Indian Medicine and The Filial Body: The Pictorial Evidence

Winston Kyan, University of Utah

Recent scholarship on the interactions between India and China has begun to rewrite the conventional narrative of sinicization, in which Buddhism inexorably became Chinese through the cultural power of the latter. Scholars, including C. Pierce Salguero and Paul Copp, have successfully demonstrated how the body, whether it is the medicalized body or the ritualized one, respectively, translates Buddhism into localized forms based on local needs. Building upon the useful conceptual frameworks of these authors, as well as others, my contribution to the roundtable on “Rethinking Art History Through the Frames and Politics of Science, Medicine, and Ecology,” takes a visual approach to the transformative power of medicine as represented in images of the Syamaka or Shanzi  Jataka in Indian, Central Asian, and Chinese materials. I also look at the resonance between Buddhist acts of truth and Confucian heavenly response that link Jātaka images with filial offspring images to consider whether these two “acts” are similar in what they demand of the body and in what they reward the body.