Six Buddhist Symbols: An Analysis of a Poetical Image of Buddha’s Enlightenment from the Song Dynasty


  • Jan Vrhovski Charles University, Prague



Buddhism, symbolism, Chinese poetry, Song dynasty, Su Shi


In the present article, I focus on six mutually interrelated Buddhist symbols, that occur in a poem written by Su Shi, a renowned Chinese official and poet from the Song dynasty. By developing an analysis of the background of individual iconographic motives and Buddhist symbols, all of which pertain to the iconography of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the article aims at revealing their inherent connections to certain segments of Chinese Buddhism, which were originally related both to the original (non-Chinese) Buddhist tradition as well as to Chinese native tradition. Consequently, in the subsequent discussion of the emergence and use of Buddhist symbolism in China, the article tries to shed some light on the particular manner in which, throughout many successive centuries, the Buddhist symbolism related to internal and external aspects of enlightenment were gradually entering into the domain of common poetic vocabulary, and hereby co-shaped the symbolic expressiveness of images used by the Chinese poet while disclosing the content of his inner world.


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Author Biography

  • Jan Vrhovski, Charles University, Prague

    PhD candidate at the Department for Asian and African studies, Philosophical Faculty, University of Ljubljana

    PhD candidate at the Institute for East Asian Studies, Philosophical Faculty, Charles University, Prague

    Researcher at CCK-ISC, Charles University, Prague


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10. 01. 2020

How to Cite

Vrhovski, Jan. 2020. “Six Buddhist Symbols: An Analysis of a Poetical Image of Buddha’s Enlightenment from the Song Dynasty”. Asian Studies 8 (1): 237-66.

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