The End of the Dharma in Medieval Chinese Buddhism: On the “Image of the Extinction of the Dharma” at the Dazhusheng Cave of Baoshan (Henan) 寶山大住聖窟的「法滅之相」

Tue, Oct 8, 2019, 4:30 pm
1879 Hall, Room 137
Department of Religion, Buddhist Studies Workshop
East Asian Studies Program

The Dazhushengku 大住聖窟 (Cave of the Great Abiding Holy Ones) of Lingquan Monastery 靈泉寺 at Baoshan 寶山(Henan Province), constructed under the supervision of the eminent monk Lingyu 靈裕 (518-605) of the Northern Qi Dynasty, has been studied since Tokiwa Daijō’s 常盤大定 (1870-1945) investigation in the 1920s. Much discussion surrounds the relationship between the Sanjiejiao 三階教 (the Three Levels Movement) and the stone-carved scriptures and stupa inscriptions inside and around the cave. Lingyu’s biography in the Xu Gaoseng zhuan 續高僧傳 (Extended Biographies of Eminent Monks) states that he “had specially engraved the image of the extinction of the Dharma at front of the cave” when he founded the cave. The previous understanding of this record was that Lingyu carved scriptures related to the subject of the extinction of the Dharma, such as the Daji jing 大集經 (Great Collection Sutra) and Mohemoye jing 摩訶摩耶經 (Mahāmāyā-sūtra), which, together with the two statues of dharma-protecting deities at the entrance of the cave, constitutes the so-called “image of the extinction of the Dharma” (famie zhi xiang 法滅之相). Based on my fieldwork, however, I believe that the “image of the extinction of the Dharma” refers to the two deity statues plus a set of three statues, comprising one Buddha and two bodhisattvas, on the cliff at the eastern side of the cave entrance. The carved texts relevant to the Three Levels Movement, such as theFoming jing 佛名經 (Sutra on the Names of the Buddhas) and Lichan wen 禮懺文 (Text of Repentance Rite), at the western side of the cave entrance, which have been amply discussed by scholars, might have been engraved after Lingyu’s period. If my hypothesis about the “image of the extinction of the Dharma” at the cave can be verified, it would be the earliest Buddhist work of art yet discovered taking “the extinction of the Dharma” as its theme.


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