Representations of Famous Buddhist Images, ink and colours on silk (fragments)

From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu province, China
Tang dynasty, 7th - 8th century AD

Models for passing on Buddhist iconography

These fragments are from a large painting, several parts of which are now in the National Museum in New Delhi, India. The painting was filled with representations of famous statues of the Buddha and other images. Several studies have been devoted to identifying the sources of the illustrations, and linking the various images to different centres on the Silk Road.

In this section we can see the halo and aureole of a seated Buddha figure on the left, with a thousand Buddhas appearing within the circles. On the right a Buddha touches the red disk of the sun, perhaps signifying the powers achieved after his Enlightenment. Buddhas touching the sun and moon were occasionally represented on the wall paintings at Mogao, probably indicating links to similar popular and famous images of the Buddha in various ways.

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More information


A.C. Soper, 'Famous images at Dunhuang', Artibus Asiae, Supplementum XXII (1964)

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

M. Soymiè, 'Quelques représentations de statues miraculeuses dans les grottes de Touen-houang' in Contributions aux études de To, vol. 3 (Paris, Ecole française d'Extrême-Orient), pp. 77-102

R. Whitfield, 'Ruixiang at Dunhuang' in Function and meaning in Buddhi (Groningen, Forsten, 1995), pp. 149-56


Height: 58.500 cm
Width: 44.000 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.51


Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein


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