Paradise of Bhaishajyaguru, ink and colours on silk

From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
Tang dynasty, dated AD 836

Synthesis of Chinese and Tibetan painting styles

This large painting is devoted to Bhaishajyaguru, the Buddha of Healing. Dated and inscribed in both Chinese and Tibetan, is an interesting example of how different modes of painting reached a unique synthesis in the multi-cultural climate of Dunhuang. The Tibetans occupied Dunhuang from AD 781 to 848 and some of the earliest paintings in the Tibetan painting style have survived there.

The figures painted in the Tibetan mode have elongated haloes and are much flatter and more decorative than those painted in the more typical style of the Chinese Tang dynasty.

Instead of the more common architectural setting, the Paradise is set in a landscape, with the figures arranged in a more formalized way, almost like in a mandala. The two bodhisattvas Samantabhadra and Manjushri - recognisable by their mounts, the elephant and the lion - occupy the middle ground. At the bottom of the painting we can also see the esotericform of Manjushri shown with a Thousand Bowls.

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More information

Bibliography

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

Dimensions

Height: 152.300 cm
Width: 177.800 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.32

RFC638

Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein

Location

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