Samantabhadra, ink and colours on a silk banner

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

Banner painting of a popular bodhisattva

The triangular top and the streamers of this temple flag or banner are missing. The painted central part is occupied by the bodhisattva Samantabhadra, who is shown seated on a white elephant whose feet are supported by lotuses. In true Dunhuang fashion his thick, black hair is lying on his shoulders. A halo behind his head indicates that he is a holy figure.

Such votive banners were most probably hung in the caves and used in worship. Samantabhadra is commonly paired with Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom, and thus this banner may have had a pair depicting Manjushri.

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More information


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

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


Height: 57.000 cm (total)
Width: 18.500 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.131


Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein


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