Manjushri visiting Vimalakirti, ink and colours on paper

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

This painting shows Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, seated on a lion throne when visiting the sage Vimalakirti. The details - described in the entry on the illustration to the Vimalakirtinirdesha Sutra (see Related Objects) - are known from other popular representations of the subject, which were often placed on the two sides of the entrance at the caves at Mogao.

A large crowd is gathered to hear the debate between Manjushri and Vimalakirti, and, most importantly, in front of Vimalakirti is shown the customary figure of the Chinese emperor wearing a crown and an imperial robe decorated with the sun and moon and dragons. In front of Manjushri we can see the bodhisattva who was summoned by Vimalakirti from the Abhirati universe to feed the multitudes with the fragrant rice that pours miraculously from his bowl without end.

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More information


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

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


Height: 73.200 cm
Width: 30.700 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.31*


Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein


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