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Dunhuang art -- Bodhisattva with censer, ink and colours on a silk banner

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From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
Tang dynasty, late 9th century AD
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A popular subject for worshipua5Silk Road Adventure & Private Tours - Silk Road China Tours

This is the painted area of a banner, which has now lost its triangular top and streamers. The single figure of a bodhisattva was also the most popular subject-matter for the banners or temple flags at Mogao. It is thought that several of these would be hung in the cave temples for various rituals.ua5Silk Road Adventure & Private Tours - Silk Road China Tours

Here the bodhisattva holds a censer in his left hand of the type of which actual examples were excavated in places such as the Famensi temple near Xi'an. Donors are also often shown holding similar censers. It is not an attribute of a specific bodhisattva, and neither the headdress decorated with flaming jewels or the empty cartouche give us any further clues to his identity.ua5Silk Road Adventure & Private Tours - Silk Road China Tours

Other banners show almost identical bodhisattva figures, clearly indicating that stencils or pounces were used to make such paintings at Dunhuang.ua5Silk Road Adventure & Private Tours - Silk Road China Tours

R. Whitfield, Art of Central Asia: The Ste-2, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha International Ltd., 1982-85)ua5Silk Road Adventure & Private Tours - Silk Road China Tours

R. Whitfield and A. Farrer, Caves of the thousand Buddhas: (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)ua5Silk Road Adventure & Private Tours - Silk Road China Tours

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