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Notes on the Geography of China: Baodingshan: Photo 5

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The carvings quickly become dramatic, not to say terrifying.  Here, the demon Mara holds the Wheel of the Law in her teeth, as if to suggest that the world will not last.  The rays (each with roundels containing images of the Buddha) divide the wheel into six sectors arranged in concentric rings.  The innermost sector shows the six gadis or possible rebirths: as a celestial, a human, a ghost, a soul in hell, an animal, or a demigod.  The middle ring divides each destiny into the qualities, such as sorrow, ignorance, and desire, that influence the outcome of rebirth. The outermost ring shows creatures in containers.  They are part human and part animal and represent souls in the course of reincarnation.  The four figures at the base represent the human failings--greed, lust, wickedness, foolishness--that keep the wheel in motion.  The Vinaya Pitaka, or "basket of discipline" that guides monastic life, dictates the composition of such wheels, but this wheel is unique in at least one respect.  Normally, the Buddha appears at its center.  Here the central image is of Zhao Zhifeng, the site's self-promoting creator.

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