S-Space College of Humanities (인문대학) Archaeology and Art History (고고미술사학과) Theses (Master's Degree_고고미술사학과)
The Narrative Painting of Prince Sukhāvatī
안락국태자전변상도: 불교 설화와 여성 성불 중심으로
- 인문대학 고고미술사학과(미술사학전공)
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 대학원
- The Narrative Painting of Prince Sukhāvatī (安樂國太子傳變相圖); Female Salvation (女性成佛); Buddhist Legend (佛敎說話); Amitabha's Pure Land (阿彌陀淨土).
- 학위논문 (석사)-- 서울대학교 대학원 : 고고미술사학과(미술사학전공), 2014. 2. 이주형.
- This thesis discusses Buddhist women's salvation depicted in The Narrative Painting of Prince Sukhāvatī (安樂國太子傳變相圖, 紗羅樹幀, 1576), produced during the Chosŏn Dynasty. By reading the story's original text as well as interpreting its pictorial representation, this paper intends to identify how the Royal court ladies of the Chosŏn Dynasty found their religious refuge from patronizing and viewing a certain piece of artwork. Based on this particular narrative painting, it is also crucial to find out the visual representation of noble women taking their final peace in Amitabha Buddha and the Pure Land cult into account. Since the cult of the Amitabha Buddha propagates the promise of rebirth in the Western Pure Land as well as achieving enlightenment of its followers, a Pure Land painting that is intended for pious female viewers may have delivered the essence of Buddhist doctrine all the more dramatically, its pictorial representation drawing powerful attention to the viewers. Concerning the Chosŏn Dynasty's 'Confucian male-dominated' social system which tended to regard Buddhism as public heresy and restricting women's field of activity to the utmost limitation, this particular piece of scroll painting could have been deciphered as an unexpected visual outcome. It openly uses traditional Korean characters as a tool for pictorial narration at a time when adapting the Chinese characters was common custom at the time. Throughout the painting's story development, instead of directly adapting Buddhist deities, their appearance are veiled as the sacred royal family members whose purpose was to gain Buddhist salvation. Amongst them, a single female figure named Lady Won-ang (鴛鴦夫人) is interpreted as the main focus of this narrative picture.
In 1576, two Buddhist nuns asked for royal permission to restore a damaged Buddhist painting. With the passage of time, this vertical scroll picture had been badly worn out
its once luminous colors faded and forms were hardly able to be traced properly. After its restoration plan was accepted, the painting was transformed into another magnificent work of art. People praised it for its colors, which shed lustrous light and its contents were interpreted as if to lead the faithful to the gate of Buddhist enlightenment. The royal patrons who participated in reproducing this painting were also known as fervent female Buddhists who had a connection with other Buddhist arts in the early Chosŏn Dynasty. The painting portrays the narrative story of the filial Prince Sukhāvatī (安樂國太子傳). This story is based on one of the indigenous Korean Buddhist sutra, The Moon's Imprint on the Buddha's Genealogy (月印釋譜, Wŏrin sŏkpo) which was edited by King Sejo (世祖) in 1459. The picture delivers the message of firm belief in following the Buddhist path, as well as adding narrative scenes concerning the characters' tragic destiny and sacrifice. The story's hidden heroine Lady Won-ang, once enjoyed the title of a queen, yet she willingly gave up the pleasures of life in order to follow the same path as her pious husband, a Buddhist king. However her life had to face unexpected difficulties which eventually led her to tragic death. But at the story's conclusion, she is rewarded by the Amitabha Buddha's welcoming, boarding on the Salvific Dragon Boat (接引龍船) to be carried away with his filial son to the land of Western Paradise. By reading the story one might be able to detect the didactic message the Buddhist doctrine usually propagates, yet the appearance of Lady Won-ang leaves somewhat questionable issues that suggests further consideration. Instead of limiting her role as a supplementary character, her identity as a devoted wife and mother could also be seen as an ideal figure fitting into the category of the Buddhist-Confucian context as well as asking the fundamental question on the sacrificial practices of Bodhisattva.
This thesis aims to introduce the stories of Prince Sukhāvatī, which is portrayed both within the narrative painting and the original text, The Buddha's Genealogy from a descriptive and comparative approach. Although the basic storylines do not contrast too excessively from one another, the comparative result shows that several scenes were added or excluded between the original text and the painting. In addition, analysis by other scholars also suggests a complex and contrasting sequence of the painting. Interestingly, The Narrative Painting of Prince Sukhāvatī shares a similar story outline with other textual sources as well, such as the one portrayed in The Record of Kirim Temple in Silla Mountain Hamwŏl (新羅含月山祈林寺事蹟), and The Additional Print of Kirim Temple's Historic Record (別本祈林寺事蹟). The story of Prince Sukhāvatī in these temple records too, is later represented as a scroll painting (祈林寺沙羅樹王幀) and its copied version now stored in Kirim temple's Hall of the Vairocana Buddha (大寂光殿). Other than these textual resources, the story of Prince Sukhāvatī is also narrated in nineteenth century Korean literature and within these exemplary texts the image of Lady Won-ang becomes entwined with a moralizing drama.
The second part of this thesis discusses from an interpretative perspective The Narrative Painting of Prince Sukhāvatī with other visual examples found within the tradition of East Asian countries' Buddhist paintings which openly narrate the salvation of women. There are Buddhist paintings such as Queen Vaidehi (韋提希) in The Taima Mandara (當麻曼荼羅) and the Japanese medieval princess Chūjō-hime (中将姫, ちゅうじょうひめ) in Taima Mandara Engi Emaki (當麻曼茶羅緣起繪卷) which all show the visual representation of Buddhist women experiencing perilous lives, yet found their last peace in Amitabha's Western Paradise. It should be noted that within the Buddhist traditions of narrative painting, some pictures were adapted as tools for storytelling as well as proselytizing the audiences. In terms of these religious narrative performances and using appropriate images and words, it might be interesting to infer how The Narrative Painting of Prince Sukhāvatī was accepted by the Royal court ladies at the time of its production during the Chosŏn Dynasty.
Finally, the thesis focuses on defining the identity of Lady Won-ang. Other than being interpreted as an ideal woman propagated by Korean Confucius society, she is also interpreted as the deification of a Buddhist Goddess (Bodhisattva Kuan-yin) in the texts. There are several examples where Buddhist deity underwent indigenous feminine manifestation, being venerated by her followers within the Buddhist tradition of East Asian countries. Especially since the Song Dynasty, the legend of Princess Miao-shan’s (妙善公主) filial conduct and her manifestation into the Bodhisattva of Thousand Eyes and Hands (千手千眼觀音) were narrated in numerous Buddhist sutras and paintings. On the contrary, Lady Won-ang was not a prominent religious icon widely known in Korean Buddhist art. Even so, the original texts repeatedly records this female figure as the manifestation of the Kuan-yin, evidently trying to relate the merciful Bodhisattva with the image of motherhood. Within other studies that try to define the identity of Lady Won-ang, some even suggest it has a certain relation with the Shamanistic influences. One of the Shamanist narratives (敍事巫歌) that derived from Korea's Jeju island has even changed the main characters as a hapless mother and revengeful son. In this respect, Lady Won-ang could be seen as a case whose sacred identity is veiled by another mundane character.
The narrative story of the Prince Sukhāvatī must have influenced the female members of the Chosŏn Dynasty to a certain degree. The female salvation represented in religious art might have worked as a promotive agent in propagating new Buddhist iconography as well as introducing idealized feminine characteristics required at the time. Moreover, a painting which was openly related with Amitabha Buddha's Pure Land Buddhism and a certain female character opening the road to salvation could have helped to edify onlookers who would have been mostly women residing in the court's inner chambers. While looking at this particular piece of painting, their expectation to be greeted by the sacred, thus finding salvation, might have been the hidden desire and silent consolation suppressed deeply within their hearts.