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Kshitigarbha, ink and colours on a silk banner


Height: 63.700 cm
Width: 17.000 cm

Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein

Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.118


    Kshitigarbha, ink and colours on a silk banner

    From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
    Tang dynasty, 9th century AD

    The bodhisattva shown as a monk

    This is one of many examples from Mogao of a painted banner showing a single bodhisattva figure under a canopy. The orange cartouche on the left contains an inscription identifying him as Dizang Pusa, the Chinese name for Kshitigarbha.

    While other bodhisattvas are usually shown on the banners from Mogao with long hair and wearing elaborate Indian jewellery, this figure is clean-shaven and wears the kashaya, the robe of Chinese Buddhist monks. Monks were not supposed to have new clothes, so their outfits were usually made up of patchwork squares of supposedly old, but often brand new materials. Kshitigarbha is the only bodhisattva shown as a monk. He stands on a lotus, as is usual for banner paintings of bodhisattvas from Dunhuang, and holds a kundika or ritual water sprinkler.

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

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


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