Height: 80.400 cm
Width: 55.400 cm
Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein
Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.31
Tejaprabha Buddha and the Five Planets, ink and colours on silk
From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu
Tang dynasty, dated 4th year of Qianning (AD 897)
The planets in human form
This painting shows a very rare form of the Buddha, named in the inscription as Tejaprabha Buddha, the 'Buddha of Blazing Light'. He is seated in a moving chariot, which is also very unusual, as Buddhas were mostly shown seated in a frontal position.
This painting is a good example of the way that various cultural influences shaped the iconography of painting at Dunhuang, as the planets had not been shown in human form before the arrival of Buddhism in China. Chinese sutras gave specific descriptions of the human form of the planets, most probably influenced by Indian scriptures, which in turn may reflect influences deriving from Greece and even Babylon.
R. Whitfield, Art of Central Asia: The Ste-2, vol. 1 (Tokyo, Kodansha International Ltd., 1982-85)