In Buddhism, death, rebirth, and salvation are guided by the moral structure of “cosmological models.” The subject matter of this painting reimagines the myth, beliefs, and stories of rebirth in this Buddhist model, while reframing traditional media of Buddhist painting. The work relays stories of the afterlife and the uncertainties of existence.

The painting centers on a myth of the underworld and focuses on Meng Po, the Lady of Forgetfulness, who mediates memory and forgetting in the circle of life and rebirth. In the myth, Meng Po would offer the soup of oblivion to the dead souls. While some souls would choose to accept the soup and get reborn, other would choose to remember their past lives at the expense of being reincarnated. To the right of Meng Po, Dizang Bodhisattva, or the Bodhisattva of Hell Beings, is perceived in Buddhism as an underworld sovereign, who takes responsibility for the instruction of all beings in the underworld. Instead of replicating the conventional imagery, the painting accentuates a more disturbing, ambiguous, and sensual demeanor in the visual narrative.

Inspired by medieval Chinese cave paintings in Dunhuang, which employ traditional Chinese mediums to express Western pictorial vocabulary, this painting traces the significance of these cultural intersections. It serves as an extension of what is in fact a much longer historical process of cultural interaction and transformation in the making of Chinese identity.


Mangubi, Marina


Art and Art History


Fine Arts


Religion, Buddhism, Dunhuang

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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