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Statistical Analysis in Iconographic Interpretation: The Function of Mudras at Tapho, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery

Chandra L. Reedy and Terry J. Reedy
American Anthropologist
New Series, Vol. 89, No. 3 (Sep., 1987), pp. 635-649
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/678056
Page Count: 15
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Statistical Analysis in Iconographic Interpretation: The Function of Mudras at Tapho, a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery
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Abstract

A statistical analysis of iconographic elements can help elucidate the syntax rules within a complex iconographic system. We tested this hypothesis by analyzing the mudras (hand gestures) found on a group of 11th-century clay sculptures at the Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Tapho in Himachal Pradesh, India. The mudras were found to have significant associations with other iconographic elements - in particular, deity type. They could have been used to communicate; a likely semantic unit is hand gesture plus arm position. These results can serve as hypotheses to be tested with other mandalas to determine whether they are specific to Tapho or more generalizable within Tibetan Buddhist art. The statistical techniques are applicable to any iconographic system.

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