- By admin
- In DunhuangArt
From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
Tang dynasty, 9th century AD
The figure of a bodhisattva is painted on a narrow piece of silk. Due to the limited space available, it was usual to only represent a single figure on banner paintings. Here the figure is shown standing on a lotus flower in three-quarter view from behind, with his head turned sharply and shown in profile. His hair is shown divided at the neck in two large locks, typical of the Dunhuang style. The bodhisattva holds a glass beaker containing a lotus blossom (The lotus is the symbol of Buddhism, as the pure flowers always rise above the mud and murky water they grow in). Glass was a very popular commodity on the Silk Road, and this example resembles Persian vessels.
This is one of the very few banner paintings from the Mogao caves to have survived intact. It has a triangular top and side and tail streamers with a board at the bottom to ensure that it was stretched out when hung. Such paintings could be viewed from both front and back, as is suggested by paintings where banners are shown being carried or flown in the wind. The tail streamers are decorated with a plant motif which was popular in ninth-century Chinese art.
R. Whitfield, Art of Central Asia: The Ste-2, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha International Ltd., 1982-85)