Painted wooden panel showing riders with bowls

From Dandan-oilik, Khotan oasis, Xinjiang province, China
6th century AD

A votive plaque

Before the advent of Islam in the eighth century AD, Khotan was a thriving ancient kingdom along the Southern Silk Route. Dandan-oilik (Place of Houses with Ivory) was a Buddhist sanctuary there. During his first expedition to Chinese Central Asia in 1900-01, Dandan-oilik became Sir Marc Aurel Stein's first excavation site in the Taklamakan Desert. It was an opportunity to test his archaeological theories and to perfect his skills at excavating in the unpredictable desert environment. Painted plaques like this are among the most outstanding finds from this expedition. This was one of three found in loose sand in the corner of a dwelling house.

The panels are also the best surviving evidence of the legendary Khotanese school of painting. This example depicts two riders, one mounted on a horse, and the other on a camel. The subject is a common theme: a member of the aristocracy riding and holding a bowl or a wine-cup into which a bird appears to be diving. It is associated with Vaishravana, Guardian King of the North, who was also regarded as the guardian of Khotan. According to legend, Vaishravana's attendant shot down Pekar, hero of the Uighur Turks, when Pekar assumed the form of a bird of prey. It has been suggested that the figures in this scene represent bearers of tribute from Turkey to prosperous Khotan.

Another painted panel from Dandan-oilik in the British Museum depicts 'The Story of the Silk Princess'

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More information


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

R. Whitfield, Art of Central Asia: The Stein, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha International Ltd., 1982-85)

M. Bussagli, Painting of Central Asia (Geneva, Skira, 1963)

M. Aurel Stein, Ancient Khotan: detailed repor, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1907)


Height: 385.000 mm
Width: 180.000 mm

Museum number

Asia OA 1907.11-11.70


Collected by Sir Marc Aurel Stein


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