Avalokiteshvara as Saviour from Perils, ink and colours on silk

From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
Five Dynasties or Northern Song Dynasty, mid-to late 10th century AD

Belief in help when suffering

Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, is show in his six-armed form seated on a lotus behind an altar. He can be identified by the small figure of the Buddha Amitabha seated in his headdress. His two upper arms hold the sun and the moon, his two lower arms hold a vase and a rosary and his two middle arms are in the vitarka mudra (gesture of teaching).

It was believed that if one called Avalokiteshvara's name when in danger, he would come to your aid. This is illustrated in scenes on either side. On the left from the top a figure pushed off a high cliff is miraculously supported by a cloud. In the middle a man escapes his fetters and at the bottom a man is preserved from the poisonous bites of a scorpion and a snake. On the right a sword is shown breaking into pieces, saving the man about to be executed. Below, two people are shown covering their heads to escape bad weather, and at the bottom a man is seemingly unharmed in the midst of a fire.

In the lower register of the painting donor figures are shown: a lady and a child on the left and two men on the right.

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More information


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


Height: 84.400 cm
Width: 61.700 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.2


Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein


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