Zhao Zhifeng

Liu Benzun

Zhao Zhifeng and Liu Benzun

Scene 11, Baodingshan, Dazu (map)

As mentioned previously, Zhao is the creator of Baodingshan and Liu is Zhao's spiritual father. While there is no doubt of Zhao's sincerity, this was also an astute move in terms of religious politics, since Liu had long been revered in the area around Dazu. The 300-year gap between the two men is bridged here by the placement and orientation of the statues, that shows Zhao contemplating the figure of Liu and the other attendants (full view). By placing himself at the head of the line, and bearing some signs (curly hair, urna) of a Buddha, Zhao clearly means to claim for himself the status of an enlightened being; he simultaneously expresses his spiritual descent from Liu, and his devotion to the Buddha, at the pivotal moment of the Parinirvana.

Compare: portraits of saints and laymen, at the foot of the Cross, in Christian art.