I am fully aware that Garuda is from Hinduism and that Buddhism adopted him within their pantheon of celestial beings a long time ago. There is no reason to bring this up. I felt this message was necessary because several people have misinterpreted what I have written below.
=== EDIT 5-1-11 (PLEASE READ) ===
A Tibetan Buddhist iconographic motif has the celestial bird Garuda (大鹏金翅明王） sitting atop the Buddha's throne. This fifteenth-century Thanka is a good example (notice Garuda at the top).
The theme was obviously known in China as the folk biography The Story of Yue Fei (1684) mentions Garuda being demoted from this position after killing the embodiment of a star constellation and subsequently being reborn on earth as Yue Fei. Journey to the West (1592) gives a folk origin for how Garuda came to hold such a rank in the Buddhist hierarchy. But when did the motif appear in China? Are there any Chinese religious paintings showing Garuda above the Buddha?
Dunhuang has two Tang-era caves (no. 131 and 358) with paintings of Garuda, but neither of them are of him above the Buddha's head.
On a related note, does Garuda appear in other works of Chinese fiction?
Edited by ghostexorcist, 01 May 2011 - 03:11 PM.