Height: 82.900 cm
Width: 29.600 cm
Gift of Sir Marc Aurel Stein
Asia OA 1919,1-1,0.15
Water-Moon Guanyin, ink and colours on paper
From Cave 17, Mogao, near Dunhuang, Gansu
Five Dynasties, mid-10th century AD
Devotional paintings at Dunhuang
Guanyin, the Chinese name for Avalokiteshvara,
This painting, executed on paper, uses far fewer colours than was usual for some of the finer paintings done on silk, and was thus likely to have been cheaper and more easily available to pilgrims and worshippers at the cave temple site.
The donor figure is shown at the bottom right corner, standing on a prayer mat and holding a censer, commonly used in Buddhist ritual. Similar objects have been found at famous Buddhist temple sites, such as the Famensi temples near Xi'an. The square next to the donor is a cartouche for an inscription. On other paintings the cartouche often contains the name and wish of the donor. An altar table with an altar vessel is shown at the same height, as it was usually arranged in front of the devotional image in temples.
R. Whitfield, Art of Central Asia: The Ste-1, vol. 2 (Tokyo, Kodansha International Ltd., 1982-85)
R. Whitfield and A. Farrer, Caves of the thousand Buddhas: (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)