Bodhisattva as Guide of Souls, ink and colours on a silk banner

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

Leading the donor to the Pure Land

The painting is inscribed with the characters yinlu pu or 'Bodhisattva leading the Way'. It is one of several examples from Mogao of a bodhisattva leading the beautifully clad donor figure to the Pure Land, or Paradise, indicated by a Chinese building floating on clouds in the top left corner. The two figures are also supported by a cloud indicating that they are flying. The bodhisattva, shown much larger than the donor, is holding a censer and a banner in his hand. The banner is one of many of the same type found at Mogao, with a triangular headpiece and streamers.

The woman appears to be very wealthy, with gold hairpins in her hair. Actual examples of these were found in Chinese tombs. Her fashionably plump figure suggests that the painting was executed in the ninth or tenth century.

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Bodhisattva as Guide of Souls, ink and colours on a silk banner

Bodhisattva as Guide of Souls


More information


P. Banerjee, Central Asian art - new revela (Noida (U.P.), Abha Prakashan, 2001)

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


Height: 80.500 cm
Width: 53.800 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.47


Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein


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