The Dunhuang paintings of “monk with tiger”: a (hi)story of Buddhist and Islamic travels through Asia

The Dunhuang paintings of “monk with tiger”: a (hi)story of Buddhist and Islamic travels through Asia

For its first session, the CEIAS thematic workshop "Aesthetics and the vernacular" welcomes Annu Jalais, Assistant Professor, National University of Singapore.

Buddhist and Islamic connections between Central Asia, South Asia and China are yet to be explored to their full potential. Taking the figure of the tiger as a pivot, this paper will try to contextualise the ways in which histories of circulation, in the context of Asia, have been written (apart from some exceptions of course) to valorise either nation-states or perceived religious traditions. The argument proposed is that not enough has been made of the fact that the 9th and 10th centuries were incredibly important periods in relation to shared religious beliefs throughout Asia. For example, could the Dunhuang paintings of ‘monk with tiger’, even though depicted as ‘Buddhist’ by scholars on China, be really, ‘Islamic’ ? The trope of the Sufi saint accompanied by a tiger is one which exists all through South Asia, South East Asia as well as Mongolia and northern China. How does one uncover the long history of circulations and mobilities that have stretched beyond the confines of either India or China via the painted figures of monks with tigers?

Travelling monk, ink and colors on paper - Public Domain