QUERY> Early images representing the Bodhisattva's path

Joy Brennan's picture

Dear Colleagues,

A colleague of mine who is not on H-Buddhism asked me to post the following query. I will forward any replies I receive to him.

"I am writing the introduction for a literary publication about the Ten Oxherding Pictures. I don't know of any earlier examples in Buddhism of the bodhisattva path portrayed in pictures, although I am not sure about this. Do you know of any before the 11th or 12th century, for example of Sudhana in the Gandavyuha? And is Sudhana's journey considered equivalent to the bodhisattva path? I know about the earlier versions of the Oxherding pictures."

I have already learned that none of the Dunhuang images of the Huayan jing do include images of Sudhana's journey. Any other information related to the question of whether there are images representing the Bodhisattva's path prior to the Oxherding Pictures would be greatly appreciated.


Joy Brennan (brennanj@kenyon.edu)

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies

Kenyon College


Hi Joy,

You may wish to consider the reliefs of the Sudhana story at Barabudur, on which see, in particular,
Jan Fontein, The Story of Sudhana. Of course, this has nothing to do with the ox-herding pictures,
but still everything to do with the Mahayana path.


Matthew Kapstein
EPHE, Paris

Hi Joy,

sorry for the late response:

Professor Yoritomi Motohiro holds that it is still an unsolved question whether the Ox-Herding Pictures predate the Tibetan Elephant-Herding pictures. https://zenken.agu.ac.jp/zen/meeting/h11_02.html

This is of course far out of my own field of research. I hope this helps...