The painting The Buddha Preaching in the collection of the Ethnological Museum, Berlin, is by far the largest painting produced by any of the Qing court artists. It measures 525 cm x 950 cm and depicts a scene of the Buddha preaching the dharma while surrounded by various Bodhisattvas, Arhats, Vajras, and other deities. It was painted in 1770 by Ding Guanpeng, one of the most important court painters in the 18th century. However, other than a few very short introductions, this painting has never been studied in detail, nor does it come up often when scholars discuss Ding Guanpeng’s work. This paper aims to reveal the artistic value of this much-overlooked painting, provide new research material for the field, and contextualize the function and meaning of this painting by considering its original location, and to reconstruct the impact of its institutional and religious contexts in the Qing court.
Ching-Ling Wang is curator of Chinese Art at the Museum for Asian Art (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin).