Sharon Turner: The Persian Origin of Anglo-Saxon Words

The article below was written in a letter Sharon Turner in 1827  and was first posted in the CAIS (Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies) venue hosted by Shapour Suren-Pahlav.

Kindly note that the images and accompanying descriptions inserted below do not appear in the original article posting in CAIS.

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If more important communications be not, at the present moment, occupying the attention of the Royal Society of Literature, it may not perhaps be wholly uninteresting, if I submit to its consideration a few circumstances in regard to the Asiatic origin of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors, which have lately occurred to me on examining the affinities of their ancient language.

It has been stated in the History of the Anglo-Saxons, that the most probable derivation of this people which had been suggested, was that which deduced them from the Sakai or Sacae, who, from, the Caspian, besides branching into Bactriana on the east, had also spread westward into the most fertile part of Armenia, which, from them, as we learn from Strabo, was called Sakasina.

Pliny terms the Sakai, who settled there, the Sacassani; which is so similar in sound to Saca-sunu, or the sons of the Sakai, that we are tempted to identify the two appellations. It was Goropius Becanus who first hinted this etymology: the celebrated Melanchthon adopted it; and though, as is usual on such subjects, others doubted and disputed, our Camden gave it the sanction of his decided preference.

Eastern Scythians or “Saka Tigrakhauda” (Pointed cap Saka) as depicted in Persepolis. The Scythians played an important role in the military machine of the Achaemenids. A branch of the Scythians or Saka, the Parthians, were to revive the Iranian kingdom after Alexander’s conquests and his Seleucid successors.

It appeared to me to be the most rational derivation which had been mentioned; and the fact that Ptolemy, writing in the second century after Strabo and Pliny, actually notices a Scythian people, who had sprung from the Sakai, by the very name of Saxones, seemed to verify the conjecture, that the appellative Saxones did originate from Saca-sunu, or the sons of the Sakai.

The Romans spelt the word with a c instead of a k, and we therefore call them Sacae, with the s sound of the c.But this is only our mispronunciation of the Roman c; for we find that Cicero’s name is written in the Greek authors who mention him, as Kikeroo.

The preceding derivation thus leads to the opinion, that the progenitors of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors came from Asia into Europe; and that before they made this emigration, they had dwelt in Armenia and in the regions about the Caspian.

The Honourable Mr. Keppell, in his late interesting travels, visited this country, and thus notices it. After crossing the river Arras – the Araxes of Plutarch – he says:

“Between this river and the Kur – the ancient Cyrus or Cyrnus – is the beautiful province of Karabaugh, formerly the country of the Sacae or Sacassani, a warlike tribe of Scythians, mentioned by Pliny and Strabo, and supposed to be the same people as our ancient ancestors the Saxons.”

After quitting Karabaugh, Mr. Keppell proceeded to Shirwan, the Albania of the ancients. The beautiful province of Karabaugh, between the Arras and the Kur – the ancient Araxes and Cyrnus – may therefore be considered as one of the Asiatic localisations of our Anglo-Saxon ancestors. The Kur has been the late boundary of the Russian acquisitions in this district.

The late war between the Russians and the Persians has been chiefly carried on in or near the regions where the ancient Sakai or Sacassani were seated, and which appear to have begun from the south of the Kur. If the Russians make any further acquisitions in these parts, they will become possessed of the country of our Sakai ancestors.

Viking Helmet (Right; Picture Source: English Monarchs) and reconstruction of earlier Sassanian helmet at Taghe Bostan, Kermanshah, Iran (Left; Picture Source: Close up of Angus Mcbride painting of Sassanian knight at Taghe Bostan, Wilcox, P. (1999). Rome’s Enemies: Parthians and Sasanid Persians. Osprey Publishing, p.47, Plate H1).

These circumstances, drawing the mind to this part of the world, led me to recollect that former antiquaries had observed a few words in the Persian language to resemble some in the Saxon. Camden mentions, that “the admirable scholar, Joseph Scaliger, has told us that fader, muder, brader, tuchter, band, and such like, are still used in the Persian language, in the same sense as we say father, mother, brother, daughter, and band.” (Camden’s Brit. Introd. cxxiii.)

Musing upon this intimation, it occurred to me, that if five words, so much alike as these, were found in the two languages, an attentive comparison of the Persian with the Anglo-Saxon might discover many more, if the allegation were really true, that the Saxons had come from these regions; and in that case, if any considerable number of similarities were really existing in the two languages, they would tend to confirm the belief, that the origin of our Saxon forefathers should be thus sought in Asia, and that their primeval ancestors had gradually moved from the Caspian Sea to the German Ocean.

Scythians on the steppes of the ancient Ukraine. Scholars are virtually unanimous that the Scythians were an Iranian people related to the Medes and Persians of ancient Iran or Persia (Painting by Angus McBride).

This view of the subject induced me to attempt a cursory examination, whether such resemblances could, by a general inspection, be perceived, as would satisfy the mind that the chorographical relationship was not an unfounded conjecture.

But it was obvious, that whatever the ancient identity between these languages may have been in their original state, no very great proportion of it could be expected to be visible now, because the Saxons have been separated from these regions at least 2000 years; and in their progress along the north of Asia, and through the whole breadth of the upper surface of Europe, and amid all the evils, sufferings, triumphs, and events, which must have befallen them before they reached the mouth of the Elbe; and from the new scenes and conflicts which accompanied their three centuries of depredations on the Roman empire and upon the ocean, and which afterwards, for four hundred years more, awaited them in Britain, before those works were written which display their language to us; – from all these causes, the Anglo-Saxons, in the days of Alfred, must have used a very different tongue, in the mass of its words, from that simpler and ruder one which their progenitors had conversed with in the beautiful province of Karabaugh, and on the Araxes, the Kur, and the Caspian.

So, during the same lapse of time, the Persian language has ceased to be what it was in the days of Cyrus or Darius. It has become, within the last 1,000 years, the most polished language of the Eastern world, and has been most exercised in clothing with select and ornate phrase the finest effusions of the Oriental genius.

Persian (Zoroastrian) inscription in Ateshgah (Source: Farroukh Jorat).

Modern Persian can, therefore, be scarcely less unlike the original language of those, in his war, against whom the self-confident Julian found an early grave, instead of the victorious triumph he expected, than our present English is to the Anglo-Saxon of the same period. Neither Persian nor Saxon are now what they were when the Sakai and the Persae confronted each other on their dividing rivers, and from their bordering mountains. Hence no such pervading identity could be expected as may yet be traced between the Welsh, the Bas Breton, the Irish, and the Gaelic, however originally similar.

The likeness would be also less, because the Saxons did not spring from the Persians. No one has alleged this parentage. The Sakai were the relatives only, not the children of the Persae. So far from any filial or paternal feelings existing between them, the most furious hostilities disparted the two tribes; and at one epoch, the Persians, by attacking the Sakai by surprise, nearly exterminated them.

This disaster disinclined our valuable antiquary, Sheringham, from adopting this derivation of our ancestors. But as it is manifest that no attack of surprise could annihilate at that time more than the forces which were surprised, the calamity is more likely to have been a reason for the rest of the Sakai, after this weakening catastrophe, to have moved hastily out of their pleasing settlements in those parts of the world, and to have migrated westward to a safer locality.

The main fire altar at the Atash-kade (Zoroastrian Fire-Temple) of Baku in the Republic of Azerbaijan (known as Arran and the Khanates until 1918) (Picture Source: Panoramio). This site is now registered with UNESCO as a world heritage site. 

This defeat may have forced them from Armenia to other districts nearer Europe; and the war of the Romans, or of Mithridates, or similar disturbing causes, may have afterwards impelled them to proceed onward to the Vistula, and at last to seek refuge on the islands and peninsula of the western extremities of the continent.

The probability is, that all the tribes which anciently inhabited the immediately conterminous countries were, for the most part, branches of the same main parental stem. The Persae, the Sakai, and their neighbours, may be therefore considered as ramifications of the great Scythian stock – part of the audax genus of Japetus, or Japhet; and as such, although the old Persians and the Sakai would not have spoken the same language in all its words and forms, yet their respective tongues would be dialects of their family original, and therefore would have many terms in common, as we still find between the ancient Franco-theotisc and the Saxon.

Of these assimilating terms, I expected that many fragments would be preserved, both in the Anglo-Saxon and in modern Persian, notwithstanding all the changing fortunes of the two nations; but that they would, from these mutations, exist and be perceptible now only as fragments.

Remains of the Temple of Mithra at Carrawburgh, England (Source: Britain Express). The culture 0f Mithras continues to endure among the Iranians (within Iran and the Kurds of the Near East beyond modern-day Iran. The Kurds speak West Iranian languages (i.e. Kurmnaji, Gowrani, etc.) that are akin to Persian and Luri.

Proceeding on this principle – that if the ancestors of the two nations did once live in vicinity to each other, although this was 2000 years ago, some indications of their neighbourhood would appear from subsisting similarities in their languages, and expecting to find these only as occasional fragments, I have compared the Anglo-Saxon with the modern Persian. The result has been, that, upon a general examination, I have found 162 Persian words which have a direct affinity with as many Anglo-Saxon terms of the same meaning; and these I beg leave to submit to the notice of the Society.

But before I attach the list of these, I will take the liberty also of mentioning, that I thought it right, after these similarities had been ascertained, to consider that two other languages, older than the modern Persian, had prevailed in that country. These were the Pehlvi and the Zend. The latter, the most ancient that we know of in those parts from actual specimens; the other, the Pehlvi, an intermediate one, in point of chronology, between the Zend and the Persian.

A detail of the painting “School of Athens” by Raphael 1509 CE (Source: Zoroastrian Astrology Blogspot). Raphael has provided his artistic impression of Zoroaster (with beard-holding a celestial sphere) conversing with Ptolemy (c. 90-168 CE) (with his back to viewer) and holding a sphere of the earth. Note that contrary to Samuel Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations” paradigm, the “East” represented by Zoroaster, is in dialogue with the “West”, represented by Ptolemy.  Prior to the rise of Eurocentricism in the 19th century (especially after the 1850s), ancient Persia was viewed positively by the Europeans. For more see Ken R. Vincent: Zoroaster-the First Universalist

Of both the Zend and the Pehlvi, M. Anquetil found some specimens among the ancient manuscripts which he consulted in exploring and translating the Zendavesta, or sacred book of the still subsisting worshippers of the sacred fire in those regions. Recollecting this fact, I have been led also to look into these specimens, and I have observed fifty-seven words in these fragments of the Zend language, which resemble as many in the Anglo-Saxon, and forty-three of accordant similarities between our old tongue and the Pehlvi.

These one hundred and sixty-two Persian words, fifty-seven Zend, and forty-three Pehlvi, present to us two hundred and sixty-two words in the three languages that have prevailed in Persia, which have sufficient affinity with as many in the Anglo-Saxon to confirm the deduction of our earliest progenitors from these regions of ancient Asia.

The Three Wise Men as depicted in Ravenna (Sant’Apollinare Nuovo), Italy (Source: Public Domain). Note the European depiction of Partho-Sassanian Iranian dress, caps and cloaks. 

That these affinities are too many to be ascribed to mere chance, there seems to be no difficulty in affirming. But on adverting to the positions suggested in my former papers, of a primeval oneness of language among mankind, and of the abruption of that into the diversities which now pervade the world, it is a reasonable question, whether these two hundred and sixty-two similarities are only remains of the primitive unity, or whether they be indications of specific subsequent relationship of two of the newer languages that were formed after the dispersion.

The Iranian Kandys cape and its legacy in Europe (click to enlarge). (A) Medo-Persian nobleman from Persepolis wearing the Iranian Kandys cape of the nobility 2500 years past (B) figure of Paul dressed in North Iranian/Germanic dress from a 5th century ivory plaque depicting the life of Saint-Paul (C) reconstruction by Daniel Peterson (The Roman Legions, published by Windrow & Greene in 1992, p.84) of a 4th-5th century Germanic warrior wearing Iranian style dress and the Kandys. The Iranian Persepolis styles of arts and architecture continued to exert a profound influence far beyond its borders for centuries after its destruction by Alexander (Pictures used in Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006).

Both the nature and the number of the analogies I have remarked satisfy my own mind that they are more truly referable to the latter than to the former cause, and therefore I will proceed to enumerate them, as corroborating testimony of our Sacassenian derivation, beginning with the Persian affinities, and then proceeding to those of the Zend and the Pehlvi.

PERSIAN, ANGLO-SAXON

am, I am.
aelan, to burn
alaw, a flame of fire
afora, a son
afa, the eldest son
andega, an appointed term
andan, a term
abidan, to abide
abadan, an abode
are, honour
aray, decoration
arian, to honour
arayidan, to adorn
ase, as
asay, like
andget, the intellect, sense
angar, reason.
andgashtan, to think
enge, trouble
anjam, grief.
andjugh, a sigh
angel, a hook
angulah, a button
ewe, water
aw, water
earmth, misery
urman, trouble
ende, the end
anjam, the end
berend, fruitful
bar, fruit
beeran, to carry
bar, a load
brother, a brother
bradar, a brother
barn, a barn
barn, a covered place
bearn, a son
barna, a youth
bedan, to offer
bedroz, a present
balew, depraved
bulad, a malefactor
beal, destruction
bulaghan, a calamity
bilewite, simple
biladah, foolish
beado, cruelty
bada, wickedness
barbacan, a front tower
burbik, a portico
bur, a chamber
barkh, an open room
blessian, to bless
balistan, to bless
blad, fruit, the blade
balidan, balandan, to grow
basing, a pallium, a chlamys
basuian, to be clothed in purple
baz, a habit, rich dress
bered, vexed
barat, disgusted tired
beard, a beard
barbar, a barber
breost, the breast
bistan, the breast
bysmor, infamy
bazat, a crime.
basaj, depravity
bysgu, business
bishing, business
bile, the beak, the bill
bull, the beak
bio, I exist
bud, existence
benn, a wound
bunawar, a sore
bil, a mattock
blowan, to flower
bilak, a flower
bidan, to expect, to await
bidar, watching.
bidari, vigilance
byld, firmness
bilah, firm
bend, a bond
band, a band, a chain
bendan, to bind
bandan, bandidan, to bind
bold, a town
balad, a city
bolt, a house
bulud, a dwelling
byan, to inhabit.
binland, cultivated land
bingha, a dwelling
beam, the sunbeam.
beamian, to beam
bam, the morning
sifer, pure, chaste
saf, pure
safa, purity
samod, together, in like manner
saehim, a partner, even
mirran, to hinder
maraw, go not.
marang, a bar
man, wickedness
mang, cheating, a thief
mona, the moon
mang, the moon
mxden, a maiden
madah, a female
moder, mother
madar, mother
mara, the night-mare
mar, sick
mal, pay, reward, tribute
malwar, rich
maldar, a rich man
mani, many
mali, many
morth, death
murda, dead
morther, murder
murdan, to die
mearc, a limit
marz, a limit
mus, a mouse
murz, a mouse
must, new wine
mustar, new wine
na, not
nah, not
naegl, a nail
nakhun, a nail
nafel, the navel
nal; the navel
nama, a name
nam, a name
iiameutha, illustrious
nami, illustrious
necca, the neck
nojat, the collar
neow, new
no, new
nu, now
nun, now
nigan, nine
nuh, nine
hol, health
hal, quiet, firmness
hare, hoary
harid, venerable
isa, ice
hasir, ice
eam, I am
hayam, I am
iuc, a yoke
yugh, a yoke
rad, a road
rah, a road
reste, quiet
rast, secure
duru, a door
dar, a door
deni, slaughter
dam, a groan, black blood
dim, obscure
damah, a cloud
gabban, to deride
ghab, a foolish bitter expression
gaf, loquacious
guftan, speech, to relate
cu, a cow
go, a cow
gers, grass
gryah, grass
gifr, greedy
guri, avarice
faeen, fraud
faj, a lie
sum, some
suman, a little
reel, prosperity
salaf, luxurious
steorra, a star
sitarah, a star
losewest, deception
losidan, to deceive
leogan, to tell a lie
lay, lying
hlogun, they laughed
lagh, a jest. lof, praise
laf, praise
lufa, love
laheb, love
lam, lame
lam, crooked
lang, lame
lippa, the lip
law, the lip
laf, the remainder
lab, remaining
less, the less
lash, small
lar, learning
lur, ability
lust, delight
lustan, to sport
lust, luxuriousness
lashan, nice, soft
blyd, tumult.
hlydan, to rage, to make a noise
lud, furious altercation
list, knowledge
listum, skilfully
lazir, clever
thu, thou
to, thou
thinan, to decline, to become thin
tanik, thin
tinterg, torment
tang, tight
tintregan, to torture
tangi, anguish
tawian, to cultivate
tan, an inhabitant
teman, to teem, to bring forth abundantly
toma, twins
wen, hope
awanidan, to hope
wenan, to expect
awanidan, to expect
ysel, a spark
azar, fire
raene, pride, glorying
awrang, power, glory
ae, a law
aym, a law
paeca, a deceiver
pak, vile
paecan, to deceive
pakh, ingratitude
paeth, a path, a footway
pay, pa, a footstep
pal, a stake
palar, a beam of wood
paell, colour
paludan, to besmear
pyndan, to shut up, impound
pynding, a fettering
paywand, a chain, a shackle
to, to
ta, to
taer, a tear
tar, moist
tarb, torture
taeran, to tear
tarakidan, to split
telan, to tell
talagh, a voice
teiss, affliction
tasah, grief
teisse, a stripe
tazyanah, a scourge
tir, a lord. tir, a chief
tir, glory
tur, a hero, bright
siofotha, bran
sapos, bran
seel, time
sal, a year
seepah, age
sul, a plough
suli, a plough
sac, discord, quarrel
sakht, violent, stubborn
sur, surig, sour
sirka, sirkah, vinegar
salh, a willow
salah, a wicker-basket
sorg, sorrow. sog, grief
sugwar, sorrowful
sol, solen, a shoe, a sandal
salu, a coarse shoe
supwah, a shoe
sole, the sole
sul , the sole
thunar, thunder
tundar, thunder
thunrian, to thunder
tundidan, to thunder
tan, a bud
tundar, the bud of a leaf

It is remarkable that all, or nearly all, of the Anglo-Saxon words spelt in the Lexicon with sc, which are now used in our English phrase, are at present pronounced by us as sh, and are written with this orthography. Thus the Anglo-Saxon sceap, scyp, sco, scine, and sceam, are spoken by us as sheep, ship, shoe, shine, and shame.

Whether the sh was the original sound of those words, which, by a sort of conventional orthography, were written as sc by our ancestors, to distinguish their sound of sh from the proximate one of s, or whether it became changed by one of those gradual alterations of pronunciation which occur in all languages from various causes, we cannot now decide; but the Persian has some analogous terms with the sh, instead of the sc, as

sea, excellent
shadbash, excellent
seama, shame, bashfulnes
sharm, shame, bashfulness
shama, naked
sceaming, confusion
shamidan, to be confounded
sceaphan, to shape, to put in order
shaplidan, to smooth
sceaft, a shaft, an arrow
shaftu, a quiver
sceaft, a point
shafar, the edge
sceawian, to see
shuwaz, the eye.

The other resemblances which I have remarked between these two languages are:

faegan, glad
farghan, gladness
faeran, to go
feridan, to walk
faroth, a journey
faraz, progress
fyr, fire
faroz, inflaming
ferhth, the mind
farzah, wisdom, knowledge
ferht, fear, fright
farasha, dread, trembling

The congruities which I have perceived in the few specimens that have been published of the Zend with the Anglo-Saxon are the following:

beran, to bear
bereete, to bear
ba, both
betim, the second
the, thee
te, thee
eahta, eight
aschte, eight
dochter, daughter
dogde, daughter
dohte, he did
daschte, he did
steorran, stars
staranm, stars
frend, a friend
frem, a friend
feder, a father
feder, a father
mid, with
mad, with
meder, mother
mediehe, mother
medo, mead
medo, wine
me, me
man, me
metan, to measure
meete, measure
med, a recompense
mejdem, a recompense
maest, chief
meze, meso, great
micle, much
mesche, much
mecg, a man
meschio, a man
mal more
mae, great
na, not
noued, not
nafel, the navel
nafo, the navel
we, an oak
hekhte, an acorn
hera, a lord.
heretoge, a chief
herete, a chief
paeth, a path
petho, a way
purl pure
peratche, pure
uppa, above.
upper, above
opero, above
threo, three
thre, three
thrydde, the third
thretim, the third
thu, thou
thvanin, thou
bane, a floor, a board
baenthro, a floor, a board
rot, splendid.
rof, illustrious
erode, illustrious
astandan, to subsist
asteouao, existence
beoth, they are
beouad, he is
beo, be it
boiad, be it
theof, a thief
teio, a great thief
dreori, dreary
drezre, a desert
daeth, death
dajed, he is no more
rewa, order
reso, he puts in order
reswian, to reason
razann, intelligent
froe, a lord
frethem, greatness
guast, the spirit
gueie, the soul
mxnde, he mentioned
manthre, words
midda, middle
meiao, middle
morth, death
mrete, mortal
merran, to mar
merekhsch, to destroy
gear, year
yare, year
earmth, poverty
armete, humility
starian, to look at
astriete, he sees
ba, both
bee, two
singan, to say
senghan, a word
scir, sheer, pure
srere, pure
snid, a cut
snees, he strikes
seon, to see
sodern, to see
gnad, he bruised
ghnad, he strikes
athe, easy
achiato, easy
scina, shina, brilliant
scheeto, brilliant.

I will now only trouble the Society with the few coincidences that I have found in looking over Mr. Anquetil’s short vocabulary of the Pehlvi, as he has printed it from his old manuscripts.

bonda, one bound
bandeh, a slave
nam-cutha, famous
nameh, famous
starian, to look at
astared, he sees
halig, holy
halae, pure
eahta, eight
ascht, eight
sare, troublesome
sareh, wicked
morth, death
marg, mortal
a-marg, immortal
thu, thou
tou, thou
sex, six
sese, six
bysmor, opprobrium
besche, wicked
suht, languor
satoun, weak
dom, legal judgment
din, law
reasan, to attach
resch, a wound
secgan, to say
sokhan, a word
gaf, loquacious
goft, he said
ofer, over, above
avvar, above
dem, slaughter
damma, blood
med, recompense
mozd, recompense
cneou, knee
djanouh, knee
steorran, stars
setaran, stars
setnian, to be in ambush
sater, war
sceacan, shakan, to shake, to pluck
schekest, he breaks
athe, easy
asaneh, easy
cu, cow
gao, ox or cow
ma, more
meh, great
bar, bare
barhene, naked
morth, death
mourd, he dies
mourdeh, mortal
meder, mother
amider, mother
nafel, the navel
naf, the navel
na, no
na, not
bog, a branch
barg, a leaf
purl, pure
partan, pure
agytan, to understand
agah, understanding
ac, an oak
akht, an acorn
brader, brother
berour, brother
bye, a habitation
bita, a house
secg, a little sword
saex, a knife
sakina, a knife
clypian, to call out
cald, called
kala, crying out
mare, greater
mar, great
necan, to kill
naksounan, I kill
band, a joining
banda, a band
raed, a road
raeh, a way
eortha, earth
arta, earth.

From what I have seen of the three languages of ancient and modern Persia which I have inspected, I think that by a more elaborate investigation of all their analogies with the Anglo-Saxon, a greater number of satisfactory congruities might be traced.

But the preceding specimens will perhaps be sufficient to support the probability of the geographical derivation of our ancestors from the vicinity of the Caspian and of Persia; and we are now too many centuries removed from the actual period of the migration, to have any stronger evidence upon it than that of warrantable inference and reasonable probability.

I have the honour to be,

SHARON TURNER
32, Red Lion Square
22nd March, 1827.

N.B. – Since this letter was written, I have found several affinities of Anglo-Saxon words with others in the Arabic, Hebrew, Chinese, Sanskrit, Japanese, Coptic, Laplandish, Georgian, Tongo, Malay, and Susov, which are printed in the fifth edition of the Anglo-Saxon History [The History of the Anglo-Saxons].

These present a range of similitude, amid general dissimilarity, which corroborates the principle formerly stated – of the original unity of the primeval language, and of its subsequent abruption on the compulsory dispersion of mankind.

But these affinities are not, in each language, near so numerous as the preceding collections from the Persian and its cognate dialects; and therefore do not lessen the weight of the argument, that so many Persian correspondences with the Anglo-Saxon, favour the derivation of the latter nation from the ancient Sakasani, who inhabited the regions near the Kur.

V. I. Abaev and H. W. Bailey: The Alans

This article on the Iranian speaking Alans by V. I. Abaev and H. W. Bailey first appeared in the Encyclopedia Iranica on December 15, 1984. The Alans were an ancient Iranian tribe of the northern (Scythian, Saka, Sarmatian, Massagete) group, known to classical writers from the first centuries CE.

Kindly note that a number of pictures displayed in the Compareti article below are from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006 and Farrokh’s textbook  Shadows in the Desert: Ancient Persia at War-Персы: Армия великих царей-سایه‌های صحرا.
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Alansan ancient Iranian tribe of the northern (Scythian, Saka, Sarmatian, Massagete) group, known to classical writers from the first centuries A.D. (see, e.g., Seneca, Thyestes 630; Annaeus Lucan, Pharsalia 8.223, 10.454; Lucian, Toxaris 51, 54, 55, 60; Ptolemy, Geographia 6.14.3, 9, 11; and other sources below).

Saka Paradraya[Click to Enlarge] The Scythians or Saka Paradraya in Eastern Europe before the arrival into the region by another Iranian people: the Sarmatian-Alans (circa 4th century BCE). As noted by Newark: “They [Scythians] were Indo-European in appearance and spoke an Iranian tongue that bought them more closely to the Medes and Persians” (Source: Newark, T. (Historian) & Mcbride, A. (Historical Artist) (1998). Barbarians. London: Concord Publications Company, p.6; Color Plate p. 7).

The name of the Alans appears in Greek as Alanoi, in Latin as Alani or Halani. The same tribes, or affiliated ones, are mentioned as the Asaioi (Ptolemy 5.9.16), Rhoxolanoi, Aorsoi, Sirakoi, and Iazyges (Strabo 2.5.7, 7.2.4; 11.2.1, 11.5.8; 7.2.4). In early times the main mass of the Alans was settled north of the Caspian and Black seas. Later they also occupied the Crimea and considerable territory in the northern Caucasus.

Alan-Warrior[Click to Enlarge] Iranian-speaking Alan warrior circa 5th century CE. The descendants of the Alans are found in Western and northern Iran as well as the Caucasus and Eastern Europe. Large numbers of Alans also assimilated with Europe’s Germanic tribes, notably the Ostrogoths (Painting by the late Angus McBride).As noted by Professor Abaev and bailey in this article “The name “Alan” is derived from Old Iranian *arya-, “Aryan,” and so is cognate with “Īrān” (from the gen. plur. *aryānām)“.

The history of the Alans can be divided into three periods: (1) from the beginning of the Christian era to the great migration of peoples; (2) from that period to the Mongol invasion; (3) subsequent to the Mongol invasion. During the first period, the Alans appear as a nomadic, warlike, pastoral people who were professional warriors and took service, at various times, with the Romans, Parthians, and Sasanians. Their cavalry was particularly renowned. They participated in Mithridates’ wars with Rome (chronicled by Lucan), as well as in Roman campaigns in Armenia, Media, and Parthia in the 1st and 2nd centuries A.D. (see Josephus, Jewish Wars 7.244-51,Antiquities 18.97; cf. accounts in Moses of Khoren, History of the Armenians [Langlois, Historiens II, pp. 105-06, 125] and the Georgian Chronicle [Kartlis tskhovreba, in M. F. Brosset and D. I. Chubinov, Histoire de la Georgie I, St. Petersburg, 1849]). Ammianus Marcellinus (31.2) describes the Alans’ nomadic economy and warlike customs.

Iranian Sword Worship-Excalibur Lenged[Click to Enlarge] (left) A reconstruction by Brzezinski and Mielczarek (2002 ) of Iranian-speaking Sarmatian warriors paying their respects to a fallen comrade in Europe (circa 1st century AD) – note the ritual of thrusting the fallen comrade’s sword  into the earth. At right is a screenshot of the Excalibur sword of King Arthur thrust into the stone (Movie “Excalibur“, 1981, John Boorman). This is one of many parallels between the Arthurian legends and the mythologies of the ancient Iranians  (Pictures used in Kaveh Farrokh’’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division).

The invasion of the Huns split the Alans into two parts, the European and the Caucasian. Some of the European Alans were drawn into the migration of peoples from eastern into western Europe. With the Germanic tribes of Visigoths and Vandals they passed into Gaul and Spain, some even reaching North Africa. The Alans fought on the side of the Romans in the battle of the Catalaunian Fields (A.D. 451), when Aetius defeated Attila, chief of the Huns. In 461 and 464 they made incursions into Italy. After Attila’s death they struggled, together with the Germanic tribes, to free themselves from Hun domination. Large Alan hordes settled along the middle course of the Loire in Gaul under King Sangiban and on the lower Danube with King Candac (the historian Jordanes sprang from the latter group). Another settlement is indicated by the name of the Spanish province Catalonia, which is but a slight deformation of Goth-Alania, “province of the Goths and Alans.” The French proper name “Alain” and English “Alan” are an inheritance from the tribe. The Alans also left an imprint on Celtic folk-poetry, e.g., the cycle of legends concerning King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table (see M. Hesse, “Iranisches Sagengut im Christlichen Epos,” Atlantis 1937, pp. 621-28; J. H. Grisward, “Le motif de l’épée jetée au lac: la mort d’Arthur et la mort de Batradz,” Romania 90, 1969, pp. 289-340). Part of the European Alans remained in the lands bordering the Black Sea, including the Crimea.

Alan at Orleans 451 AD[Click to Enlarge] Alan warrior in combat at Orleans (circa 451 CE). Many of these Iranian speakers settled in what is now modern France and assimilated into the local population. To this day their legacy resonates in Eastern Europe with names such as Alan, Alana, Irene, and Rita. The Alans are now believed to have introduced much of their folklore into the Arthurian legends of the British Isles. Painting by Angus McBride.

The Caucasian Alans occupied part of the Caucasian plain and the foothills of the main mountain chain from the headwaters of the Kuban river and its tributary, the Zelenchuk (in the west), to the Daryal gorge (in the east). They became sedentary and took to cattle-breeding and agriculture. Towns developed, elements of state organization appeared, and political and cultural ties were established with Byzantium, Georgia, Abkhazia [see Abḵāz], the Khazars, and Russia. Dynastic marriages were concluded with these countries. From the 5th century on, Christian propaganda was conducted, first by Byzantine, later also by Georgian, missionaries. The Alans adopted Christianity in the 10th century, and an Alan episcopal see was created.

In 244/857 Boḡā, a general of the caliph of Baghdad, invaded Transcaucasia and the northern Caucasus, devastating Georgia, Abkhazia, the Alan country, and the Khazar lands. The Alans soon recovered, however, and restored their state. They are often mentioned by medieval writers, both western (Procopius of Caesarea, Menander, Theophanes of Byzantium, Constantine Porphyrogenitus) and Arab and Persian. The latter use the name “Alān” or “Ās”; and in Russian chronicles and Hungarian sources the form “Yas” is found. In the 4th/10th century the Arab historian Masʿūdī indicates that the Alan kingdom stretched from Daghestan to Abkhazia. He describes its prosperity: “The Alan king (can) muster 30,000 horsemen. He is powerful, very strong and influential (among?) the kings. The kingdom consists of an uninterrupted series of settlements; when the cock crows (in one of them), the answer comes from the other parts of the kingdom, because the villages are intermingled and close together” (trans. V. Minorsky, A History of Sharvan and Darband, Cambridge, 1958, pp. 156-60). The anonymous Ḥodūd al-ʿālam (trans. Minorsky, pp. 83, 161, 318, 445) describes Alania as a vast country with 1,000 settlements; the people included both Christians and idol-worshipers, mountaineers and plain-dwellers. The text makes the important statement that, in the north, the Alans bordered on the Hungarians and the Bulgars (the ancestors of the Chuvash). In the east they gave their name to the Daryal gorge, called “Gate of the Alans” (Arabic Bāb al-Lān, Persian Dar-e Alān, hence Daryal).

Chester[Click to Enlarge] Sarmatian warrior clad in scale armor. Fluttering behind him is the distinctive Iranian battle standard, a dragon made like a windsock. Fragments of a funeral stele from the Roman camp at Chester, England. Chester Museum. Photo: Chester Archaeological Society. From The Sarmatians (New York, 1970), pl. 46.

The Mongol invasion of the 7th/13th century and Tamerlane’s wars in the 8th/14th proved fatal to the Alan state. Its organization was destroyed, and the population suffered heavy loss. Ebn al-Aṯīr reports: “The Tatars attacked the Alans; they massacred them, committed many outrages, plundered and seized prisoners, and marched on against the Qipchaqs” (XII, p. 252; for the events of 1221 A.D., seeCamb. Hist. Iran V, p. 311). The remnants of the Alans broke up into three groups. One retreated into the foothills and gorges of the central Caucasus and lives there up to the present [see Ossetes], numbering some 400,000. The people of their eastern branch call themselves “Ir”, those of the western branch “Digor.” The name “Alan” survives among them, in the form “Allon”, only in folklore. (Russian “Osetiny” is from Georgian Oseti, “Alania.” The Georgians had long called the Alans Os- or Ovs- and their country Oset-.) A second group of Alans migrated with the Qipchaqs (Comani) into Europe, settling in Hungary. The territory they occupied is to this day called Jászság, “province of the Yas;” and its capital is Jászberény. They preserved their language and ethnic identity until the 15th century, but gradually adopted the Hungarian language and became assimilated. The third group took service under the Mongol khans. According to the Chinese chronicle Yuan-shi, these “Asu” played an important role in further Mongol expansion. The Catholic missionary John de Marignolli, who spent five years in China, states that there were up to 30,000 Ās there (H. Yule, Cathay and the Way Thither III [Hakluyt Society, second ser., no. 37], London, 1914, pp. 180ff.). In the course of time they perished in warfare or were absorbed into the local population.

Osetia_woman_working[Click to Enlarge] A Russian photograph of Ossetian women of the northern Caucasus working with textiles in the late 19th century CE. Ossetians are the descendants of the Iranian speaking Alans who migrated to Eastern Europe, notably former Yugoslavia, and modern-day Rumania and Hungary (where their legacy remains in the Jasz region).

The name “Alan” is derived from Old Iranian *arya-, “Aryan,” and so is cognate with “Īrān” (from the gen. plur. *aryānām). The ancient Alan language may, to some extent, be reconstructed on the basis of modern Ossetic (after excluding the latter’s Turkic and Caucasian additions). The Alans created no writing, and no texts survive in their language except an inscription in Greek letters on a tombstone from the headwaters of the Kuban (Grund. Iran. Phil. I, Anhang, p. 31). A few sentences are recorded by the Byzantine author Tzetzēs (Gerhardt, “Alanen und Osseten,” pp. 37-51).

Modern-day Ossetian girls in traditional attire in Tskhinval (Source: Ossetians.com).

Various personal, ethnic, and place names are also known (see M. Vasmer, Die Iranier in Südrussland, Leipzig, 1923, pp. 25-29). This material at least indicates clearly the Iranian character of the Alan language.

Modern-day Ossetian boys in in Tskhinval attired in Kafkaz dress (Source: Ossetians.com). The Ossetians of the Caucasus speak an ancient Iranian language akin to modern Persian and Kurdish.

Bibliography 

Yu. Kulakovskiĭ, Alany po svedeniyam klassicheskikh i vizantiĭskikh pisateleĭ, Kiev, 1899.

Vs. Miller, Osetinskiye etudy III, Moscow, 1887, pp. 39-116.

W. Tomaschek, “Alani,” Pauly-Wissowa I/2 (1893), col. 1282-85.

E. Täubler, “Zur Geschichte der Alanen,” Klio 9, 1909, pp. 14-28.

Bleichsteiner, Das Volk der Alanen (Berichte des Instituts für Osten und Orient 2), Vienna, 1918.

G. Vernadsky, “Sur l’origine des Alains,” Byzantion 16, 1942-43, pp. 81-86.

Idem, “Der sarmatische Hintergrund der germanischen Völkerwanderung,” Saeculum 2, 1951, pp. 340-92.

V. I. Abaev, Osetinskiĭ yazyk i fol’klor I, Moscow and Leningrad, 1948, pp. 248-70.

D. Gerhardt, “Alanen und Osseten,” ZDMG 93, 1939, pp. 33-51.

Vaneyev, Srednevekovaya Alania, Stalinir, 1959.

Z. D. Gagloĭti, Alany i voprosy etnogeneza osetin, Tbilisi, 1966. V. Kuznetsov, Alania v X-XIII vv., Ordzhonikidze, 1971.

W. Barthold and V. Minorsky, “Alan,” EI2 I, p. 354.

B. S. Bachrach, The History of the Alans in the West, Minnesota, 1973.

Additional Notes

An inscription of A.D. 238-44 was set up in Ribchester, Lancashire, England, by the local Sarmatian veterans who had been sent to Britannia in 175 by Marcus Aurelius (161-80). He had defeated Sarmatians in 175, taken some of them into the Roman army, and adopted, as victor, the name Sarmaticus. The inscription reads “numerus equitum Sarmatarum Bremetennacensium Gordianus” (N. EQQ. SARM. BREMETENN. GIORDANI). It is published with a commentary by I. A. Richmond, “The Sarmatae, Bremetennacum veteranorum, and the Regio Bremetennacensis,”Journal of Roman Studies 1945, pp. 15-29. The road through Rheims was called the Via Sarmatarum. The Poles at one time meditated calling their country Sarmatia. T. Sulimirski published The Sarmatians in London in 1970. The earliest reference to the Sarmatians is in the Avesta, Sairima-, which is in the later epic Slm *Sarm and Salm.

Tamar (r. 1184-1212), queen of Georgia in its golden age, was daughter of King Georgi III and his consort Burduḵan, the daughter of the Ossetic prince Ḵuddan. Tamar’s consort, Soslan, was an Ossete.

Konstantinos VII Porphurogennetos entitled the ruler of Alania exousiokratōr(De administrando imperio 11.11, ed. Moravcsik and Jenkins, 1949), andexousiastēs (Book of Ceremonies 2.48).

The Gate of the Alans (not Albanians) is named in the inscription of Šāpūr I, Parthian 2 (the Persian and Greek are lacking) TROA ʾlʾnn, and in the Kartīr inscription BBA ʾlʾnʾn, that is Dar Alānān (with the two Aramaic words TROAand BBA “gate”).

The Archbishop of the Alans in the 13th century was named Theodoros (Kulakovskiĭ, Alany, p. 58).

Masʿūdī’s ʾrsyh *arsiyah is discussed by T. Lewicki, “Un peuple iranien peu connu: les *Arsīya ou *Orsīya,” Hungaro-Turcica, Studies in Honour of Julius Németh, Budapest, 1976. The Ās, Āṣ are cited by Minorsky, Ḥodūd al-ʿālam, pp. 445, 481. The modern Ossetes use Āsi, with the adjective āsiāg, of the neighboring Balkar (who speak Turkish). Similarly the Megrel (Mingrelians) call the Karačai, who speak Turkish, Alani. In Megrel also alani kʾoči is “heroic man” and alanuroba is “tournament.”

The Mongols used As, plural Asut, adjective Asutai, of the Ās of the Caucasus, of whom they took part to act as Qubilai Khan’s Imperial bodyguard in Khan-baliq, Ta-tu “Great City” (the later Peking). From there these As (Alans) wrote letters to Rome for Christian teachers (see A. C. Moule, Christians in China before the year 1550, London, 1930, pp. 196, 253-54, 260-63).

The Alans in the West are well documented by B. S. Bachrach, The History of the Alans in the West, Minnesota, 1973.

The name Ās was changed in Slavonic and Hungarian to Iās (Yās, Jász). The Iaskiy Torg “Iās Market” is the modern Jassy. In Hungary the Jász settled east of Budapest in the Jászsag district, with their chief city Jász-berény, and other places with the name Jász. A manuscript of A.D. 1422 contains a short vocabulary Jász-Latin in which the words are clearly near to modern Ossetic. There is a facsimile and full study by J. Nemeth, Eine Wortliste der Jassen, der ungarländischen Alanen, Berlin, 1959; see further R.-P. Ritter, Acta orientalia hungarica 30, 1976, pp. 245-50.

The Jász loan-words in Hungarian were treated by H. Sköld Die ossetischen Lehnwörter im Ungarischen, Lunds Unversitets Årsskrift 20, 1925.

The region Alaneṭʿi is briefly cited by the Prince Vakhušt, Geograpʿiuli aγcʾera, Description géographique, 1842, p. 413.

Iohannēs Tzetzēs (ca. 1110-1180) wrote of himself as of a pure Hellenic father and of an Abasgian mother. Among citations of foreign phrases he had one in Alanic. This reads tapanchas (glossed kalē hēmera sou), mesphili (authenta mou), chsina (archontissa), korthin . . . (pothen eisai), to pharnetzi kintzi (ouk aischinesai), mesphili (authentria mou), kaiterfoua(sm)ougg (not glossed). Earlier interpretations are in D. Gerhardt, ZDMG 93, 1939, pp. 33-51. It may be explained thus: dä bon xuarzmeʾfsinäi (vocative singular); äxsinäku . . . (not clear); du farnäd`in kindä äi “you have been made happy;” for the final unglossed phrase possibly: käi de ʾrfua *äm uingä “that your blessing is fully felt.”

Photos of the Atashgah (Zoroastrian Fire Temple) in Tbilisi, Georgia

The photos of the Zoroastrian fire temple or Atashgah of Tbilisi in Georgia were provided to kavehfarrokh.com in late 2017 by Dr. Nader Gohari of Durham University, who is an avid researcher and scholar of Iranian Studies.

Panoramic view of the interior of the Atashgah (Zoroastrian fire temple) of Tbilisi (Source: Nader Gohari, 2017).

Georgia, like ancient Albania (known as Republic of Azerbaijan since May 27, 1918) and Armenia have stood at the crossroads between Anatolia, the civilizations of ancient Persia or Iran and Eastern Europe.

[A, C] Views of the stairway of the Atashgah (Zoroastrian fire temple) of Tbilisi; [B] Plaque at wall to right of bottom stairway providing a short history of the Atashgah and its protected status as a heritage site by the Georgian government (Source: Nader Gohari, 2017).

Alongside the impact of the major Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), the Caucasus continues to bear a strong ancient Iranian imprint as witnessed for example by the Kurdish Yezidis who live in both Georgia and Armenia to this day.

Concave structure at one of the top corners of the Atashgah (Zoroastrian fire temple) of Tbilisi (Source: Nader Gohari, 2017).

As noted by the late British historian Mark Whittow (1957-2017) who taught as a professor at Oxford University:

The oldest outside influence in Trans-Caucasia is that of Persia…many of its populations, including Armenians and Georgians, as well as Persians and Kurds, the Transcaucasus had much closer ties with the former Sassanian world to its south and east than with the world to the west” [1996, pages 203-204; Whittow, M. (1996). The Making of Byzantium: 600-1025. Berkley: University of California Press].

Despite the conversion of Georgia to Christianity in the 4th century CE, Zoroastrianism continued to endure in local culture of the region. Officially, it was King Mirian (Persian: Mehran) who converted to Christianity in 337 CE. Despite this, the name “Ohrmazd” (Ahura Mazda) continued to be invoked by the local peasantry who referred to their deity as “Armazi”.

Platform providing access into the the interior of the Atashgah (Zoroastrian fire temple) of Tbilisi (Source: Nader Gohari, 2017).

The Locals of ancient Georgia are believed to have provided offerings to Aramzi or Ohrmazd in a locale in close proximity to what is identified as “Bridge of the Magi” (Lang, 1956, pages 22-23; “St. Nino and the Conversion of Georgia,” Lives and Legends of the Georgian Saints, translated by D.M. Lang (1956), London: Allen & Unwin).

Mock-up view of the interior of the Atashgah (Zoroastrian fire temple) of Tbilisi (Source: Nader Gohari, 2017).

Farroukh Jorat: Iranian Elements in the Culture of the Ancient Slavs

The article below has been written by Farroukh Jorat and first appeared in Fravahr.org. Kindly note that the images and accompanying captions do not appear in the original posting in Fravahar.org. For readers interested in articles highlighting links between ancient Iranian civilizations and Europe, consult the link below:

Europa and Eire-An (ancient Persia or Iran)

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In the early Middle Ages (III-X centuries AD) Eastern Slavs contacted with Baltics in the north, with Germans in the west and with Eastern Iranians in the south-east. Interaction of the Eastern Slavs to the Iranians left their mark on the languages and in the religious culture of the East Slavic peoples (Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians). Let us consider some of the elements of the ancient culture of the Eastern Slavs with Iranian origin.

Semargl (Simurgh)

In 980 in the “Tale of Bygone Years” (Povest vremennykh let) in the list of gods, which were revered in Kiev, was noted deity Semargl. Researcher Vasily Abaev believed that the name of this deity origin from Zoroastrian Simurg. Word Semargl borrowed into the Old Russian language from the Scythian and had the original form Senmarγ [1].

Simurg is the mythological character, combining the traita of dog and bird (Old Iranian Saena mərəγo, “dog-bird”). Russian historian Boris Rybakov believed that the images of winged hounds in the art of ancient Russia represent the image of Semargl [2].

[LEFT] Coat of Arms of Semargl used by the ancient dukes and leaders of ancient Russia (Sarmatia) [RIGHT] Green and yellow Iranian silk decorated with the Sassanian Senmurv motif – this sample was once used for wrapping the relics of St Lupus of Troyes (Picture and caption from Kaveh Farrokh’s lectures at the University of British Columbia’s Continuing Studies Division and were also presented at Stanford University’s WAIS 2006 Critical World Problems Conference Presentations on July 30-31, 2006; Simargl image also available in J.H. in Pinterest – Simurgh image from Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris). After the arrival of Christianity in Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine, the Simargl symbol and its cult was denounced as “evil” and “Satanic”.

In 1873 in Glazov county of Vyatka province was discovered a silver dish with the image of Simurg. It was manufactured in the VIII century AD in Iran or Central Asia. After the adoption of Christianity in Rus in 988 image of Semargl has been replaced and forgotten.

Irey

In the “Instructions” (Pouchenia) of Vladimir Monomakh (1053-1125) is a mention about mythical southern country Irey, where the birds fly away in winter and identified with paradise. The most convincing etymology of the word irey is from Old Iranian *airuā-(dahyu-) “Aryan land”. Apparently, this word was borrowed by the Eastern Slavs from Sarmatian tribes. A similar parallels also observed in the language of the Sami, one of the Finno-Ugric Peoples of Russia: Årjel “south”, år’jān “far to the south”, Old Sami *orja “South”.

A copper-engraved map printed in London (approximately in 1770, unknown publishers) based on ancient Greek sources displaying “Sarmatia Europæa” and “Sarmatia Asiatica” by the River Don (Source: Public domain). Colchis and Iberia are now approximatley in modern-day Georgia, with the region Albania renamed as “Azerbaijan” in May 1918. The historical Azerbaijan (Azarbaijan) has been located in northwest Iran below the Araxes River as seen partly in the region of Media at bottom right of the map.

Div

In the “The Tale of Igor’s Campaign” (Slovo o polku Igoreve) (end of XII century) mentioned div as demonic character, sitting on a tree and his whistle presaged the failure of the campaign of Prince Igor at Cumans. The image associated with the Devas — the servants of Ahriman from Zoroastrian mythology.

Dahl VI in his Explanatory dictionary … noted about one of the meanings of Russian word div: “ominous bird, probably an owl”. From this we can conclude that the prototype image of div in the Eastern Slavic culture is owl with a sinister reputation of foreboding.

A reconstruction by Cernenko and Gorelik of the north-Iranian Saka or Scythians in battle (Cernenko & Gorelik, 1989, Plate F). The ancient Iranians (those in ancient Persia and the ones in ancient Eastern Europe) often had women warriors and chieftains, a practice not unlike those of the contemporary ancient Celts in ancient Central and Western Europe. While this topic is often ignored in the media, news outlets, education and academic venues, Ancient Iran has had a profound influence on Europeans and their cultural development. For more on this, see the Dissertation of Dr. Sheda Vasseghi (2017), Positioning Of Iran And Iranians In Origins Of Western Civilization. PhD Dissertation, University of New England, Academic advising Team: Marylin Newell, Laura Bertonazzi, Kaveh Farrokh.

Footnotes

[1] Abayev VI. Scythian-European Isogloss. At the crossroads of East and West. (Skifo-evropeyskie izoglossy. Na styke Vostoka I Zapada). In Russian.

[2] BA Rybakov. Paganism of Old Slavs. (Yazichestvo drevnikh slavian). In Russian

Searching for Mani’s Picture Book in Textual and Pictorial Sources

The article below Searching for Mani’s Picture Book in Textual and Pictorial Sources” is written by Zsuzsanna Gulácsi (Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff) and published on-line in Journal of Transcultural Studies (number 1, 2011).

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Abstract

This paper is a based on an extensive study of the available textual and visual data on a collection of didactic paintings employed by the Manichaeans throughout the 1400-year history of their religion. Known as Mani’s Picture or Picture-Book, these paintings were originally created in mid-third century Mesopotamia with direct involvement from Mani (216-276 CE) and remained preserved by being adapted to a wide variety of artistic and cultural norms as the religion spread across the Asian continent. The evidence on Manichaean didactic art fits well with the pan-Asiatic phenomenon of, what Victor Mair calls in his 1998 monograph, “picture-recitation,” or “story-telling with images.” Nevertheless, more than any other religion, the Manichaeans made use of images by attributing canonical status to them. This assured their preservation. By situating the Manichaean data in a broader art historical context, this lecture brings together evidence on the same phenomenon by other contemporaneous religious traditions (such as Eastern Christianity, Judaism, and most importantly Buddhism) in third-eighth century West Asia, eighth-twelfth century Central Asia and eighth-seventeenth century East Asia.

The use of didactic paintings to illustrate orally delivered religious teachings was a practice maintained throughout the 1400-year history of Manichaeism. Known as Mani’s Picture in the earlier sources and as Mani’s Picture-Book in later records, a collection of images that depicted the basic tenets of Mani are at the center of this study. These paintings were created first in mid-third century Mesopotamia with direct involvement from Mani (216-276 CE) and were later preserved by being copied and adapted to a wide variety of artistic and cultural norms, as the religion spread across the Asian continent. The surviving textual and pictorial evidence of Manichaean didactic art has never been collated and analyzed before, nor has it been assessed in light of non-Manichaean comparative examples. While the Manichaean practice of teaching with images is similar to the pan-Asiatic phenomenon of “picture-recitation” or “storytelling with images” studied by Victor Mair in 1988, more than any other religion, the Manichaeans institutionalized the use of their didactic images by attributing a canonical status to them. This aspect contributed to their preservation, albeit in slowly changing artistic forms.

Already in its original vision, Mani’s religion is intended to be universal and thus “transcultural.” From its very start the Manichaean mission relied on multifaceted (oral, textual, and pictorial) means of communication that were meant to be adapted to a variety of distinct cultural contexts. Due to their nature, most oral means of communication remain undocumented, leaving us no chance to contemplate the culturally distinct verbal characteristics of religious speech acts. Rare exceptions to this are transcribed sermons or debates, in which the words of performances became texts and are studied as such. The transcultural nature of Manichaean texts is recognized today. As such, parts of Mani’s original third-century Mesopotamian Syriac (Eastern Aramaic) prose is preserved in Coptic translations from fourth-century Egypt, just as it is in Parthian, Middle Persian, Sogdian, and Uygur translations from tenth-century East Central Asia. While the language (vocabulary, grammar, and syntax) of Mani’s writings  naturally changed in the course of the translation process, – the content was intended to be preserved -.as accurately as possible. I see analogous traits reflected among the remains of Mani’s Picture-Book surviving from ca. tenth-century East Central Asia and ca. twelfth- to fourteenth-century southern China. Although these paintings have just started to be identified and studied, it seems clear that, in course of their historical transmission originally from Mesopotamia to Central Asia and later from Central Asia to China, their subject matter (i.e. the core theme of this art) is conservatively preserved, while the pictorial language expressing that content is often visually “translated” in order to make the image comprehensible to the culture of its intended viewers.[1]I believe that a newly gained comprehension of the phases of cultural transmission in Manichaean didactic art across the Asian continent will contribute an important model to our overall understanding of how religious art travels across cultures.

My current goal is to report on my research into Mani’s Picture-Book, the results of which form the basis of a monograph scheduled to be published in the Nag Hammadi, and Manichaean Studies series published by Brill.[2] My overall project is three-fold. It includes the study of the Manichaean textual sources, the identification and analysis of Manichaean pictorial sources, and the contextualized assessment of the findings under consideration of non-Manichaean comparative examples. By situating the Manichaean data in a broader context, my study brings together evidence of the practice of teaching with images in other contemporaneous religious traditions (such as Eastern Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and most importantly Buddhism) in third- to eighth-century West Asia, eighth- to twelfth-century Central Asia and eighth- to seventeenth-century East Asia. – Before discussing these three approaches, it may be useful to note some basic facts about the history of the Manichaean religion and its surviving artistic remains.

Map 1: Phases of Manichaean history (3rd-17th centuries CE) (Source: Transcultural Studies).

The overall history of Manichaeism is better understood today in light of research published in hundreds of articles and books during the past century.[3] An overview of the major phases that make up the history of Manichaeism can be illustrated in a map (Map 1). This religion originated in mid-third-century Mesopotamia from the teachings of Mani. From there it immediately spread to the west, where it was persecuted to extinction by the sixth and seventh centuries. Manichaean communities existed in Iran and West Central Asia between the third and tenth centuries. Spreading further east along the Silk Road, Mani’s teaching reached the realm of the Uygurs, whose ruling elite adopted it as their imperial religion between the mid eighth and early eleventh centuries. Appearing in China during the seventh century, Manichaeism was present in the major cities during the Tang dynasty (618–907), surfacing in the historical records as monijiao (“Religion of Mani”). For a brief period, which corresponded to the zenith of Uygur military might and political influence on the Tang, Manichaeism enjoyed imperial tolerance and was propagated among the Chinese inhabitants of the major urban area.[4] The fall of the Uygur Steppe Empire (840/841) was followed by- the persecution of all foreign religions in 843–845. As a consequence, Manichaeism disappeared from northern China. Its Chinese converts fled westwards to the territories of the Sedentary Uygur Empire (841–1213) in the region of Dunhuang and the Tarim Basin, and towards the southern part of China, where a fully sinicized version of the religion, referred to in Chinese sources as mingjiao (lit. “Religion of Light”), existed until the early seventeenth century.[5]

During the twentieth century, Manichaean artistic remains were known to have come almost exclusively from East Central Asia, from the region of the oasis city of Kocho, which was a trading and agricultural center along the northern Silk Routes. For  approximately three centuries, it also functioned as the winter capital of the Sedentary Uygur Empire. German expeditions excavated Kocho prior to World War I and rescued about 5000 Manichaean manuscript fragments and a cache of artistic remains. The resulting publications lead to the scholarly début of the topic of Manichaean art in art history during the 1910s and 1920s.[6] During the past twenty-five years, a new understanding of Uygur Manichaean art emerged based on the identification of an Uygur Manichaean artistic corpus: the classification and scientific dating of its painting styles, the analytical study of its book medium (i.e., codicology), and the continued research of its iconography. Criteria for identifying a corpus, which doubled the number of Manichaean remains to 108, were put forward in 1997, and formed the basis for a 2001 catalogue featuring color facsimiles and critical editions of all associated texts.[7] A survey of this corpus revealed that the pictorial remains exhibit two locally produced painting styles: one with Western roots, dubbed “the West Asian style of Uygur Manichaean art,” which appears almost exclusively on remnants of illuminated books in codex and scroll formats; the other with Eastern roots, designated “the Chinese style of Uygur Manichaean art,” which was found mainly on temple banners, textile displays, and wall paintings. Contrary to previous assumptions -, carbon dating combined with stylistic analysis and historical dating reveal that both styles existed during the tenth century. This insight confirms that artists working with distinct techniques and media were employed simultaneously in Kocho.[8] The most numerous component of this corpus, the fragments of illuminated manuscripts, were subjected to a codicological analysis in a 2005 monograph that assessed the formal aspects, as well as the contextual cohesion of text and image.[9] Although a monograph on Manichaean iconography  has yet to be completed, a series of insightful studies have been appearing since the early 1980s.[10]

Recently, an exquisitely well-preserved group of Manichaean paintings that originated in southern China have been identified in Japanese art collections.[11] As a result, a growing corpus of seven Chinese Manichaean paintings is known today. They are silk hanging scrolls that portray explicitly Manichaean subjects conveyed in a contemporaneous local artistic style. They were made and used in southern China sometime between the twelfth and the fifteenth centuries and subsequently taken to Japan, mostly due to Japanese interest in collecting Chinese pictorial art. The ongoing studies of these paintings will undoubtedly reveal a wealth of new information and thus improve our current understanding of the overall history of Manichaean art, specifically Chinese Manichaean art, as well as that of Mani’s Picture-Book.

Manichaean textual sources on the use of didactic art

The comprehensive critical analysis of the known Manichaean textual sources provides the foundation of this study. Currently eighteen textual sources are known that refer to Mani’s Picture-Book (Map 2). Each of these texts is about a paragraph in length and originated in divergent contexts from throughout the Manichaean world. Although many of them have been noted in previous scholarship, they have never been studied as a group, nor have they been subjected to a systematic analysis that allows us to collect and assess their data as a whole in order to better understand the history of these unique Manichaean works of art.

Map 2: Existence of Mani’s Picture-Book as documented in eighteen textual sources (Geographical distribution and dates) (Source: Transcultural Studies).

Even the most basic statistical assessment of the distribution of these texts reveals important facts about the history of Mani’s Picture-Book (Map 2). In terms of their religious contexts of origin, 50% are primary Manichaean texts —surviving from the deserts of Northeast Africa (3 texts) and East Central Asia (6+1 texts),—which confirms the continued use of the Picture-Book among the followers of Mani. The other 50% of the texts derive from polemical accounts, including Christian texts in West Asia (1 text), Persian Islamic texts from West and Central Asia (2+5 texts), and an official government report from southern China (1 text), suggesting that this Manichaean collection of didactic paintings was of interest to rival religious and secular authorities alike. Regarding their geographical and chronological distribution, over 40% of these texts (8 texts) discuss the use of Mani’s Picture-Book in third-century Mesopotamia, and among the Uygurs between the eighth and early eleventh centuries. With decreasing significance, Chinese use is also confirmed initially in the North, in the capital cities of the Tang dynasty, and later in the South, in the coastal Fujian province between the twelfth and fifteenth centuries (2 texts). Persian sources that specifically mention  Mani’s Picture-Book and not merely “Mani the painter” are also included in this survey. Starting from the eleventh century, these sources reflect a Persian (non-Manichaean) admiration for Mani’s Picture-Book (2 texts). More recent Persian accounts, dating from the past 300 years, preserve the memory of Mani’s Picture-Book in various literary genres (5 texts). Through their temporal and geographical distribution, these eighteen texts reflect the gradually diminishing use of the Picture-Book, confirming its strong presence in West Asia (4 texts) and East Central Asia (5+1 texts) during the early and the middle era of Manichaean history, and a lessened prominence during the late era of this religion in East Asia (1 text).

An example of what the critical analysis of each text entails can be illustrated with one of the most informative early sources on the Picture-Book, written by Ephrem Syrus (d. 373 CE). Ephrem mentions the Manichaeans’ use of didactic images in Syro-Mesopotamia in a passage of his Prose Refutations.[12] Dating from sometime in the middle of the fourth century, Ephrem composed this text to refute Marcion, Bardaisan, and Mani  who propagated their rivaling version of Christianity in West Asia. Despite its polemical tone, the Prose Refutations are especially relevant, since Ephrem lived within a century of Mani and shared with him a common language and cultural background. Equally significant is that Ephrem quotes directly from a Manichaean text and credits Mani’s disciples as his source of information. Specifically on the practice of teaching with images, he writes:

“According to some of his disciples, Mani also illustrated (the) figures of the godless doctrine, which he fabricated out of his own mind, using pigments on a scroll (Syr. megillah). He labeled the odious (figures) ‘sons of Darkness’ in order to declare to his disciples the hideousness of Darkness, so that they might loathe it; and he labeled the lovely (figures) ‘sons of Light’ in order to declare to them ‘its beauty so that they might desire it.’ He accordingly states: ‘I have written them (the teachings) in books and illustrated them in colors. Let the one who hears about them verbally also see them in visual forms (Syr. yuqnâ, ‘image’ or ‘picture’), and the one who is unable to learn them (the teachings) from [words] learn them from picture(s) (Syr. tzwrt, ‘picture’ or ‘illustration’).”[13]

Ephrem records here that the Manichaeans had a collection of images to illustrate their teachings from the very beginning of their history. He credits Mani with its authorship. Further, he also confirms the doctrinal content of these paintings by stating that they capture Mani’s “doctrine” and “the teachings.” He refers to the latter with plural pronouns,  because Mani’s doctrine consisted of a collection of teachings. Ephrem also conveys that the teachings were “illustrated” “in pigment,” “in colors,” “in a visual form,” and that they were “pictures.” The Syriac tzwrt (“picture”, “illustration”) is used here as a collective noun that John Reeves translates as “picture(s)” in his 1997 edition of the text. The use of the plural in English is justified by the Syriac context. The terms “doctrine” and “picture” both function as collective nouns. Just as we cannot imagine Mani’s doctrine to be one teaching, but rather a collection of teachings, the art that captured Mani’s doctrine was most certainly not a single image, but a collection of images, which Ephrem knew as a scroll (Syr. megillah), the format of which is well suited for storing a collection of individual scenes.[14]

With Ephrem’s passage in mind, it would be wrong to assume that Mani aimed his paintings specifically at an illiterate audience while his texts were meant for the literate members of his community. The vast majority of people listening to any religious teaching in late ancient Mesopotamia were illiterate. Illiteracy, however, does not seem to be the point here. Instead, Ephrem states that these images supplemented oral teachings, which were an intrinsic part of Manichaean instruction to any and all audiences. The paintings were designed to be seen by those “who hear the teachings verbally” and who are “unable to learn them just from the words.” Such teachings were delivered orally in an environment where the paintings played an essential role. They captured the content of the teaching in a medium different from that of the spoken word, by visual means, in order to make comprehension easier for the audience.[15] In other words, these paintings were didactic pictorial displays and the Manichaean tradition of using them began with Mani himself in mid-third-century southern Mesopotamia. Other texts confirm its continued use throughout the history of this religion.

As a group, the eighteen texts on the Picture-Book constitute a rich documentary source regarding the names, formats, and materials of this work of art, which understandably changed over time.Regarding the history of the name of the collection,early textual sources record it as the Picture (Syr. tzwrt and yukna, Copt. hikon, Gr. eikon, Parth. ārdahang, and MPers. nigar), while later texts from China and Islamic Persia call it the Picture-Book (Chin. tu-ching and Pers. nigarname). Until recently, the latter term dominated modern scholarship. I prefer to use it myself, because it better conveys the idea of a “collection of paintings” and thus avoids the misleading “single image” connotation. In regard to its formats and materials, the texts document that Mani’s Picture-Book existed in both book and textile formats. “Picture-books” are noted in both scroll and codex formats, suggesting a horizontal scroll most likely made of parchment in late ancient West Asia (containing a series of individual scenes painted next to one another) and a horizontal codex that was probably made of paper in mediaeval Central Asia (with full page images on folia bound along their shorter side). In addition to such book formats, there are also documented those that we may call “pictorial cloth displays”. It seems that they were portable didactic tableaux (that featured images on the surface of a cloth hanging scroll). Examples survived in both painted and embroidered formats among the Uygur and Chinese Manichaean artistic remains.

Some of the texts convey that Mani’s Picture-Book was listed among the canonical works of the Manichaean religion. They state that in addition to books written by Mani, the Manichaean canon includes a solely pictorial doctrinal work—a collection of didactic paintings attributed to Mani.[16] None of the canonical Manichaean books survive intact, not even in later copies. Only smaller fragments that were produced as translations are known today. As the two most important records of Mani’s teachings, the Picture-Book is frequently singled out with the Gospel in West Asian sources. These two works from the Manichaean canon are used as symbols for the textual and visual records that Mani created specifically to prevent the corruption of his teachings. Accordingly, theses two books are named in a ten-point list of claims for Manichaean superiority in Kephalaion 151, where Mani states:

“My church is superior in the wisdom and [the secrets?], which I have revealed to you in it. As for this [immeasurable] wisdom I have written it in the holy books–in the great [Gospel] and the other writings – so that it not be altered [after] me. Just as I have written it in books, so [I have] also ordered it (keleuein) to be drawn (zōgraphein). For all the [apostles], my brothers, who have come before me, [have not written] their wisdom in the books as I have written it. [Neither have] they drawn their wisdom in the Picture (hikōn) as [I have drawn] it. My church surpasses the earlier churches [also in this point].”[17]

The survey of the textual sources confirms that, in addition to writing, painting was employed as a tool by Mani to clearly communicate and at the same time avoid any adulteration of his teachings. No other religious prophets, including Zoroaster, Shakyamuni, and Jesus (“my brothers, who have come before me” – as Mani calls them in Kephalaion 151), wrote down, let alone painted their teachings. Mani saw this as an important distinction between him and these predecessors. Just as in canonical texts, copies of Mani’s collection of didactic paintings were also routinely made, assuring its preservation across the phases of Manichaean history, a point that I will revisit below.[18]

Manichaean Pictorial Art with Didactic Themes

A total of twenty-five Manichaean paintings can be identified today from East Central Asia and southern China that feature didactic subjects depicting core Manichaean teachings. I argue that the pictorial themes of these scenes were originally part of the collection of images known as Mani’s Picture-Book. These twenty-five pictorial sources constitute two distinct groups. The primary group is formed of actual paintings of Mani’s Picture-Book. Some of these are intact, while others are fragmentary scenes (large enough to be identified) conveyed either in picture-book formats (pictorial scroll and pictorial horizontal codex) or textile display formats (painted or embroidered silk hanging scrolls). The second group consists of copies of the Picture-Book‘s scenes preserved as illuminations in Manichaean hymnbooks and sub-scenes painted onto Manichaean funerary banners.

Sermon on Mani’s Teaching of Salvation Chinese Manichaean silk painting, complete hanging scroll, 142 cm x 59,2 cm, colors on silk, ca. 13th century, Yamato Bunkakan Museum, Nara, Japan (Source: Transcultural Studies). Note the Five registers from top to bottom: Register 1. The Light Maiden’s Visit to Heaven. The Stages of the Visit: 1. Greetings by the host upon arrival, 2. Meeting with the host in the Palace, 3. Farewell to the host; Register 2. Sermon Performed Around the Statue of a Manichaean Deity (Mani); Register 3. The States of Good Reincarnation. Four Classes of Chinese Society: 1. Itinerant workers, 2. Craftsmen, 3. Farmers, 4. Aristocrats; Register 4. The Light Maiden’s Intervention in the Judgment after Death; Register 5. States of Bad Reincarnation. The Tortures of Hell: 1. Person shot with arrows, 2. Person sawed in two, 3. Person crushed by a fiery wheel, 4. Demons waiting for their prisoner.

An example of a well-preserved scene from the Picture-Book has been recently identified. It is a Chinese silk painting in the collection of the Yamato Bunkakan, in Nara, Japan, dating sometime between the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (Figure 1). The Manichaean origin of this painting was first suggested by Takeo Izumi on the basis of a comparison with the Mani statue, and later affirmed by Yutaka Yoshida.[19] This 142 centimeter tall hanging scroll is accompanied by a dedicatory inscription with an illegible date that offers this painting “to a temple of vegetarians.”[20] The painting itself consists of five clearly demarcated registers of varying heights that together convey a subject that we may call Sermon on Mani’s Teaching of Salvation.[21] At the top, the first register depicts heaven as a palatial building that forms the focus of a narration of events with the repeated images of a few mythological beings. Using continuous narration, this composition shows how the Light Maiden and her entourage conduct their business: arriving on the left while being greeted by an unidentified female host; visiting the host while seated inside the palace (center); and then departing on the right while being seen off by the host. The scene may be titled The Light Maiden’s Visit to Heaven. The second register depicts a sermon performed around the statue of a Manichaean deity (most likely Mani) by two Manichaean elects, shown on the right.[22]The elect giving the sermon is seated, while his assistant is standing. A layman and his attendant, seen on the left, listen to the sermon. Therefore, the scene may be titled Sermon around a Statue of Mani. The third register is divided into four small squares, each devoted to one of four classes of Chinese society in order to capture what seems to be the daily life of the Chinese Manichaean laity (known as “auditors”). In succession from left to right, the first scene represents itinerant laborers; the second—craftsmen; the third—farmers, and the fourth—aristocrats.[23] This set of scenes may be titled States of Good Reincarnation. The fourth register depicts the Manichaean view of judgment after death. It shows a judge seated behind a desk surrounded by his aides in a pavilion on an elevated platform, to the front of which two pairs of demons lead their captives to hear their fates, either positive or negative. In the upper left corner, the Light Maiden arrives on her usual cloud formation with two attendants, to intervene on behalf of the man about to be judged. This scene may be titled The Light Maiden’s Intervention in a Judgment. The fifth register concludes the hanging scroll by portraying four fearful images of hell that include from right to left: arrows being shot at a person suspended from a red frame, dismemberment, a fiery wheel rolled over a person, and lastly a group of demon torturers waiting for their victim. This scene may be titled States of Bad Reincarnation. Clearly influenced by the iconography of local Buddhist artistic themes, all but one of the scenes look analogous to contemporaneous Buddhist works of art, including heaven on top and judgment and hell on the bottom. Nevertheless, the reoccurring figure of the Light Maiden in these scenes, as well as the uniquely Manichaean, centrally located, and largest Sermon Scene, makes this a readily identifiable Manichaean work of art.

Scroll Fragment (MIK III 4947 & III 5d) with an image of the Buddha, Museum of Indian Art, Berlin (Source: Transcultural Studies).

Fragmentary scenes that nevertheless preserve enough data to identify their actual didactic contents, may also be identified as examples of Mani’s Picture-Book. One such scene is found on a paper handscroll depicting the Primary Prophets from Kocho (MIK III 4974 & III 5d) in the collection of the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Figure 2).[24] This fragment was identified as Manichaean based on the correlation with specific motifs and technical details of Manichaean art.[25] This torn piece of lavishly painted paper retains parts of the central being’s mandorla and one of the original four prophets, the historical Buddha (Figure 2a). Shakyamuni is shown in authentic Buddhist iconography and is identified by the word “Buddha” written vertically on his chest in the Parthian language (“B-U-T”) and the Sogdian script.[26] This Buddha figure belonged to the upper right section of a scene that was originally painted on a horizontal scroll (Figure 2b). The original composition was organized around the still-intact large central figure (Mani)beneath a canopy. It probably involved, in the section now lost, the other three of the four figures (forerunners to Mani), including Jesus. This fragment derives from a pictorial didactic diagram with a uniquely Manichaean theme, whichwe may call the Primary Prophets. It was based on Manichaean texts from West and East Central Asia discussing this topic. In these texts, Mani is mentioned along with the founders of other religions whose teachings were relevant to Manichaeism. The East Central Asian versions of the texts name four other prophets, all of whom are considered to be of a lesser rank than Mani. They include the antediluvian prophet, Seth; the Buddhist prophet, Shakyamuni; the Zoroastrian prophet, Zarathustra; and the Christian prophet, Jesus. Analogously, the two pictorial fragments from Kocho feature five figures arranged in a symmetrical composition that uses centrality and scale to communicate hierarchy—the four somewhat smaller figures, symbolizing the forerunners, surround a larger central figure, most likely Mani.[27]

During the East Central Asian (Uygur) phase of Manichaean history, some scenes of the Picture-Book were copied to other media and thus survived as scenes on temple banners or illuminated manuscripts discovered in Kocho. I argue that such scenes can be identified based on their didactic pictorial contents, since they depict core Manichaean teachings that are well documented from textual (often canonical) sources. In the case of book paintings, the lack of contextual cohesion (i.e., the lack of harmonized content between the texts and image) and the sideways orientation of the painting in relation to the writing suggest that the paintings originally had a solely pictorial didactic context (such as a “picture-book”). Their scenes developed independently from the illuminated “text-book” during the early, West Asian phase of this religion.

The Work of the Religion Scene (MIK III 4794 recto, detail), before reconstruction (at Left, Gulasci, 2009) and after digital reconstruction (6.6 cm x 6.1 cm) (at Right, Gulasci, 2009) (Source: Transcultural Studies).

An example of a scene that, I suggest, originated as part of Mani’s Picture-Book, is the “Work of the Religion” scene preserved on the recto of a torn codex folio (MIK III 4974) from the collection of the Museum für Asiatische Kunst, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Figure 3). The surviving content of the painting (Figure 3a) becomes more understandable with a digital, non-interpretive, reconstruction of the same scene (Figure 3b). The steps of this reconstruction were discussed in a recent publication.[28] This painting is a didactic diagram that explains the goal of Manichaean practice: The Freeing of the Light from the Captivity of the Darkness.(1) Laypeople donate vegetarian food (that is believed to have a high concentration of light particles) to the elect (the priesthood).(2) After consuming this food, the bodies of the elect free the ight.(3) Through the singing of hymns, light departs from the bodies of the elect and heads towards to the Realm of Light. (4) The moon and sun act as vessels of the light, transporting the freed light particles back to God (to the Realm of Light). (5) God, i.e., “the Father of Greatness” (symbolized here by his right hand) reaches into the scene from above to receive the shipment.Even when viewing the original painting without the reconstruction, all details of this iconography can be identified in Manichaean texts that discuss “The Work of the Religion.” This scene depicts a core teaching and is free from East Central Asian (Buddhist) influence. Therefore, it is most likely that this pictorial subject originated among the scenes of Mani’s Picture-Book.

Turfan Manichaean Illuminated codex Folio, MIK III 4974, (Gulacsi, 2005, Fig. 5/8)(Source: Transcultural Studies); recto of paper fragment (at left) and verso of fragment (at Right).

In addition to the didactic theme of this painting (i.e., the liberation of light from the captivity of darkness), distinct from the text of the folio (benediction on the leaders of the local Uygur community), it is the physical context of the image that preserves codicological clues that suggest a solely pictorial source of origin. I hypothesize that the painting survived as a replica of a picture-book scene, copied onto a manuscript folio with a Middle-Persian language text, which is a benediction of the sacred meal and the leadership of the local community. The benediction text continues on the verso. The layout of this folio (like that of many other Manichaean fragments) can be fully reconstructed. As this reconstructed page layout shows, the writing utilizes the codex page vertically, while the painting utilizes the same page horizontally. The text does not comment on the painting and, vice-versa, the image does not make a visual reference to the text. I can only interpret this dual discrepancy by suggesting that they were not developed together within the illuminated book, but were instead derived from two independent sources: the texts came from a Manichaean textual tradition, while the images from Manichaean pictorial art.

Teaching Manichaean doctrine with the aid of both texts and images takes us back to Mani himself, who was active in a multicultural part of the world under Sasanid rule in southern Mesopotamia. Regarding the texts left behind by Mani, it is known that he was highly literate in several languages and composed and committed himself to writing a significant portion of the Manichaean canon. Mani viewed his literacy as an important point of distinction between him and the founder of other religions. In regards to the paintings, a variety of textual sources note that Mani commissioned or painted images himself that captured his teaching in a visual form. The two originally separate means of communication (textual and pictorial) remained important in later Manichaeism and in some cases became combined in a third, new medium (illuminated manuscripts adorned with —horizontally arranged images), which the Manichaeans seemed to employ only during the East Central Asian phases of their history.[29]

Comparative Sources on Teaching Religion with Images across the Asian Continent

Manichaean communities were not the only religious traditions active across the Asian continent and known to have illustrated the oral instructions of their teachings with didactic art. In 1988, Victor Mair from the University of Pennsylvania devoted a monograph to what he called “picture recitation” or “story telling with pictures”; the book features both secular and religious examples of the practice.[30] The starting point of Mair’s research was a genre of popular Chinese literature, known as bian-wen (transformation texts). Dating from the Tang period, transformation texts represent the first extended vernacular narratives in China. The earliest examples discovered from Dunhuang included textual manuscripts, as well as painted hand scrolls, sometimes with no texts, just images, which contributed to a confusion regarding the interpretation of their function and origin. According to a popular explanation, they were promptbooks for monks’ sermons and lectures. At the same time, evidence suggested that pien-storytellers were primarily lay entertainers (sometimes women). Mair argued that the genre of transformation texts derived from the tradition of chuan-pien, a type of oral storytelling with pictures, i.e., picture recitation, which as a folk tradition in China was poorly documented in historical accounts. Since relatively little Chinese data was available on picture recitation, Mair considered analogous genres from a variety of countries across the Asian continent, including India and southeast Asia, Iran and Central Asia, as well as Japan. Through his survey Mair could point to the historical depth of the tradition, as well as its diverse religious application, not only among Buddhist, but also Hindu, Jain, Islamic, and Manichaean communities.

Teaching with pictorial scrolls in Etoki performances of contemporary Japan; Pointing to scenes of a hanging scroll, Etoki performance at Saiko-ji, Nagano Prefecture, Japan, (Kaminishi, 2006, Fig. 5/2)  (Source: Transcultural Studies).

The best contemporary examples of the use of images to illustrate oral instructions of religious teachings are found in Japanese Pure Land Buddhist temples. With the spread of Buddhism from China to the rest of East Asia, the practice of picture recitation was transmitted to Japan, where it still exists today in the form of etoki performances. The fist monograph in English on the Japanese etoki appeared in 2006. The author, Ikumi Kaminishi, presented a contextualized study that focused on both textual and visual documentary sources, some dating as early as the 10th century.

Teaching with pictorial scrolls in Etoki performances of contemporary Japan; Moving between scenes of hand scroll. Etoki performance at Dojo-ji, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan, (Mair, 1988, color plate 6) (Source: Transcultural Studies).

Since etoki is still offered today in about two dozen Buddhist temples, Kaminishi is able to introduce data based on documentary textual and visual sources, actual paintings currently used for the practice, and participant observation. The latter allows the reader to see the survival of specific didactic techniques that utilize pictorial hanging scrolls (vertical textile paintings) and handscrolls (rolled picture-books) as visual displays.[31] Japanese Buddhist sources of picture recitation may help the interpretation of the surviving, fragmentary data provided by Manichaean sources from southern China and East Central Asia. On the one hand, the Buddhist analogies document that teaching with images can be done either in a folk setting by laymen, or in the institutional setting of an organized religion by monks for the benefit of the laity. On the other hand, they allow us to see that both pictorial handscrolls (rolled picture-books) and hanging scrolls (vertical textile paintings) are suitable formats for didactic visual displays. The vertical format of the hanging scroll allows the viewer to see a large number of scenes at the same time, the viewing order of which is given by the instructor, who points to the individual scenes as the instruction progresses. The horizontal format— of the hand scroll—prevents the viewer from seeing the entire roll surface simultaneously. Instead, it is customary to view only a couple of scenes at the time. In this case, the viewing sequence is defined by the horizontal layout of the scenes, which is right to left in East Asia.

Wall painting depicting the showing of a cloth with the Four Major Events, Kizil, ca. 7th century, Museum of Asian Art, Berlin, (Mair, 1988, Plate IV) (Source: Transcultural Studies).

The use of these two formats (i.e., vertical hanging scroll and horizontal handscroll), like the two materials (i.e., painted silk and painted paper) are documented for the Buddhist communities of medieval East Central Asia, who also employed them for conveying didactic pictorial subjects. A version of a vertical textile display depicts the four major events from the Life of the Historical Buddha, which is preserved on a wall painting from the caves of Kizil, dating from the 8th century CE (Figure 6a). A solely pictorial paper roll depicting the Ten Kings of Hell is preserved in Cave 17 at Dunhuang, dating from tenth-century, and housed today in the collection of the British Museum (Figure 6b).

Pictorial paper scroll depicting the Ten Kings of Hell (details), Dunhuang, ca. 10th century, British Museum, London, (Whitfield, 1988, Fig. 26) (Source: Transcultural Studies).

These Buddhist examples are particularly noteworthy, because they derive from a time and place where the Manichaeans were also known to have rendered the images of their Picture-Book in analogous pictorial formats and materials, in order to illustrate the most important teachings of their tradition. The use of paper in Buddhist and Manichaean art is first documented in East Central Asia. While a few illuminated Manichaean parchment fragments do survive from Kocho,[32] paper clearly dominated the productions of books and picture-books in both codex and scroll formats. East Central Asia is known for religious and artistic innovations that defined the subsequent formation of these two traditions. The existence of didactic pictorial art and the employment of oral instruction are already confirmed for the pre-East Central Asian phase of their history.

The earliest surviving remains of Buddhist didactic art derive from the area of the Kushan Empire, when much of Central Asia and Northern India were encompassed under the rule of an Indo-European speaking nomadic people between the 1st and 3rd centuries (Map 3). The era of the Kushan Empire is especially relevant for this study, not only because during its reign the first narrative images of the Buddha’s life were created, but also because the last century of Kushan rule is contemporaneous with Mani, who had ties with northern India. Although Mani spent most of his life within the western regions of Sasanid Iran, he is known to have led a mission along the eastern frontiers of Iran into what  today is northwest India (just south of what belonged to the Kushan realm), where he encountered Buddhist and Jain communities.[33]

One of the most important subjects of Buddhist art, the narration of the life of the historical Buddha, is first documented in the Kushan era. Extensive stone relief carvings of the life of the Buddha that survived from the region of Gandhara (today Pakistan and Afghanistan) from the second and third centuries CE, preserve a rich artistic tradition, which conveys a didactic narrative cycle. Examples are known in both the vertical and horizontal formats. A set of vertically displayed scenes can be seen on a stele in the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Scenes from the “Life of the Buddha”, Gandhara, Pakistan, Kushan period, between the 1st century and 322 CE, grey schist, courtesy of Cleveland Museum of Art (Source: Transcultural Studies).

At the top of this relief carving, the narration begins with the Birth scene, and what appears to be the scene of the Great Departure with the Buddha on a house leaving behind his princely life, concludes the set on the bottom. A horizontal arrangement is used on the relief at the Sackler Gallery . The two scenes illustrated here (from the original set of four) show Birth, as well as Enlightenment. Together they constitute the first two scenes of the four major events from the Buddha’s life. Since organic materials rarely survive from this time, these stone reliefs suggest that portable versions of analogous compositions, most likely rendered primarily on cotton, were also used to visually narrate the events of the Buddha’s life during this period.

Scenes from the Life of the Buddha, Gandhara, Pakistan, Kushan period, between the 1st century and 322 A.D, schist, courtesy of Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Washington DC. (Source: Transcultural Studies).

Further west, across the Asian continent in third-century Mesopotamia, the use of images for religious teachings is also documented in both Jewish and Christian contexts, suggesting that the Manichaeans were not the only ones in the region who employed didactic art in service of their mission. About ten days walking distance (ca. 270 miles=430 km) north of where Mani lived, on the Roman side of the Sasanid border, the archeological remains (discovered at Dura from the mid-third-century) preserved didactic paintings in Mesopotamian Jewish and Christian settings. The Synagogue at Dura offers a strong comparative example.

Painted Baptistery, Dura-Europos, Syria, 244-45 CE, model copy, tempera on plaster, Yale University Art Gallery (Source: Transcultural Studies).

Its mostly narrative scenes are large enough to be seen by a gathered congregation. The meeting hall is framed by built-in benches, orienting the community towards the center, which allows for a relatively comfortable view of all four walls. The pictorial program of such a visual library does not have to mimic the sequence of stories in the Hebrew Bible. The rabbi brings the images up as he sees fit. He may verbally refer or physically point to them when necessary. The Baptistery at Dura seems to document an analogous case with scenes such as Healing the Paralytic, Walking on Water, Woman at the Well, and Finding the Empty Tomb.

Painted Synagogue, Dura-Europos, Syria, 244-45 CE, rebuilt original, tempera on plaster, Damascus National Museum (Source: Transcultural Studies).

At this early era of Christianity, baptism was performed mostly for adults and, thus, it is conceivable that the ritual included a didactic component. In this small chapel, the scenes seem to be selected for their appropriateness for a baptism ritual. At the same time, they constitute part of a didactic visual library.

During this time in West Asia, the itinerant Manichaean priesthood employed a portable medium (a scroll, according to Ephrem), but they also had a collection of didactic paintings during the mid-third-century, analogously  similar to the Christian and Jewish communities of Mesopotamia. Textual sources confirm that the Manichaeans found their collection of didactic painting important enough to be added to their canon in a solely pictorial volume, which they labeled Mani’s Picture and later, Mani’s Picture-Book. While it is possible that the idea of using didactic art as a visual aid to oral instruction came to Mani as a result of seeing portable pictorial tableaus in India, it is also possible that using portable art in the context of oral performances was a broader, regional, West Asiatic, artistic phenomenon widely employed in both secular and religious settings in this primarily Iranian part of the late ancient world. This line of reasoning would also present an explanation as to why the collection of Manichaean didactic paintings featured so prominently during the fourth century in both Ephrem’s Mesopotamian Syriac polemical accounts, and the Coptic translations of Mesopotamian Manichaean literature, but was unknown to Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE) only a century later in Roman North Africa. Despite being a lay follower of Mani for about twelve years, Augustine never mentions Mani’s Picture-Book and specifically states in his Contra Faustum that the Manicheans that Augustine knew did not illustrate their teachings nor depict their gods in any visual form.[34]

Conclusion

Displaying and explaining images in the course of oral instructions of religious teachings is a phenomenon best known today from the Japanese Pure Land Buddhist practice called etoki.  In the course of etoki, a priest or a learned layperson stands next to a large hanging or hand scroll that contains a variety of scenes and points to the images as her elucidation proceeds. This phenomenon is documented among a variety of historical Buddhist communities, not only in East Asia, but in Central and South Asia, too. The earliest known use of such didactic art in Buddhist context is from the second and third centuries CE, when in Kushan Empire, especially in the region of Gandhara (today’s Kandahar region of Afghanistan and Peshawar region of Pakistan), narrative images on the Buddha’s life were first portrayed in art and recorded in writing.

From their earliest history in mid third-century Sasanid Mesopotamia, Manichaean communities also employed didactic images that were displayed for a group of devotees as part of orally delivered teachings. They covered themes such as the duality of light and darkness, Manichaean prophets and deities, and visions of a religious universe and human salvation. Future research may reveal evidence on an analogous use of didactic art in late ancient Mesopotamia by Jewish and Christian communities. However, compared to all other religions that employed didactic images to accompany instruction, the Manichaeans  were unique in three ways: (1) they consciously used such didactic art as part of their mission from the earliest days of their tradition, (2) they collected these paintings in a solely pictorial “volume” that they attributed to the founder of their religion (calling it Mani’s Picture or Picture-Book), and (3) they added this solely pictorial work to their official canon. The canonical status contributed to the preservation of Manichaean didactic art and to the custom of teaching with them throughout most of this religion’s 1400-year history. As Mani’s teachings began to be disseminated outside southern Mesopotamia across the Asian continent (already by Mani himself), it became necessary to communicate transculturally with the aid of various means of missionary adaptation. Not unlike the translation of Manichaean texts, the paintings also underwent certain changes in their format, style, and iconography in order to efficiently convey Mani’s message to its intended new audience. Accordingly, while the overall repertoire of Manichaean didactic paintings looked different from one another in Sassanid Iran, Byzantine West Asia, Uygur Central Asia, and Song- or Yuan-dynasty China, it did preserve a distinctly Manichaean religious content. Maintaining a Manichaean version of etoki required clearly comprehensible pictorial communication that was suitable as a visual aid to illustrate the religion’s teachings in distinct cultural settings.

Because Manichaeism endured much persecution and is now an extinct world religion, only bits and pieces of information about its historical practices survive today. Thus, the study of Manichaean texts and art requires painstaking scholarly work in order to uncover, analyze, and interpret the available sources. The attempt to understand the artistic and textual data on the Manichaeans’ illustrated instruction, and the pictorial tools employed for it, is no exception. The ongoing research project that I was invited to report on in the above study relies on both textual and pictorial Manichaean data that are contextualized in light of comparative non-Manichaean examples in order to uncover for the first time a prominent tradition that motivated the creation, use, and preservation of pictorial art as a distinct component of religious life.

Footnotes

[1] Zsuzsanna Gulacsi, “The Central Asian Roots of a Chinese Manichaean Silk Painting in the Collection of the Yamato Bunkakan, Nara, Japan,” in In Search of Truth. Augustine, Manichaeism and other Gnosticism: Studies for Johannes van Oort at Sixty, edited by Jacob Albert van den Berg, Annemaré Kotzé, Tobias Nicklas and Madeleine Scopello. Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies Series 74 (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 315-337 + pls. 5.
[2] Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, Mani’s Picture-Book: Canonical Didactic Images of the Manichaeans from Mesopotamia to China, Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies (Leiden: E. J. Brill,forthcoming).
[3] A comprehensive bibliography of Manichaean studies published in European, West Asian, and East Asian languages up to 1996 consists of 3,606 entries. See Gunner B. Mikkelsen, Bibliographia Manichaica: A Comprehensive Bibliography of Manichaeism through 1996 (Turnhout: Brepols, 1997).
[4] See Colin Mackerras, The Uighur Empire According to the T’ang Dynastic Histories: A Study in Sino-Uighur Relations, 744–840 (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1973); and “The Uighurs,” in The Cambridge History of Early Inner Asia, edited by Denis Sinor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 317–42. For a map indicating the locations of the Manichaean, Nestorian, and Zoroastrian temples of Chang’an, see Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Cambridge Illustrated History of China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1996), 117.
[5] For a book on Manichaean history, see Samuel Lieu, Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China,2nd ed. (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr, 1992).
[6] See Albert von Le Coq, Chotscho: Facsimile-Wiedergabe der Wichtigeren Funde der ersten Königlich Preussischen Expedition nach Turfan in Ost-Turkistan (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer, 1913; reprint, Graz: Akademie Druck, 1973); and Die manichäischen Miniaturen, Die buddhistische Spätantike in Mittelasien 2 (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 1923; reprint, Graz: Akademie Druck, 1978).
[7] Besides the two collections in Berlin that formed the focus of my studies on canon formation (Gulácsi, “Identifying the Corpus,” 177–215; and Manichaean Art in Berlin Collections, 267–68), a few fragments of Manichaean illuminated books are known from collections in London, St. Petersburg, Kyoto, and China. They were studied together with the Berlin remains in Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, Mediaeval Manichaean Book Art: A Codicological Study of Iranian and Turkic Illuminated Book Fragments from 8th–11th Century East Central Asia (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 15-38. New identifications of Manichaean textiles have been made in Chayya Bhattacharya-Haesner, Central Asian Temple Banners in the Turfan Collection of the Museum für Indische Kunst, Berlin (Berlin: Dietrich Reimer Verlag, 2003), 372, 377–79.
[8] In his entry in the Encyclopedia on World Art, Louis Hambis (“Manichaean Art,” 442–43) was the first to question the assumed chronology of the Manichaean painting styles, which led me to date the remains in light of scientific, artistic, and textual evidence. See Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, “Dating the ‘Persian’ and Chinese Style Remains of Uygur Manichaean Art: A New Radiocarbon Date and Its Implications for Central Asian Art History,” Arts Asiatiques 58 (2003): 5–33.
[9] Gulácsi, Mediaeval Manichaean Book Art.
[10] For iconographic studies on the Four Heavenly Kings, the Bema Festival, the Judgement after Death, the Work of the Religion, and Mani, see publications by Hans-Joachim Klimkeit, Jorinde Ebert, Yutaka Yoshida, and Zsuzsana Gulácsi.
[11] Yoshida, “A newly recognized Manichaean painting: Manichaean Daēnā from Japan,” in Pensée grecque et sagesse d’Orient: Hommage à Michel Tardieu, edited by Mohammed-Ali Amir-Moezzi et al. (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009), 697-714; and “A Manichaean Painting from Ningbo: On the Religious Affiliation of the so-called Rokudōzu of the Museum Yamato Bunkakan,” Yamato Bunka 119 (2009): 1-35 (in Japanese); Jorinde Ebert, “Some Remarks Concerning a Recently Identified Manichaean Painting of the Museum Yamato Bunkakan,” Yamato Bunka 119 (2009): 35-47 (in Japanese); and Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, “A Manichaean Portrait of the Buddha Jesus: Identifying a Twelfth- or Thirteenth-century Chinese Painting from the Collection of Seiun-ji Zen Temple,” Artibus Asiae 69/1 (2009): 91-145.
[12] Siegmor Dopp and Wilhelm Geerlings, eds., Dictionary of Early Christian Literature (New York: Crossroad, 2000), 195-198.
[13] Ephrem, Refutations 126.31-127.11 in John Reeves, “Manichaean Citations from the Prose Refutations of Ephrem,” in Emerging from Darkness: Studies in the Recovery of Manichaean Sources, edited by Paul Mirecki and Jason BeDuhn (Leiden, Brill, 1997), 262-263.
[14] Personal communication with John Reeves. In his discussion of Mani’s Picture, Hans-Joachim Klimkeit also emphasizes that it contained numerous scenes, pointing to a quotation from the 18th chapter of the Coptic Manichaean Homilies, in which Mani laments foreseeing the destruction of his church and all the books of his canon: “I weep over the paintings of my Picture” (Manichaean Art and Calligraphy, 15-16).
[15] A similar understanding of the passage is expressed by Albert Heinrichs , who writes: “As a missionary of his own creed, Mani liked to appeal not only to the ears but also to the eyes of his largely illiterate audiences; so he painted a picture book, which illustrated his religious beliefs in colorful and graphic detail. When depicting the primeval battle between the forces of Light and Darkness in his book-paintings, Mani will have set stark white against pitch-black colors; and to speculate further about Mani’s Biblia Pauperum, I suggest that on its pages red blood was dripping from the fresh cuts in green plants” (“ ‘Thou shalt not Kill a Tree’: Greek, Manichaean and Indian Tales,” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 16, no. 1-2 (1979): 94).
[16] A list of what belonged to the Manichaean Canon in fourth-century Egypt is preserved in the Coptic Manichaean text known as the Homilies, where the following twelve works are named: (1) Gospel, (2) Treasury of Life, (3) Pragmateia, (4) Book of Mysteries, (5) Book of Giants, (6) Epistles, (7) Psalms, (8) Prayers, (9) Picture (Hikōn), (10) Revelations, (11) Parables, and (12) Mysteries (Homilies: 25.1-25.6 in Nils Arne Pedersen, Manichaean Homilies:with a Number of Hitherto Unpublished Fragments (Turnhout: Brepols, 2006), 25).
[17] Kephalaion 151, lines 20-30 (Wolf-Peter Funk, Kephalaia I (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2000), 372-373. Carl Schmidt  and Hans Jacob Polotsky (“Ein Mani-Fund in Ägypten. Originalschriften des Mani und seiner Schüler,” Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Academie der Wissenschaften, 1933, 41-43) had incorrectly cited the passage as Kephalaion 154, which is how it has been cited in scholarship prior to Funk’s edition. The English translation of the Coptic passage quoted above is after Jason BeDuhn (personal communication), who published parts of the passage in his “Eucharist or Yasna?: Antecedents of Manichaean Food Ritual,” in Studia Manichaica: IV. International Congress of Manichaean Studies, edited by W. Sundermann (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 2000), 14, note 2. In addition to the Coptic, there are Middle Persian and Sogdian versions of this subject preserved on two Turfan fragments: M 5794 (Klimkeit, Gnosis on the Silk Road, 216) and Ch. 5554 (Werner Sundermann, Ein manichäisch-sogdisches Parabelbuch (Berlin: Akademie-Verlag, 1985), 27-28, lines 125-135), respectively.
[18] “I have made another (copy of the Book of the) Giants and the Ārdahanag in Merv” (M 5815 lines 112-223, see Klimkeit 1993, 260). For a detailed discussion of this Parthian letter’s translation, see Boyce 1975, 48-49.
[19] Izumi raises the possibility that the main figure could be Mani, due to its similarity to the iconography of the Mani statue near Quanzhou. He also considers previous interpretations of the painting, which include the themes of the “Six Buddhist Realms” for the overall composition and the “Meeting of the Three Religions” (i.e., Taoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism) for the main scene, but refrains from giving a new interpretation; Izumi, “A Possible Nestorian Christian Image,” 10–12. Yutaka Yoshida identifies the main figure as Mani and the repeated image of the female figure standing on a cloud with her attendants as the Light Maiden (Sogdian Daênâ). Regarding the complete image, Yoshida suggests that it is an illustration of the Manichaean doctrine on individual eschatology and for this reason inspired by a subject depicted in Mani’s Picture-Book. See Yutaka Yoshida, “A Manichaean Painting from Ningbo,” 5-8. For the previously accepted Buddhist interpretation of the image, including the “Six Buddhist Realms” and the “Meeting of the Three Religions,” see Seinosuke Ide, Nihon no Sôgen butsuga, 71–73.
[20] This important inscription is discussed by Yoshida (“A Manichaean Painting from Ningbo,” 8), who provides a Japanese translation by T. Moriyasu, the English equivalent of which is as follows (Yoshida, personal communication): “Zhang Siyi from a parish (?) called Dongzheng, who is a leader of the disciples, together with his wife Xinniang [from] the family of Zheng make a donation and present respectfully a sacred painting of Hades to a temple of vegetarians located on the Baoshan mountain. They wish to provide it as their eternal offering. Accordingly, peace may be kept. [In the year . . . and in the . . . -th month].” The characters for the date are illegible.
[21] For a further study on the Manichaean iconography of this painting, see Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, “The Central Asian Roots of a Chinese Manichaean Silk Painting in the Collection of the Yamato Bunkakan, Nara, Japan” (in Japanese), Yamato Bunka / Biannual Journal of Eastern Arts 118 (2009): 17–34; regarding its didactic context of use, see Gulácsi, “A Visual Sermon on Mani’s Teaching of Salvation: A Contextualized Reading of a Chinese Manichaean Silk Painting in the Collection of the Yamato Bunkakan in Nara, Japan,” Studies on the Inner Asian Languages 23 (2008):1–16.
[22] I agree with Yoshida, who also identifies the deity as Mani in “A Manichaean Painting from Ningbo” 4–5. My interpretation of the subject of the main scene as a Manichaean Sermon Scene is based on depictions of sermons in East Central Asian Manichaean art. The best preserved example of a Sermon Scene can be seen on an intracolumnar book painting (MIK III 8259 folio 1[?] recto) showing a central altar and seated elects, who display communicative hand gestures and hold a book as they deliver their teachings to seated royalty; Gulácsi, Manichaean Art in Berlin Collections, no. 28. In general, rituals were favored pictorial subjects in Manichaean art, as suggested by a survey of the illuminated book fragments confirming eleven ritual scenes that divide into five distinct types (Alms Service, Sermon, Hymnody, Bema Festival, and Conversion). In many of these scenes, actual members of the Manichaean community are named and Uygur royalty are shown. See Gulácsi, Mediaeval Manichaean Book Art, 203–6.
[23] Yoshida, “A Manichaean Painting from Ningbo,” 3-4.
[24] This fragment was matched from two individual pieces. For the color facsimile and a detailed discussion, see Gulácsi, Manichaean Art in Berlin Collections, 146–48, 240, 250. For a study of the codicological characteristics of illuminated scroll fragments and the interpretation of the original layout of this fragment, see Gulácsi, Mediaeval Manichaean Book Art, 88–93 and 185–188, respectively.
[25] The motif of a gold disk is used with such frequency in Uygur Manichaean art that it has been considered a token motif for identification of this fragment, which is thought to be Manichaean on other grounds, too (Gulácsi, “Identifying the Corpus,” 197). Technical details in the depiction of the Buddha correspond to details seen in the execution of other Manichaean works of art in the fully painted version of the “West Asian style of Uygur Manichaean art,” which favored the use of an ultramarine-blue background and large quantities of gold in addition to a five-stage execution that concluded with the drawing of delicate details in red line onto the gold- and white-covered surfaces. For a detailed discussion, including the execution of the nose, the right hand, and the vine motif, see Gulácsi, “Dating the ‘Persian’ and Chinese Style Remains of Uygur Manichaean Art,” 12–15, 21–22, and figs 9c, 9d, 16d.
[26] Larry Clark suggests that both the script and the language of the three-letter text are Sogdian (see Appendix I, no. 66, in Gulácsi, Manichaean Art in Berlin Collections, 240). This reading requires a minor correction. While the script is undoubtedly Sogdian, the language cannot be Sogdian, as was pointed out to me by Yutaka Yoshida (personal communication), because the noun pwt- is always supplemented with a –y in its nominative form, i.e., pwty “Buddha”; B. Gharib, Sogdian Dictionary (Teheran: Farhangan Publications, 1995), 115, line 2929. Although this eliminates Sogdian as the language, it does not mean that the connotation that Clark assigns to the word is wrong. The Sogdian script was used in East Central Asia from the eighth to the eleventh century to write Manichaean texts in a variety of other languages, including Parthian, Middle Persian, and Old Turkic (i.e., Old Uygur). The language of the inscription on the Buddha’s chest is likely one of these, since the noun “Buddha” is pwt in Parthian and Middle Persian (Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst, Dictionary of Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian (Turnhout: Brepols, 2004) 118), as well as in Old Turkic(Sir Gerard Clauson, An Etymological Dictionary of Pre-Thirteenth-Century Turkish (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1972) 297).
[27] This interpretation is based in part on the Uygur Manichaean Pothi-Book, which mentions Mani and the four prophets: “You (Mani) descended after the four prophets (Uyg. tört burkhan).” See Clark, “Manichaean Turkic Pothi-Book,” 183, lines 66, 188, 260–62.
[28] Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, “An Experiment in Digital Reconstruction with a Manichaean Book Painting.” In New Light on Manichaeism: Proceedings of the 6th International Congress of Manichaean Studies, Aug. 1-5, 2005, Flagstaff, Arizona, edited by J. BeDuhn (Leiden: Brill, 2009), 145-168 + 12 plates.
[29] For a codicological study of horizontally-oriented images in Manichaean manuscript illumination, see Gulácsi, Mediaeval Manichaean Book Art, 133-193.
[30] Victor H. Mair, Painting and Performance: Chinese Picture Recitation and Its Indian Genesis (Honolulu: Hawaii University Press, 1988; reprint, Warren: Floating World Editions, 2009).
[31] Mair 1988, 1-16; and Ikumi Kaminishi, Explaining Pictures: Buddhist Propaganda and Etoki Storytelling in Japan (Honolulu: Hawaii University Press, 2006), 103-108.
[32] See, Ursula Sims-Williams, Werner Sundermann and Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, “An illustrated parchment folio from a Middle Persian Manichaean codex in the collection of the British Library, Or. 12452D/3 (Kao.0111),” Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology 1 (2006), 139-142.
[33] Northwest India was visited by Mani during the 230s. Specifically Jain influence is noted in Manichaean attitudes towards non-injury (Stanley F. Johns, “Jain Elements in Manichaeism,” paper presented at the Manichaean Studies Seminar, Society of Biblical Literature, Annual Conference, 2004). For an overview of Mani’s missions, see Lieu, Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China, 86-107.
[34] Augustine writes: “These and countless other absurdities are not represented in painting, or sculpture, or in any explanation”(Contra Faustum 20:9) and  “Indeed, your gods have innumerable occupations, according to your fabulous descriptions, which you neither explain, nor represent in a visible form” (Contra Faustum 20:9 and 20:10, respectively.)