Mani’s pictures

Gulácsi, Zsuzsanna. 2015. Mani’s pictures: The didactic images of the Manichaeans from Sasanian Mesopotamia to Uygur Central Asia and Tang-Ming China (Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 90). Brill.

The founder of Manichaeism, Mani (216-274/277 CE), not only wrote down his teachings to prevent their adulteration, but also created a set of paintings—the Book of Pictures—to be used in the context of oral instruction. That pictorial handscroll and its later editions became canonical art for Mani’s followers for a millennium afterwards. This richly illustrated study systematically explores the artistic culture of religious instruction of the Manichaeans based on textual and artistic evidence. It discusses the doctrinal themes (soteriology, prophetology, theology, and cosmology) depicted in Mani’s canonical pictures. Moreover, it identifies 10th-century fragments of canonical picture books, as well as select didactic images adapted to other, non-canonical art objects (murals, hanging scrolls, mortuary banners, and illuminated liturgical manuscripts) in Uygur Central Asia and Tang-Ming China.

  • Part 1 – Textual Sources on Manichaean Didactic Art
  • Introduction to Part 1
  • Primary and Secondary Records in Coptic, Syriac, Greek, and Arabic Texts (3rd–10th Centuries)
  • Primary Records in Parthian and Middle Persian Texts (3rd–9th Centuries)
  • Primary, Secondary and Tertiary Records in Uygur and Chinese Texts (8th–13th Centuries)
  • Tertiary Records in Post-Manichaean Arabic, Persian, and Chagatai Texts (11th–17th Centuries)
  • Part 2 – Physical Remains of Manichaean Didactic Art
  • Introduction to Part 2
  • Format and Preservation
  • Subject Repertoire and Iconography

Zsuzsanna Gulácsi, Ph.D. (1998, Indiana University) is a Professor of Asian Religious Art at Northern Arizona University and the author of Mediaeval Manichaean Book Art (Brill, 2005), Manichaean Art in Berlin Collections (Brepols 2001), and dozens of articles on Manichaean art.