Grandeur, abundance, panache

Ritual, precise and strange

From DING Yunpeng 丁雲鵬 (1547-after 1628), two images of ritual and the religious imagination.

His vertical scroll on this page is a set-piece presentation of public teaching by the first reputed Chan Buddhism master, Vimalakirti, a historic Indian figure of the sixth to fifth century BCE.

The participants - human, animal, and fantastic - are rendered in consistent detail, each crisply fashioned as if lifted from an illustrated encyclopaedia. The setting is equally detailed, but the quality of representation of trees and plants makes reference to archaic forms and styles to signal us that this is an image from a distant, mythic era. The gestures of the participants are precise, but small and subtle - the grandeur lies in the scene and the massing of such an assembly.

The colour of the trees and some other areas of the painting have been retouched and freshened by later generations - perhaps less as restoration than as an act of devotion.


 DING Yunpeng 丁雲鵬 (1547-1628)
Vimalakirti Teaching
Hanging scroll, ink and color on paper
133.7 x 60 cm
Private collection