Abstract

“A Piercing Glance Elevates the Mind” is a philosophical proposition offered by Zhou Yong (?–493) in his debate with Zhang Rong (444–497) over the similarities and differences between Daoism and Buddhism. The appearance of this previously unknown proposition shows that as early as the Liu-Song dynasty (420–479) writers already went beyond the limitations of the native Chinese conception of “image” (xiang) and consciously applied Buddhist concepts to come to new understandings of the objects, methods, and effects of the visual sense and to probe their transcendental religious significance. Utilizing this proposition as a framework of analysis, this article rereads Zong Bing's (375–443) “Preface to the Painting of Landscape” in terms of the visual sense, to show how the terms, concepts, propositions, and discourse of the text's five sections form a logically coherent, fully systematic Buddhist exposition on painting. Support for the validity of Buddhist interpretations of all its terms and concepts is provided by intertextual readings of Zong Bing's “Elucidating Buddhism” and the poetry and prose by the Buddhist monks of Mt. Lu. We also demonstrate how Zong's consistently Buddhist theory of painting served as a firm foundation over which the Tang poet Wang Changling (698–757) built his Buddhist theory of the world of physical objects (wujing shuo).

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