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  • Guoying Stacy Zhang

Buddhist Art on Paper: The Unique Painting and Calligraphy Collection of Fan Keqin

When we talk about Buddhist art, one tends to think of sculptures in stone or bronze, or monumental caves and wall paintings. However, when Buddhism was introduced to China, it also found expression in the traditional Chinese art forms of calligraphy and painting. These two art forms have long been ranked the highest in the hierarchy of fine art in China, and calligraphy and paintings with Buddhist themes most tellingly illustrate the interplay between Buddhism and Chinese culture. Buddhist images and texts have inspired many Chinese artists and, in return, Chinese painting and calligraphy have opened up new avenues for the sangha to perfect their virtues and express their jingjie or spirituality.

Over the past 30 years, Fan Keqin, who is based in Shanghai, has amassed an impressive collection of Buddhist-themed Chinese paintings and calligraphy. These works, dating from the Tang dynasty (618–907) all the way to the Republic Period (1912–49), were created by some of the most influential Buddhist monks, scholar officials, and professional artists throughout Chinese history.

The Amituofo Handscroll (detail), initiated by Qian Huafo, 30 x 800 cm. Image courtesy of Fan Keqin

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