Patchwork of silk, probably a kasaya

From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
Tang Dynasty, 8th-9th century AD

A Buddhist monastic robe

Sir Marc Aurel Stein originally suggested that this large patchwork was an altar-cloth, though it has now been identified as a kasaya, a Buddhist monastic robe. The symmetrical arrangement of patches along a central vertical axis is consistent with the prescribed form for a kasaya. Even though these patches of cloth were originally meant as a sign of humility, a splendid array of silks has been used in this example.

The patchwork comprises seven vertical columns of fabric enclosed by a border of plain silk printed with blue foliated scrolls. Within the border are woven or printed silks with a rosette design. The dominating floral motif embroidered in the centre has largely disintegrated, revealing the silk patches used for strengthening. Only two small white panels of floral embroidery still remain intact.

The magnificence of the materials used and the presence of purple suggest that the wearer must have been a priest of high rank. Hong Bian (active in the mid-ninth century), the head priest who is commemorated in the cave where these textiles were found, had been given the right to wear purple by the emperor. Small pieces of purple silk were also found inside his statue.

Find in the collection online

More information

Bibliography

M. Aurel Stein, Serindia: detailed report of e, 5 vols. (Oxford, 1921)

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

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

Dimensions

Height: 1070.000 mm
Width: 1490.000 mm

Museum number

Asia OA MAS 856

RRC7139

Collected by Sir Marc Aurel Stein

Location

Find in the collection online



Search highlights

There are over 4,000 highlight objects to explore