|Standing Portrait of Emperor T'ai-tsung
Anonymous, period unspecified
Hanging scroll, ink and color on silk, 101.2 x 51.4 cm
Li Shih-min (598-649), known by the posthumous imperial name as T'ai-tsung, was the emperor who consolidated rule in the T'ang dynasty, a time of great prosperity and contact with other cultures in China's history.
In Journey to the West, T'ai-tsung
consented to save the Ching River Dragon King,
but he could not prevent Wei Cheng from beheading
it. The Dragon King harassed T'ai-tsung to
"give back" its life, resulting in the emperor
taking fright and falling ill, his soul wandering
the Halls of the Underworld. After returning
to the mortal world, Emperor T'ai-tsung held
rites for the release of land and water spirits
that had been wronged. The bodhisattva Kuan-yin
also came to preach Buddhism, telling him
of this religion in India, in which one was
able to reverse wrongs and avert calamities.
The monk Hsüan-tsang then informed T'ai-tsung
that he could go and was thus ordered to journey
west to India for original scriptures.