Avalokiteshvara, ink and colours on a paper banner

From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
Northern Song dynasty, late 10th century AD

This is one of many examples from Mogao of a temple flag or banner depicting Avalokiteshvara, the most popular of the bodhisattvas shown on a temple flag or banner. The painting is executed on paper, which was freely available and locally manufactured and was therefore much cheaper than the fine silks used for the more elaborate paintings.

The format of the painting follows the usual formula: a triangular top containing the seated figure of the Buddha Amitabha; the main painted area showing Avalokiteshvara standing on a lotus in a frontal pose; the side streamers cut out of paper and the streamers at the bottom simply painted as black lines.

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Avalokiteshvara, ink and colours on a paper banner

  • Detail: painting

    Detail: painting

  • Detail: painted streamers

    Detail: painted streamers


More information


R. Whitfield, Art of Central Asia: The Ste-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha International Ltd., 1982-85)

R. Whitfield and A. Farrer, Caves of the thousand Buddhas: (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)


Height: 42.000 cm
Width: 16.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.144


Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein


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