On the "Image of the Extinction of the Dharma" at the Dazhushengku Cave of Baoshan
Liu Yi - Capital Normal University, Beijing
The Dazhushengku (Great Abiding Holy Ones Cave) of Lingquan temple at Baoshan was constructed under the supervision of the eminent monk Lingyu (518-605). Since the 1920s scholars have studies the extant caves, architecture, and stone-carved scriptures at this site. Lingyu’s early biography records that he “had specially engraved the image of the extinction of the Dharma at the front of the cave” when he founded the Dazhushengku. Previous scholars have interpreted this to mean that Lingyu had carved on the walls inside and outside the cave Buddhist scriptures pertaining to the theme of the “extinction of the Dharma” such as the Daji jing (Great Collection Sutra) and Mohemoye jing (Mahamaya-sutra). In this presentation Professor Liu argues that the so-called “image of the extinction of the Dharma” in fact refers to the two deity statues and the set of statues of one Buddha and two bodhisattvas on the cliff at the eastern side of the cave entrance. The famous carved texts located at the western side of the cave entrance, it is suggested, were engraved only after Lingyu’s period. The deity statues from the Dazhushengku thus may be the first known examples of a visual, iconic depiction of the “extinction of the Dharma,” an idea whose importance in the history of the East Asian Buddhist eschatology cannot be overemphasized.