This study presents a fascinating wealth of material on the personality, iconography, and lore associated with the medieval Chinese Buddhist deity Dizang, derived from the bodhisattva Ksitigarbha.
In modern Chinese Buddhism, Dizang is especially popular as the sovereign of the underworld. Often represented as a monk wearing a royal crown, Dizang awaits the faithful to help them navigate the complex underworld bureaucracy, avert the sufferings of the hells and arrive at the happy realm of rebirth. The author examines this important deity during his formative period. She begins by problematizing the reigning evolutionary model of Xizang as the gradual sinicization of the Indian bodhisattva Ksitigarbha into Dizang, an underworld deity. Professor Zhiru deploys a broad array of materials - scripture, art, epigraphy, ritual texts, and narrative literature - in her analysis of the Dizang cult and what this figure meant to Chinese Buddhists of the fifth to tenth centuries.
"Examines Dizang during his formative period - before he settled into his modern role as the beneficent sovereign of the underworld, ensconced when above ground at Mount Jiuhua - back when his iconography and hagiography were still rife with possibilities. Shi Zhiru discusses all of the major sources for the history of Dizang from the sixth to the tenth centuries…the result is the most thorough treatment to date of one of the most important deities in Chinese Buddhism." John Kieschnick.