images: Heaven, Earth, and Beyond: Prints and Illustrations of Confucian, Buddhist, and Taoist Figures
Selection: Introduction
Selection: Legends of Buddhas and Deities
Selection: The Mysterious Path to Immortality
Selection: Surpassing the Ordinary and Transforming into a Sages
Selection: Home
Title: Legends of Buddhas and Deities

Members of the Buddhist world include buddhas and bodhisattvas, guardian deities, monks, and believers. Some of them are historical figures; others are non-human deities and spirits. Because of their different personas, they are given unique appearances and features. In the process of preaching Buddhism, these characters often experience extraordinary miracles. Part of these events are documented in the sutras, such as Pumenpin (addharmapundarika-sutra), which records Avalokiteśvara helping people in hardships, and Yaoshijing ("The Sutra of Bhaisajyaguru"), which describes the Medicine Master's twelve vows. Some of the stories were brought into China and transformed into popular novels and operas. Examples include Xiyoujivel (Travel to the West), a Chinese classic detailing the Buddhist monk Xuanzang's pilgrimage to India, and Xinxiao Xiwen ( Play: Mulian's Filial Duty to His Mother), a song performance about Mahāmaudgalyāyana's passage to the underworld to rescue his mother.    

Śākyamuni(New window)  

Longzangjing (The Dragon Tripitaka in Tibetan)
Top sutra board of vol. 25 and 47


Śākyamuni (565-486 BCE) is the founder of Buddhism, who was the sun of the King Śuddhodana of Kapilavastū (in the south of Nepal), and he was called Siddhārtha Gautama while he was a prince. "Śākyamuni", which means "sage of the Shakyas," is a name given to him after he was enlightened. He had realized grieves and uncertainties of life since he was a child, and swore to look for a way to relieve. When he was 29, he left the palace and became a monk and practiced for 6 years near the river Neranjarā. He attained the Great Enlightenment at 35 under a pipal tree near Buddhagaya. Then he spent 40 years preaching about The Four Noble Truth, Noble Eightfold Path, and the Six Pāramitā near Rajagrha, Sravasti, and Mrgadava. He died under two sāla trees outside Kuwinagara.

Xuanzang (New window)  

Xiyou Zhenquan (A Complete Narrative of Travels in the West)
Text written by Wu Chengen (ca. 1500-82)
Annotated by Chen Shibin (n.d.)
Qing imprint of the Qianlong reign (1735-1796) by the Shidetang Printhouse

Xuanzang (600-664CE), whose mundane name was Chen Yi, was born in Luoyang, Henan. His family was poor, and he studied Buddhism in Louyang with his elder brothers in Jingtu Temple. He had already understood all the teachings in China when he was about 20. However, he thought that he didn't understand the ultimate truth of Buddhism, he then decided to go to India for further study. He started his journey throughout five regions of ancient India from 629 to 645 CE. He learned many commentaries of sutras from Master Jiexian and was famous in Tienzhu for successful convinced many local monks in Kannauj. Latter he was given the title of Mahāyānadeva. After he went back to China, he started translating Buddhist scriptures in Hongfu Temple of Changan and Yuhua Temple. He was the greatest translator in Chinese Buddhism and he had translated 75 sets and 1135 volumes of Buddhist scriptures before he died, including the famous "Yogacara-bhumi", "Kowa-wastra," and "Maha-prajñaparamita-sutra". In addition, he was also a famous traveler and his important historical and geographical oral work of “Datang xiyuji (The Great Tang Records on the Western Regions)" recorded his knowledge about the customs of places where he had traveled. And the story of this pilgrimage became the theme of novels, such as the Wu Chengen's Xiyouji (Journey to the West) is one of famous works in Ming dynasty, which describes that Xuanzang's pilgrimage with his three disciples (Sunwukong, Zhubajie and Shawujing) and they encountered the 81 obstacles during their journey.
Bhaişajyaguru Vows (New window)  

Bhaişajyaguru Vows
Bhaişajyaguru Vows
Yaoshi liuiguang rulai benyuan kongdejing
(Bhaişajyaguru-vaiduryaprabhasa- tathagata-purvapranidhana-guna-sutra)
Translated by Xuanzang of the Tang dynasty (618-907)
Handwritten edition of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644)
26.6 x 9.3cm


Bhaişajyaguru is believed to be the founder of the Pure Land in the east and he was also called "the Emperor of Medicine" because he felt the grief from all the living being and swore to them. His two sons also accompanied him as the Sunya-prabha and Candra-prabha. This book recorded his twelve vows, each with a painting. The painting can be divided into two parts: the upper part depicted a halo in the cloud, with the Bhaişajyaguru sitting in a vihara, with different hand signs; the lower part recorded the contents of each vow. The twelve vows are: 1. to illuminate countless realms with his radiance, enabling others to become a Buddha too; 2. to awaken the minds of sentient beings through his light of lapis lazuli; 3. to provide the sentient beings with whatever material needs they require; 4. to correct heretical views and inspire beings toward the path of the Bodhisattva; 5. to help beings follow the Moral Precepts, even if they failed before; 6. to heal beings born with deformities, illness or other physical sufferings; 7. to help relieve the destitute and the sick. 8. to help women who wish to be reborn as men achieve their desired rebirth; 9. to help heal mental afflictions and delusions; 10. to help the oppressed be free from suffering; 11. to relieve those who suffer from terrible hunger and thirst; 12. to help clothe those who are destitute and suffering from cold and mosquitoes.     








國立故宮博物院 National Palace Museum (New window) 國立故宮博物院著作權所有 Copyright © National Palace Museum. All Rights Reserved.