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Avalokiteshvara, ink and colours on a hemp cloth banner

  • Detail: upper

    Detail: upper

  • Detail: lower

    Detail: lower

  • Detail: streamers

    Detail: streamers


Height: 94.000 cm
Width: 27.000 cm

Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein

Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.154


    Avalokiteshvara, ink and colours on a hemp cloth banner

    From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
    Five Dynsties, early 10th century AD

    A simpler religious image for the less wealthy worshipper

    Hemp, coarser than silk, was cheaper and it is thus likely that these lower quality banners were commissioned or purchased by less wealthy donors. As is typical of the hemp cloth banners, the main figure is executed with simple ink lines and no additional colouring.

    The format of the banner is the same as that of the more elaborate paintings, with a triangular top and blue streamers at the bottom. The side streamers are now lost. Avalokiteshvara, the popular bodhisattva of compassion, is shown in a frontal position holding a lotus bud in his left hand and raising the right hand in vitarka mudra (the gesture of teaching) and standing under a parasol.

    Bird droppings on the surface of the banner indicate that it may have been hung for a considerable time.

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


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