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From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
Tang Dynasty, 9th century AD
Pure Land sutras, which describe the Paradises of various Buddhas, became very popular in Dunhuang during the Tang Dynasty (618-907). The most influential was the Western Paradise of the Buddha Amitabha. Pure Land painting also became popular. Although the condition of this painting is not as good as others from Dunhuang, it can be directly compared to wall paintings there. In this painting the Buddha Amitabha, shown larger than the other figures, is seated in front of a Chinese palace setting surrounded by bodhisattvas and in the lower part of the painting, subsidiary Buddha figures.
The scenes on the right show the story of King Bimbishara who was imprisoned by his son Ajatashatru. Here the story starts with Bimbishara's sin: he slayed a sage who was then reborn as a white hare. When Bimbishara was later put in prison by his evil son his wife, Queen Vaidehi attempted to save him, only to be imprisoned herself. In captivity she called on the Buddha for help. On the left are shown the sixteen meditations of Queen Vaidehi, starting with the meditation on the setting sun to find the right direction to the Western Paradise.
From Dunhuang and other parts of China Pure Land painting travelled to Japan, where with modifications it remains popular for Buddhist worship to the present day.
R. Whitfield, Art of Central Asia: The Ste-2, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha International Ltd., 1982-85)