Searching for Mani's Picture Book in Textual and Pictorial Sources

  • Zsuzsanna Gulácsi (Author)
    Department of Comparative Cultural Studies, NORTHERN ARIZONA UNIVERSITY, P.O. Box 6031, Flagstaff, AZ 86011, USA; Phone: (928) 523-0070, Fax: (928) 523-1881

    2006 – present Associate Professor, Dept. of Comparative Cultural Studies, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ (USA)


    2003 – 2006 Assistant Professor, Dept. of Humanities, Arts, & Religion, Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff, AZ (USA)


    1999 – 2002 Tenured Assistant Professor, Dept. of Comparative Culture, Sophia University, Tokyo (Japan)

Identifiers (Article)


This paper is a based on an extensive study of the available textual and visual data on a collection of didactic paintings employed by the Manichaeans throughout the 1400-year history of their religion. Known as Mani's Picture or Picture-Book, these paintings were originally created in mid-third century Mesopotamia with direct involvement from Mani (216-276 CE) and remained preserved by being adapted to a wide variety of artistic and cultural norms as the religion spread across the Asian continent. The evidence on Manichaean didactic art fits well with the pan-Asiatic phenomenon of, what Victor Mair calls in his 1998 monograph, "picture-recitation," or "story-telling with images." Nevertheless, more than any other religion, the Manichaeans made use of images by attributing canonical status to them. This assured their preservation. By situating the Manichaean data in a broader art historical context, this lecture brings together evidence on the same phenomenon by other contemporaneous religious traditions (such as Eastern Christianity, Judaism, and most importantly Buddhism) in third-eighth century West Asia, eighth-twelfth century Central Asia and eighth-seventeenth century East Asia.



Academic discipline and sub-disciplines
Art History, Manichaean Studies, West Asia, Central Asia, East Asia
Contributor or sponsoring agency
Ch. A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship (American Council of Learned Societies), National Humanities Center (Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, USA)
Manichaean art, didactic religious art, Mani's Picture-Book,
How to Cite
Gulácsi, Z. (2011). Searching for Mani’s Picture Book in Textual and Pictorial Sources. The Journal of Transcultural Studies, 2(1), 233–262.