Height: 206.000 cm
Width: 167.000 cm
Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein
Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.36
Paradise of Bhaishajyaguru, ink and colours on silk
From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu
Tang Dynasty, 9th century AD
The figures are arranged on terraces above water, and a Chinese palace setting is indicated by the courtyard shown from above. Bhaishajyaguru himself is seated in the centre of the composition under a large canopy. Directly in front of him are bodhisattvas playing music and dancing, indicating the pleasures of Paradise, where according to the sutras the most beautiful sounds can be heard and exquisite fragrances can be smelt. The accompanying figures are other bodhisattvas and guardians, as well as subsidiary Buddha groups.
In the top of the lowest register of the painting are multi-armed esoteric deities such as Manjushri with the Thousand Bowls on the top right. The scenes on the sides are divided by lines, as in a modern-day cartoon, with cartouches containing quotes from the sutra. On the right are scenes of the 'six forms of violent death', for example a hungry soul dragging somebody away as a punishment for hunting. On the left are the twelve vows of Bhaishajyaguru.
R. Whitfield, Art of Central Asia: The Ste-2, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha International Ltd., 1982-85)