ARŽANG (Mid. Ir. Ardahang), an extra-canonical work of Mani. It was a volume of drawings and paintings (a negār-nāma, in a text quoted by Thomas Hyde in 1700 [Flügel, Mani, p. 383]) to illustrate the most important aspects of the dualistic doctrine. It probably formed an appendix to, but was certainly distinct from, the Living Gospel/Great Gospel, one of the canonical works of Manicheism (Puech, Gnostische Evangelien, pp. 269f.; see Angalyūn). The book is mentioned in Parthian texts with other books by Mani (Andreas and Henning, Mir. Man. III, pp. 858, 862). In the Coptic Manichaica it is called the Eikṓn (Schmidt and Polotsky, Ein Mani-Fund, p. 45 n. 3, and especially Polotsky, Manichäische Homilien, p. 18 with n. a) and is distinguished from the picture (eikṓn, Mid. Pers. phykyrb, Parth. pʾdgyrb, Uighur körk) of Mani which, at the Bema festival, was placed on a throne in front of the community (Henning, Bet- und Beichtbuch, p. 9; Haloun and Henning, Compendium, p. 210 n. 4). The book is also referred to as containing pictures of the final judgment (Henning, Sogdian Fragment, p. 310 n. 5). In the Chinese “Compendium of the Doctrines and Styles of the Teaching of Mani, the Buddha of Light,” it is called “the Great Mên-ho-i” (according to Ē. Benveniste from an adjective *bungāhīg derived from Parthian bungāh, “foundation”), which is interpreted as “the drawing of the two great principles” (Haloun and Henning, op. cit., pp. 195, 209-10).

For the etymology of Parthian ʾrdhng, H. H. Schaeder suggested Old Persian *arta-θanha “message of truth” (“Wahrheits-Botschaft,” Schaeder, review, p. 347, and Beiträge, p. 563 n. 1) corresponding to Arabic bošra’l-ḥaqq in the Fehrest of al-Nadīm (Flügel, Mani, pp. 51, 84). But a generally accepted solution has not yet been found; cf. Henning, Henochbuch, p. 30 and Haloun and Henning, op. cit., p. 210 (“perhaps "drawing", if -hang from OIr. θang- "to draw"”). In New Persian literature the word has been preserved in several more or less corrupt forms: Aržang, Artang, Arǰang, Arsang, Arhang, Aṛγang, Tang, Čang (Klíma, Manis Zeit, pp. 326 and 349; Alfaric, Les écritures, p. 41). The drawings themselves are lost, but a number of Parthian fragments of a commentary (wifrās) on the Ardahang are known (Boyce, Cat. Man. Script., p. 4 sub M 35; Henning, Book of the Giants, pp. 71-72).

In the later Islamic tradition Mani was not particularly remembered as founder of a religion or as the great religious personality, but pre-eminently as an artist. The image of Mani drawn by this tradition is dominated by the idea of the painter Mani. The tradition is historically well founded, partly in the Manicheans’ well-known care of, and interest in paper, writing, and illustrations, but especially in Mani’s Ardahang. According to Persian historical literature, the Ardahang was something extraordinary, carried out with a skill unheard of and under strange circumstances; and a copy is said to have still existed in Ḡazna at the end of the 11th century (Abu’l-maʿālī’s Bayān al-adyān, A.D. 1092; Mīrḵᵛānd, 15th/16th century A.D.; cf. Kessler, Mani, pp. 210, 370ff., 377ff.; Haloun and Henning, op. cit., p. 210; Klíma, op. cit., pp. 325f., 348). In Ferdowsī and in Faḵr al-dīn Asʿad Gorgānī’s romantic epics Vīs o Rāmīn (11th century), Mani, the creator of the Aržang, is depicted as a great painter from China (Šāh-nāma, ed. J. Mohl, V, pp. 472-75; text and tr. in Kessler, Mani, pp. 373-76; Vīs o Rāmīn, ed. Mīnovī, Tehran, 1935, pp. 42, 385; ed. Maḥǰūb, Tehran, 1959, pp. 32, 287). His fame was such that mānī became a term for any painter of great renown and exceptional powers, like “a Rubens” or “a Titian.” As late as the beginning of the 20th century, when the Iranian poet Ṣaṇʿatīzāda Kermānī wrote his “Narrative about Mani the Painter” (Dāstān-e Mānī-e naqqāš), it is the tradition about the artist which above all determined Mani’s posthumous literary reputation (see Asmussen, Xuāstvānīft, p. 10 with references).



P. Alfaric, Les écritures manichéennes II, Paris, 1918.

J. P. Asmussen, Xuāstvānīft. Studies in Manichaeism, Copenhagen, 1965.

G. Flügel, Mani, seine Lehre und seine Schriften, Leipzig, 1862.

G. Haloun and W. B. Henning, “The Compendium of the Doctrines and Styles of the Teaching of Mani, the Buddha of Light,” Asia Major, 1952, p. 184-212.

W. B. Henning, “Ein manichäisches Henochbuch,” SPAW, 1934, pp. 27-35.

Idem, Ein manichäisches Bet- und Beichtbuch, Berlin, 1937.

Idem, “The Book of the Giants,” BSOAS 11, 1943, pp. 5274.

Idem, “A Sogdian Fragment of the Manichaean Cosmogony,” BSOAS 12, 1948, pp. 306-18.

K. Kessler, Mani. Forschungen über die manichäische Religion I, Berlin, 1889.

O. Klíma, Manis Zeit und Leben, Prague, 1962.

H. J. Polotsky, Manichäische Homilien. Manichäische Handschriften der Sammlung A. Chester Beatty I, Stuttgart, 1934.

H. -Ch. Puech, “Gnostische Evangelien und verwandte Dokumente,” in E. Hennecke, Neutestamentliche Apokryphen, 3rd ed., W. Schneemelcher, I, 1959, pp. 158-271.

H. H. Schaeder, review of C. Schmidt and H. J. Polotsky, Ein Mani-Fund, in Gnomon 9/7, 1933, pp. 337-462.

Idem, “Beiträge zur iranischen Sprachgeschichte,” Ungarische Jahrbücher 15, 1935, pp. 560-88.

C. Schmidt und H. J. Polotsky, “Ein Mani-Fund in Ägypten. Originalschriften des Mani und seiner Schüler.” SPAW, 1935, pp. 4-90.

(J. P. Asmussen)

Originally Published: December 15, 1987

Last Updated: August 16, 2011

This article is available in print.
Vol. II, Fasc. 7, pp. 689-690