The Afterlives of Jātaka Deer’s Compassion: In memory of our dog Baibai

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review


This essay evaluates how exhibitions of prehistoric sites and cave art engage a world- wide public to address the issue of animal compassion, consciousness, and pain. The essay also analyzes the significance of representing archaeological discoveries in the global context of human-caused endangerment and the mass extinction of animals, flora, and fauna, including the eventual prospect of the mass extinction of homo sapiens proper. Today, in the midst of what some scientists call a sixth mass extinction event, the daily loss of species has produced desperate efforts to conserve habitats and preserve relics of extinct animals for a posterity increasingly defined by the scarcity of creation, with the acceleration of the representation of absence the only sustainable growth. Originally found in the Jātaka tradition, the story of Jā- taka Deer crystallized Buddhist compassion. However, through decades of national preserva- tion and propagandistic utilization, it met the fate of destruction in the process. For whatever poiesis of earth ethics Jātaka Deer had intended to convey, it remains an aesthetic ruin in the twenty-first century. With the help of holographic virtual-reality and augmented-reality tech- nology, the latest form is a 3D replica with worldwide currency. Such a rendering reeks of our human species’ self-congratulatory sense of optimism and triumphalism about its civilization despite the coming mass extinction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-66
Number of pages17
JournalAM Journal of Art and Media Studies
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

User-Defined Keywords

  • Jātaka Deer
  • Mogao Grottoes
  • aesthetic ruins
  • digital Dunhuang
  • VR museum
  • compassion
  • human-animal relations
  • mass extinction
  • Earth ethics


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