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Ritual and Representation in Chinese Buddhism: Visualizing Enlightenment at Baodingsh ...

Chapter 1:  Baodingshan and Concepts of Time
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Ritual and Representation in Chinese Buddhism:

Chapter 1

Baodingshan and Concepts of Time

Time. Universal or unique? Constructed or lived? Timelessness. Does time have a particular shape or look? Are there different kinds of time? Does time mean different things to different people at different times? This study looks at time through the lens of place, by the thoughts and actions of the people who passed through it and the objects of which it is comprised. The place selected is a Buddhist site in western China. Baodingshan 寶頂山 is not the largest such site in China nor the oldest or most heavily patronized, but several features make it uniquely suited for this approach.

One key feature of Baodingshan is the large number of narrative-sculpted tableaux integrated with inscribed Buddhist texts at the site (fig. 1).1 Because narrative is inherently time-based, this allows for considering constructions of time. Another distinctive feature of the site is the fact that Baodingshan contains texts and images related to some of the biggest movements in Chinese Buddhism—Pure Land, Chan, Huayan and Esoteric—allowing for an analysis of representations of time across these Buddhist schools of thought as well as a consideration of how time