also show Byzantine influence. Quite many angel figures in Nestorian stone carvings, on display at Quanzhou Maritime Museum, wear a crown on the top of which there is a cross. Such crown was a popular style in the Byzantine period. In 330 AD, Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium and tried to place imperial power at a dominant position while achieving a balance between imperial power and ecclesiastical power. Byzantine emperors always described themselves as an envoy of the God crowned by Jesus Christ. The cross on the Byzantine crown implies the relationship between imperial power and ecclesiastical power, that is, the emperor was an envoy of the God. The cross crown worn by angel figures on Nestorian stone carvings in Quanzhou should have links with Byzantine culture.
Nestorian angel figures in Quanzhou blended elements of Buddhism. They wearBuddhist-style trailing ribbons and fly as gently and gracefully as Buddhist figures of flying Apsparas. Some Nestorian angel figures wear bulge-shaped headgears, which is a popular Buddhist style. Nestorian angel figures wear a round face, solemn appearance, a gemstone necklace and trailing ribbons. They sit cross-legged in a Buddhist way or fly, presenting a scene often seen in the Buddhist context.
Costumes of Nestorian angel figures in Quanzhou also exhibit distinctive elements of diverse cultures. As described by Quanzhou native scholar Wu Youxiong in his works titled Religious Inscriptions in Quanzhou, costumes of Nestorian angel figures in Quanzhou are very similar to monk robes from the Sasanian Dynasty of Persian, or show the influence of the Greek culture following the era of Alexander the Great of Macedonia, or resemble Chinese-style monk robes that bear the strong influence of Buddhist arts.
As shown in the photo, the angel figure wears Yun Jian (a cloud-shaped sash-like shoulder garment), a popular style of shoulder garment in the Mongolian Yuan period. According to the History of the Yuan Dynasty, “Yun Jian is shaped like four pieces of curved cloud combined, with five-colored patterns on yellow LuoSha (loosely and openly woven silk fabric) and blue-colored edges, interlaced with gold threads. The most prominent feature of Yun Jian is the use of four ruyi-shaped cloud pattern. It was a popular garment style, as it bears an auspicious meaning.
Costumes of Nestorian angel figures in Quanzhou exhibit the integration of local mundane elements, including fashion styles at that time. The influence of local mundane culture on Nestorian Christianity is also exhibited by such costume designs as black gauze cap of Han ethnic, Mongolian hat or Uighur finial hat that appeared in Nestorian angel figures.
Nestorian angel figures in stone carvings of Quanzhou are typical examples of multicultural fusion, blending various Christian and non-Christian elements such as influences of Greek-Byzantine culture (in the early period of Nestorian Christianity), Persian-Assyrian culture, Chinese Buddhist culture and mundane culture. Such multicultural fusion is a result of international exchanges in Quanzhou during theYuan Dynasty and its status as a cross point for cultural and religious dissemination by land and maritime routes. They also exhibit the spirit of openness and inclusion of Quanzhou during the Song and Yuan dynasties.
d) Islamic inscriptions in Chinese and Arabic scripts
The most remarkable exhibits in the Hall of Islamic History and Culture of Quanzhou Maritime Museum are several pieces of tombstone with inscriptions in both Chinese and Arabic scripts. A piece of granite tombstone, with a flat top and a wider bottom, bears six lines of Arabic script. There are three Chinese characters between the 5th and 6th lines, reading “Fan Ke Mu” (tomb of a foreigner).The tombstone was found in 1965 in the southeast part of Jincuowei on the western slope of Dongyue Hills in Quanzhou. The Arabic inscription reads, “To Allah belongs the order before and after. The tomb of Ibn Obeidallah…Muhammad b. al-Hasan. Oh my Allah!” While the Chinese characters are poorly carved, with spelling mistakes of one more dot stroke in character “Ke” and one more vertical stroke in character “Mu”, the Arabic inscription is graceful and fluent. The spelling mistakes indicate that the man who wrote the inscription for tomb occupant IbnObeidallah might be a foreign expatriate who had been in Quanzhou for not so long. He might be a Chinese beginner who attempted to insert three Chinese characters in the Arab inscription, by imitating tombstones for Han ethnic people.But the na?ve and immature strokes are also a vivid reflection of cultural exchanges at that time.
?Tombstone with Chinese inscription of “Fan Ke Mu”
Two pieces of tombstone of the Yuan Dynasty with inscriptions on both sides were unearthed in Jintoupu of Quanzhou in 1940 and 1956 respectively. The tombstone inscriptions indicate that the one unearthed in 1940 should be erected by Wu Yingdou in commemoration of his father Naina Muhammad b. Abudullah. TheChinese inscription reads, “My father was born on the 9thof the 12th month in the year of Wucheng and died on the 7th of the 2nd month in the year of Kuimao, at age36. He was buried here on the 1st of the 7th month in 1303 by his son Wu Yingdou who erected this tombstone with tears of blood.” The Arabic inscription reads,“Verily, we are Allah’s and, verily, to Him do we return. This is the grave of the sinnerNaina Muhammad b. Abdullah, the well-known…He prayed for mercy and forgiveness of Allah. He died in daytime on Saturday of Jumada l-Ukhra704(A.H.)(1305 A.D.).” The writing and grammar of the inscription indicate that Wu Yingdou had a better command of Chinese than the man who wrote the inscription of “Fan Ke Mu”. He even had a Chinese name. As a second-generation immigrant, he seemed to become part of local Han ethnic people in Quanzhou.
Tombstone of Naina Muhammad b. Abudullah (front and back sides)?
The inscription on the tombstone erected by Ahmad Junior in commemoration of his father Ahmad, unearthed in 1956, mentioned that his mother was a native of Zayton. The inscription indicates that Ahmad Junior was obviously proud of his blood as a descendant of Zayton people. The Chinese inscription reads, “My father was born between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on the 23rd of the 6th month of the year of Renchenand died at age 30 on the 25th of the 9th month in 1321. He was then buried here. This was erected by his son Ahmad in the 7th month in 1322.” The Arabic inscription reads,“Every soul must taste of death. Ahmad b. Khwaja Hakyim al-Din died in Zayton, the town where the mother of the Ahmad family lived. He was born in 692(A.H.), the Chinese lunar year of the dragon, and died at age 30.”
Tombstone of Ahmad
????The tombstone for the joint grave for a Persian couple, unearthed in Nanjiaochang of Quanzhou in 1965, bears inscriptions on both sides. The front side bears two vertical lines of Chinese inscription that read, “the grave of Lord Huang and Lady Bai”. There are three lines of inscription mixing Arabic and Persian scripts below the Chinese inscription. The Arabic inscription on the front side reads, “Umm Bayar and Ibn... In 715 A.H.(1315 A.D.)” and on the back side, “In the name of the merciful and compassionate Allah. Every soul must taste of death; and ye shall only be paid your hire upon the resurrection day. But he who is forced away from the fire and brought into Paradise is indeed happy, but the life of this world is but a possession of deceit.” As foreign immigrants who integrated themselves into local society, the Persian couple had the Chinese surnames of Huang and Bai respectively. This tombstone is a typical example demonstrating the mutual recognition and fusion between Chinese and Arab cultures.
The tombstone of Lord Huang and Lady Bai
Among tombstones with Chinese inscription, there are also two pieces for tomb occupants who had been government officials when alive. They are the tombstones for Zongling (an official rank equivalent to a magistrate) surnamed Pan and for Daluhuaci of Yongchun County respectively. The tombstone of Zongling Pan has a top in the shape of a pointed bow and a carved frame. Within the frame are four lines of Arab inscription, accompanied by Chinese inscription on both sides. The Chinese inscription reads, “Zongling Pan died on the 1st of the 4th month.” The Arab inscription reads, “Everything is perishable, except His face. His is the judgement, and unto Him shall ye return!” It is unknown what kind of official rank “Zongling” refers to, but it should a magistrate responsible for local military and judicial affairs.
Tombstone of Zongling Pan
The tombstone with Chinese inscription of “Official Daluhuachi of Yongchun County” was discovered in a pond outside Renfeng Gate of Quanzhou in 1939. Its top is in the shape of a pointed bow, and its bottom has been damaged. There are inscriptions on both sides. On the side decorated with the wave-patterned frame, there are four lines of Arab inscription that read, “Everything is perishable, except His face. The Prophet (may peace be on him) said, ‘Whoso hath died a stranger hath died a martyr. He hath passed away from this illusory world to Paradise, and is in the good graces of Allah the most high.’ This honorable official Amir...who dedicated his life to the faith, died on...” “Fengxun Dafu” mentioned in the Chinese inscription refers to a Yuan Dynasty official rank title. “Daluharci” is a Mongolian word that refers to an official rank of local magistrate. Daluhuaci was the highest official of a province, prefecture or county. Emperor Shizu of the Yuan Dynasty issued a mandate in 1265 that provincial Daluhuaci (governor-general) shall be held by Mongolian, Zongguan (governor) by Han ethnic, and Tongzhi (deputy governor) by Uighur. It will be the permanent rule forever.” The tombstone inscription indicates that the tomb occupant was the local governor of Yongchun County. He must be a Mongolian or a Semu. As Arabs and Persians were categorized as Semu people during the Yuan Dynasty, the tomb occupant may also be an Arab.
Tombstone of Daluhuaci of Yongchun County
3. Analysis of the integration of Hindu architecture with traditional Chinese style in Quanzhou
The 200-odd pieces of Hindu stone carving that still exist in Quanzhou today are almost all stone components of Hindu temple buildings. They are important and only existing remains of Hindu temple buildings in China. These remaining components bear more intensive and exquisite carving designs than what appear in any other buildings. Their carving designs as well architectural structures where they are set are all mixtures of Chinese and Indian styles. Existing stone pillars ofHinduism in Quanzhou have no octagonal parts usually seen in Hindu stone pillars. They are evidently longer and slimmer than Hindu stone pillars of the Chola period in southern India and their carved patterns, more simplistic and unsophisticated, presenting a more see-through, brighter space effect. Their shape resembles that of traditional Chinese-style timber pillars.
Stone pillars of Hinduism at the rear corridor of the Mahavira Hall of Kaiyuan Temple
Citrakhanda pillars in the Mahamandapa of the Airavatesvara Temple in Darasuram, Tamil Nabu, India
Hinduism pillars in Tianhou Temple
Lifelike relief of wrestlers on a stone pillar in Kaiyuan Temple
Relief of wrestlers on a stone pillar in a Hindu temple of southern India
Stone relief in Kaiyuan Temple depicting Krishna stealing clothes away from a bathing girl
Stone relief in Virupaksha Temple of southern India, depicting Krishna and a grazing girl
Vishnu and his Mount Garuda on a stone pillar in Kaiyuan Temple
Garuda in a temple of India
Krishna playing the flute, relief figure on a stone pillar in Kaiyuan Temple
Krishna playing the flute, relief figure in Varadharaja Temple in southern India
Vishnu and His Consorts, relief figure on a stone pillar in Kaiyuan Temple
Vishnu and His Consorts (Lakshmana, Goddess of Wealth and Bhudevi, Goddess of Earth) from the Chola Period of southern India
In terms of pedestal parts, the pedestal on the front platform of the Mahavira Hall of KaiyuanTemple, is a localized form of Sumeru pedestal, except from Hindu decorative details such as Kamadenu relief figures on the girdle and more curvy patterns of overturned lotus petals. In terms of wall parts, temple buildings in southern India, especially their gate towers, feature highly ornamental decorations, while walls between supporting pillars in Quanzhou are made of unadorned stone slabs, which strikes a strong contrast against common architectural designs of Hinduism.
In addition, several niche-shaped stone carvings have also been unearthed in Quanzhou. They are similar in size, with a height of 50cm each. Stone carvings on supporting pillars and walls also have a similar size, featuring a height of approximately 25cm. Their edge parts do not show major damage, indicating that these original parts were carved separately in accordance with uniform standards. On that basis of analysis, niche-shaped stone carvings and supporting pillars are both stone components of walls. Local artisans in Quanzhou carved reliefs and supporting pillars on stone slabs of uniform size and then used these stone slabs to build walls, imitating designs of stone pillars and relief decorations on outer walls of temple buildings in southern India. Such decorating and building method is also available in the twin pagodas of Kaiyuan Temple and Liusheng Pagoda. It was a mature and common method widely used in ancient Quanzhou.
Hindu niche-shaped stone carving components in Quanzhou
Niche-shaped stone carving components in temples of southern India
There are also some remaining eave components in Quanzhou. For temple buildings in southern India, purlins are arranged on upper beams of a Sumeru pedestal, the upper frame of a wall niche, and each layer of tilted eaves. There are figures of Garuda or beast spouting water drain on the upper part and a niche with carved decorations on the lower part. In comparison, eave components in Quanzhou are more simplistic, merely decorated with relief of Garuda’s head and upper body. In terms of overall carving design, Hindu stone carvings in Quanzhou feature an objectified figure of Garuda, simplified decorations, localized human figures, and transformed carvings of story figures. They exhibit unconscious deviation from the pure Indian style and unconscious adoption of the Chinese style.For example, the figure of Vishnu features a long, thin and skinny face in the Chinese style, rather than a short and round face in the Indian style. Their bodies are free from fleshly figures of the Indian style. This “castrated” style of Hindu carving art exhibits the fusion between the Hindu style and the Chinese carving and aesthetic tradition.
Carved figure of Vishnu in Quanzhou（left）and carved figure of Vishnu in southern India（right）
Carved figures of Vishnu in Quanzhou and India (the one in the center is from Quanzhou)
Hindu stone carvings in Quanzhou
Hindu stone carvings in India
Stupas in Kaiyuan Temple and Luoyang Bridge
According to Small Stone Pagodas and Pillars Inscribed with Sutra Texts, authored by Professor Fang Yong of the Archaeology and Museology School at Peking University and published in the Journal of Technology of Historic Buildings and Gardens(4th issue of 1993), the stupa of Luoyang Bridge was created in the same year as the bridge structure. Stupas became a popular architectural style in southern Fujian, starting from the Song Dynasty, and the stupa of Luoyang Bridge was a pioneering model. It exhibits evident traces of evolution from storied pagodas. The two angular lines below the top cap are the result of degeneration of architrave corbels. The stupa features a cylinder-shaped body with curved-in ends, presenting a transformation from a polyhedron shape to a sphere shape. The lotus design is round and large. The stupa bears inscription indicating its completion date in Jan 1211. It is the only existing of its kind.The stupa is 3.90 meters high, featuring fine carving, well-balanced shape and beautiful design. The body of the stupa is egg-shaped. The relief figure of the Buddha on the stupa features long ears extending to the shoulder and wears a face and a robe in the style of the SongDynasty. The lower part of the stupa is shaped like an overturned bowl, similar with local Minnan-style pillar pedestals. Its Sumerupedestal and foundation show the style of Indian stonework. It is an outcome of the eastward dissemination of Esoteric Buddhism of ancient India. During the Song Dynasty, Quanzhou became a great port in the East and its boats can reach Southeast Asia and India. It saw economic prosperity, religious inclusion and growing population of foreign immigrants. All those provided a historical context for the prosperity of stone architecture in Quanzhou.
According to Dissemination of Esoteric Buddhism and Stone Pagodas of Quanzhou during the Song and Yuan Dynasties, written by Yan Aibin of the Institute of Historyand Geography of Fudan University and published in Chinese Research of Cultural Property Technology (3 issue of 2012), Quanzhou has been long influenced by foreign cultures. The Muslim invasion to India during the 13th century led to the expatriation of many Esoteric Buddhist monks. This fact corresponds to frequent maritime transportation between China and India during that period of time.Traditional building remains in Quanzhou shows extensive influence of Esoteric Buddhism of India. In addition to stone reliefs, Sanskrit inscriptions and the Mahavira Hall of Kaiyuan Temple, such influence is more extensively manifested in casket-shaped stupas with sutra inscription, treasure pagodas and stone pillars inscribed with sutra texts.
4. Analysis of the integration of Islamic architecture with traditional Chinese style
Qingjing Mosque as a component of the serial nomination is one of the oldest existing mosques in China. Its buildings are a mixture of typical features of Middle Age mosques of West Asia and elements of traditional Chinese architecture, bearing a testimony to close economic ties and cultural exchanges between China and the Middle East in the context of prosperous maritime trade of Quanzhou during the 10th to 14th centuries. Its gate tower and gate hall blends Persian and West Asia styles with local traditions of Quanzhou. The design of ribbed vault on the gate tower is marked by the use of corbel vault commonly seen in traditional buildings of Quanzhou. The vault is crowned by a ceiling of round stone carved with lotus patterns, exhibiting technical consistency with the corbel vault of Wang Chao’s tomb in the late Tang Dynasty. The half vault on the lower part of the gate corridor is carved with arch-shaped niche decorations in the shape of honeycomb, imitating designs of Mukarnas-style vault popular in the region from Persia to Syria at that time. But different from Mukarnas-style vault, the vault of Qingjing Mosque is made of six layers of stone slabs, gradually narrowed layer by layer from bottom to top. Each layer has five sides and each side is made of a piece of stone slab carved with arch-shaped niches. Stone slabs were separately carved and then put together to build the vault. The number of niches on each layer gradually decreases layer by layer from bottom to top. The natural transition from square form to round form, a typical feature of Mukarnas-style vault, is obviously unavailable in the vault of Qingjing Mosque. The latter can only achieve the transition by using corner stone, which is also the case for West Asia-style ribbed vaults in Ayiwang of Xinjiang. Such design reflects the imitation of foreign styles by making use of local traditional technology.
Vault on the gate tower
Ribbed vault on the gate tower featuring the style of West Asia
Transformed Mukarnas-style decorations
Lotus-shaped ceiling on corbels, Tombof Wang Chao of the late Tang Dynasty
Walls of Qingjing Mosque were built by using Quanzhou’s traditional technique of stone walling with tight seam. Each wall consists of five to seven layers of vertically arranged slab stone (only one layer for the walls of Fengtian Altar) and one layer of horizontally arranged slab stone, overlaid alternately, sharing similarity with construction methods used for stone bridges and pagodas in Quanzhou but exhibiting more prominent decorations. Inside the distinctive four-center round arch gate, there are carved stone lintels supported by sparrow-shaped braces at threshold pillars. Sparrow-shaped braces used in Qingjing Mosque have no major difference from those used in Yuan-Dynasty Chinese-style buildings, such as Liusheng Pagoda. The interior of the vault-shaped gate hall is a brick vault structure, decorated with plaster patterns. Its cross section is also in a four-center round shape with a pointed high top, which is different from traditional Quanzhou-style corbel vaults that are flat with a smaller rise-span ratio and requires more stone material, but similar to techniques and designs used for brick corbels in West Asia. In conclusion, on the basis of techniques used for the construction of the gate tower, Qingjing Mosque was completely built by local artisans of Quanzhou. The builder of the gate tower mentioned in the inscription lived in the Persian region for many years, but not an expert in architecture, especially in stone architecture. So while making full use of traditional stone building techniques of Quanzhou, he also imitated mosque styles popular in Persia and West Asia. His imitation was superficial. Transmission of technologies would still depend on artisans, rather than merchant accounts. This fact indicates that concepts and forms were transmitted earlier than technologies during exchanges along the Maritime Silk Road which primarily focused on trade and were primarily carried out by merchants.
5. Fusion of diverse cultures exhibited by the Statue of Mani in Cao’an Temple
a) The statue was carved out of a round niche which symbolizes the sun and the moon, reflecting the Manichaean doctrine of respecting the sun and the moon.
b) The 18 radiant strips behind the figure of Mani symbolize the doctrine of “Eighteen Perfections”. The First Perfection is “perfection in tangible things”, focusing on the truth that “Light shines through the lightless world”. This concept harmonizes with the Manichaean theory of two substances and corresponds to the Buddhist hymn of “purity and light”.
c) The halo effect behind the figure of Mani can be also found in Buddhist statues of Central Asia elated to light.
d) The image of the statue figure is basically the same as what is described in the Brief Account of Manichaean Rituals, an important classic of Manichaeism written inthe Tang Dynasty, that reads, “The Buddha of Mani wears a halo of twelve radiant lights on the top...He has an exceptional, unparalleled figure and wears a plain cape gown. He sits on a white base that is shaped like the land of Five Vajrayanas.”
e) The statue features a Taoist image and a Buddhist body. The figure of Mani sits in a lotus position and is dressed like a Taoist, wearing a front-opening Taoist gown with wide sleeves and with his hair loosely hanging down to the shoulder. The halo of eighteen radiant lights symbolizes the Buddhist doctrine of “Eighteen Perfections”. The figure of Mani is truly a mixture of Buddhism and Taoism.
The Statue of Mani in Cao’an Temple is a miraculous monument exhibiting the coexistence of Manichaeism, Buddhism and Taoism and the localized Manichaean idea of “trinity of three sages”.
Statue of Mani in Cao’an Temple
Manichaean Wall Painting (Qocho of Turfan)