Between One and Many: Multiples, Multiplication and the Huayan Metaphysics

Hsueh-Man Shen

in Proceedings of the British Academy Volume 181, 2010-2011 Lectures

Published by British Academy

Published in print October 2012 | ISBN: 9780197265277
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754203 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Between One and Many: Multiples, Multiplication and the Huayan Metaphysics

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Modern art history practice often treats Buddhist icons or ritual objects as unique objects, focusing on their originality and uniqueness. This text investigates how the paradoxical Buddhist doctrine of ‘the one and the many’ was translated into visual language through manipulation of the relationship between copies and the original. It analyses the different tactics and strategies formulated around given socio-historical frameworks to visualise the notion of infinity, and ultimately the structure of the universe, and suggests that multiple copies of a single design were more potent a vehicle than single objects in expressing ideas related to the Buddhist metaphysics.

Keywords: Buddhism; metaphysics; replication; infinity; pagoda; Wuyue

Chapter.  16505 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Social and Cultural History

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