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Imre Galambos (University of Cambridge): Tanzi Caring for His Parents: Transformations of a Filial Son
Thursday, 20 April 2017,  4:30pm -  6:00pm

Location: Brower Commons A


Abstract: One of the twenty-four filial sons (ershisi xiao) is Tanzi, who is praised for his filial conduct towards his parents, which consisted of caring for them and bringing deer's milk to cure their bad eyesight. In some versions of the story, he is accidentally shot by a hunter, yet even in his last moments he can only think of what will happen to his parents without his support. Originally, the story comes from India and early versions of it were translated into Chinese along with Buddhist scriptures from the third century AD onward. Gradually, the story became integrated into the native Chinese tradition of filial sons (xiaozi) and in this context began a separate life. This talk will examine the transformation of the figure of Tanzi from the main character in a Buddhist jātaka story to a stable member of the Confucian pantheon of filial sons. By showing pictorial representations of Tanzi in funerary art, Professor Galambos also intends to show that even though the theme of filial sons goes back to the Eastern Han dynasty, Tanzi appears in this context only from the Northern Song dynasty.