Feitian: A Brief Introduction to Chinese Art

Chinese art and culture were influenced by many religions and civilizations of the world. No doubt Buddhism played a significant role in molding the taste of the Chinese artists and art lovers in general. The images of Feitian or Flying Apsaras are an example on this point. Feitian was one of the murals in Chinese temples and grottos. This art form was already in practice In the West for a long period of time.

India played a larger role for this kind of Chinese art. The doctrines of Buddhism were born in India and Feitian, in Indian mythology, was said to be a goddess of cloud and water, dwelling in lakes and marshes. They flew freely and pleasantly below the bodhi trees. However there were legends in China of flying Apsaras, like the myth of Luren. Many grottos in Yuangang, Longmen and Dunhung had pictures of Feitian.

In Buddhism, Feitian has been referred to as the goddess of heavenly songs and music. Feitian could sing songs and played music too. She was said to be the lover of Jiletian. She was also known as “Fragrant Goddess with Sweet Voice”.

Artists of ancient China uniquely created the images of Feitian in the Buddhism fresco art. They were shaped in rough and unsophisticated manner. They were the images of deity-human combination and they were shown to be soaring over the earth. This soaring above the earth often symbolize the longing and pursuit for idealized pure land of humanity.

Feitian images in China flourished during the reign of Tang Dynasty. They were not all perfect pieces of Chinese art. Some images even had beards. But all Feitian figures were slim in body and plump in face. They were all gentle in mood and unrestrained in mind and manner.


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