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Ascetic Aesthetics: The Brahman Ascetic in Early Medieval Buddhist Visual Programs
Fletcher Coleman
PhD (candidate), Harvard University
One of the most ubiquitous yet unexamined aspects of early Buddhist art in China is the use of Brahman ascetic imagery. Taking the Kizil caves as the primary site of exploration, my research examines the function of the Brahman ascetic within the Buddhist art of early medieval China. The ascetic figure reveals points of contact with and co-option of non-Buddhist praxis and reflects the complex development of early Buddhist penitential practice. Ultimately, I argue that the Brahman ascetic represents a liminal figure situated on the borders of physical, religious, and narrative space.