Religion and Representation in the Nanzhao and Dali Kingdoms
Chapter one goes back to the Nanzhao (649-903) and Dali kingdoms (937-1253) to understand the broader context in which the Buddhist Baijie arose. It shows that though Nanzhao and Dali rulers adopted most of their Buddhist texts from Chinese territory, they embraced Indian Buddhist images and claimed Indian origins for their Buddhist tradition. Moreover, it was their worship of distinctive deities with Indian iconography that distinguished their Buddhist tradition from that of Tang and Song China. This emphasis on India did not just stem from India’s prestige as Buddhism’s birthplace, but also from Dali’s position in relation to China. While Nanzhao and Dali rulers could not claim equality with Chinese rulers as Sons of Heaven, their relative proximity to India meant that they could claim superiority as Buddhist monarchs.
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