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


  • Ruth Y. Y. Hung



Jātaka Deer, Mogao Grottoes, Aesthetic Ruins, Digital Dunhuang, VR Museum, Compassion, Human-animal relations, Mass Extinction, Earth Ethics


This essay evaluates how exhibitions of prehistoric sites and cave art engage a worldwide 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 Jātaka Deer crystallized Buddhist compassion. However, through decades of national preservation 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 technology, 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.


Article received: April 23, 2021; Article accepted: June 21, 2021; Published online: September 15, 2021. Original scholarly paper


Author Biography

Ruth Y. Y. Hung

Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Ruth Y. Y. Hung teaches Comparative Literature at Hong Kong Baptist University and is Advisory Editor of boundary 2: an international journal of literature and culture. Her research interests lie in historical humanism, ranging from creative works to criticism to new and emerging forms of human sciences. Author of Hu Feng: A Marxist Intellectual in a Communist State, 1930–1955 (NY: SUNY, 2020), Hung’s latest publications, “Toward a New Humanity: Animal Cruelty in China in Light of COVID-19” and “Against Allegory: For the Wolves in Wolf Totem”, respectively in Routledge Handbook of Vegan Studies and boundary 2, appeal for a new humanism.


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How to Cite

Y. Y. Hung, R. (2021). The Afterlives of Jātaka Deer’s Compassion – In memory of our dog Baibai. AM Journal of Art and Media Studies, (25), 49–66.



Main Topic: Acoustic and Visual Ecology of Damaged Planet