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Sakyamuni and Attendant Bodhisattvas in a Landscape

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This painting stands midway between the hieratic icons employed in formal temple ceremonies and the informal images that served Chan (or Zen) monks as personal devotional images for use in meditation. The intimate scale, informality of the figures' poses, and landscape setting link the painting to Chan-style depictions of Shakyamuni\u2014the human origin of the Buddha\u2014as an ascetic descending from the mountains just prior to achieving Buddhahood. In this scene, the Buddhist equivalent of Christ's Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane, Shakyamuni offers a parallel to the Chan practitioner's search for individual enlightenment.Landscape elements in the painting follow the meticulously descriptive style of the Southern Song Painting Academy. The angular contours of the figures' fluttering drapery lines are flat and conventionalized, however, and suggest an early fourteenth-century date for the piece.

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