<p style='text-align: justify;'>This item consists of 26 miniature paintings, featuring different objects and scenes from Buddhist iconography. They are painted onto the heart-shaped leaves of the Bodhi tree, the kind of tree under which the historical Buddha is said to have found enlightenment. In several of these images the Buddha is depicted with a halo, riding on a variety of awe-inspiring real and mythological creatures, such as a deer, an elephant, and what might be a qilin 麒麟, a chimera whose appearance was thought to reveal the presence of sages or wise emperors (sometimes referred to as the ‘Chinese unicorn’). Other figures ride the mythological fenghuang 鳳凰 bird (‘Chinese phoenix’). Further Buddhist symbols include lotus flowers (purity, enlightenment), fishes (happiness, prosperity), tortoises/peaches/gourds (longevity), and ceremonial ruyi 如意 sceptres.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Each painting is accompanied by an extract from the Diamond Sutra, a crucial East Asian Mahayana Buddhist text. It embeds abstract reflections on the ‘emptiness’ of all phenomena (which does not mean that things ‘do not exist’ but rather that they have no fixed nature due to constant change) in a story from the life of the historical Buddha. There is usually no direct connection between a sutra excerpt and its illustration.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'><a dir='auto' href='' onclick='store.loadPage(3);return false;'>The second painting</a> contains the first 162 characters of the Diamond Sutra, including its central question: ‘World-Honoured One, if good men and good women wish to develop the mind of supreme and perfect enlightenment, how should they live, how should they disciple their minds?’ (世尊！善男子、善女人，發阿耨多羅三藐三菩提心，云何應住？云何降伏其心？) The first four characters of this sutra (and of this excerpt) are 如是我聞 (rushi wowen), ‘Thus have I heard’, a typical opening formula evoking the authority of a master-to-disciple lineage of transmission.</p>
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