Memories of Kings: Kingship in the Religious Imaginings of Asia

memories_of_kings_flyerAt the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität in München, the research group “Kingship and Religion in Tibet” organized a conference on: Memories of Kings: Kingship in the Religious Imaginings of Asia.

The main topics of this symposium related to kingship, religion, and memory in Tibet, Mongolia, China, South Asia, and Southeast Asia.
The aims of this research group is to bring together scholars specializing in diverse cultures across Asia to share their research on the ways in which kingship is articulated, rearticulated, and transformed by religious memory.

The goal is to explore commonalities and differences among various Asian religious cultures in the use and articulation of memory with respect to kingship.
Isabelle Charleux, deputy director of the GSRL and member of the research program Religion et société en Asie, took part to this conference, held in Munich on 22-23 May 2015.

She gave a paper on: “Chinggis Khan in Mongol Buddhist Art: Cakravartin, Dharmapāla or Territorial Deity?”.

The paper aimed at understanding how Buddhism, known for its hijacking of indigenous deities at the bottom of its pantheon, reshaped the visual image of Chinggis Khan and developed new narratives to support it, from the 17th to the 21stcentury.
Buddhist painting, sometimes painted by high-ranking reincarnate lamas, alternately depicted the great ancestor as a fierce protector of the dharma emanating from Vajrapāṇi, as a peaceful cakravartin ruler dressed in white, and as an oath-bound martial equestrian deity.
Chinggis Khan’s descendants who perpetuated the cult of their great ancestor also borrowed from the visual language of Tibetan Buddhism to create new images.
The various manipulations of the portrait of Chinggis Khan reflect how the symbolic territories of Buddhism, ancestor worship, and state cult overlapped in the past and are still overlapping in their modern appropriation.