A Comparative Analysis of Manichaean Texts and Paintings

The present project aims to investigate two sets of recent Chinese Manichaean discoveries: new paintings from Japan and new manuscripts from China. These recent discoveries reveal new aspects of Manichaeism, a par excellence transregional world religion, which spread from Sasanian Iran to Europe, Egypt, Inner Asia and China. Although the nine new paintings, discovered and published between 2006 and 2012, are presently all in Japan, they ultimately derive from Yuan or Ming dynasty (14th-15th c.) southeast China. The textual material was discovered in southeast China (Xiapu county, Fujian province) in 2009.

The project endeavours to offer new interpretation of five of these major Chinese Manichaean discoveries. In all the five cases, I will make use of an interdisciplinary approach by combining philological means with methods applied in the field of religious studies and art history. My fundamental method is to continually contrast the written and the visual Manichaean sources. The five objects of my research are the following:

(i) The Xiapu textual material;

(ii) The Seiun-Ji painting;

(iii) The Yamato Bunkakan Sandōzu painting;

(iv) The Cosmology painting;

(v) The Birth  of Mānī painting.

By applying a comparative and interdisciplinary perspective, the analysis of the Xiapu material and the four new paintings can greatly contribute to our understanding of Manichaeism, which might in turn offer new insights for art historians and historians of religions.


Gábor Kósa is the CRASSH/Clare Hall  Eurias Fellow 2014-15

He is a historian of religions affiliated to the Department of Chinese Studies at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE), Budapest. He holds an M.A. in Religious Studies, and a PhD in Chinese Studies from ELTE University. In 2008–2009, he was a JSPS post-doctoral fellow at Kyoto University. His main research focuses on Chinese Manichaeism, especially on the relationship between its textual and visual remains.

Selected Publications:

'Buddhist Monsters in the Chinese Manichaean Hymnscroll and the Pumen chapter of the Lotus sutra',The Eastern Buddhist, vol. 44, no. 1, 2014, pp. 27-76.

'Atlas and Splenditenens in the Cosmology Painting’, in M. Knüppel & L. Cirillo (eds), Gnostica et Manichaica. Festschrift für Aloïs van Tongerloo. Anläßlich des 60.  Geburtstages überreicht von Kollegen, Freunden und Schülern, Studies in Oriental Religions 65, Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden, 2012, pp. 63–88.

'The Protagonist-catalogues of the Apocryphal Acts of Apostles in the Coptic Manichaica – a Re-assessment of the Evidence', in B. Eszter, G. Andras & H. Andrea (eds), From Illahun to Djeme. Papers Presented in Honour of Ulrich Luft, Archaeopress, Oxford, 2011, pp. 107-119.

'The 'Sea of Fire' as a Chinese Manichaean Mataphor – Source materials for mapping an unnoticed image', Asia Major, vol. 24, no. 2, 2011/2012, pp. 1-52.

'Peacocks under the Jewel-tree – New hypotheses on the Manichaean painting of Bezeklik (Cave 38)', Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology, vol. 4, 2011, pp. 135-148.

Past Fellows

Past Eurias Fellows

Dr Chiara Bortolotto (École des hautes études en sciences sociales (Paris)
The Production of a global norm: grassroots participation in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention 

Dr Wilson Jacob (Concordia University)
Cultures and Politics of the Transregional: Sovereignty between Empires and States

Dr Pavel Blazek  (Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague)
Medieval Islamic Marriage: An Interdisciplinary Workshop


Tel: +44 1223 766886