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Long Strange JourneyOn Modern Zen, Zen Art, and Other Predicaments$
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Gregory P. A. Levine

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780824858056

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824858056.001.0001

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Danxia Burns a Buddha

Danxia Burns a Buddha

Zen and the Art of Iconoclasm

(p.54) 3 Danxia Burns a Buddha
Long Strange Journey

Gregory P. A. Levine

University of Hawai'i Press

Chapter 3 focuses on a medieval painting in the Zen art canon—Yintuoluo’s painting of Danxia Tianran (738/39-824), a Chinese monk said to have burned a wood statue of the Buddha—and situates it within its modern surround, particularly in relation to Zen iconoclasm, a prominent trope in postwar Zen cultural production including Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums and other countercultural works. The chapter suggests how premodern representations of the Danxia tale circulated in the modern world through art collecting, photographic reproduction, translations of hagiography into modern Japanese and English for lay and non-practicing readers, and “reverse orientalist” critique of Western views of Buddhism. It notes too the tale’s representation by modern artists in Japan, including Yamamoto Shunkyo and Okamoto Ippei. Whatever the representation of Danxia burning the Buddha meant in preceding centuries, in the early twentieth century, it responded to new prospects, ambitions, and conflicts, as much geo-political as personal.

Keywords:   Danxia Tianran, Dharma Bums, iconoclasm, Jack Kerouac, Okamoto Ippei, Yamamoto Shunkyo, Yintuoluo

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