Height: 140.000 cm
Width: 115.500 cm
Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein
Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.57
Illustration to the Vimalakirtinirdesha Sutra, ink and colours on silk
From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu
Tang dynasty, late 8th century AD
Representation of a popular sutra
Vimalakirti, the hero of the
He is shown on the
left side of this painting in a box-like curtained Chinese bed,
indicating that he was sick and expected visitors. The Buddha
Vimalakirti is shown here, typically, as a sage waving a fan to emphasise the main points of his argument. His main visitor is Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, who is also shown on the back of a sketch (see Related Objects). Another bodhisattva brings a miraculous bowl of rice that never emptied and was enough for all. On the left are the white disk of the moon and the red disk of the sun either side of a cosmological mountain rising from Vimalakirti's hand, who was able to show the concept of the relativity of space and time by calling up other universes from within his room.
Also visible in the foreground are a Tibetan ruler on the left and a Chinese emperor on the right. The presence of the Tibetan ruler suggests a date for the painting to the period of the Tibetan occupation of Dunhuang (AD 781-847).
R. Whitfield, Art of Central Asia: The Ste-2, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha International Ltd., 1982-85)