painting / 繪畫
Painted composition of two standing Avalokiteśvara figures facing each other, the one on the left holding a flower, the one on the right with a vase. Otherwise, they are in nearly identical mirror-reverse, as are the inscriptions, both of which begin in the middle of the cartouche and refer to Tibetan control of Dunhuang. Ink and colours on silk.
- 781-847 ((probably) during period of Tibetan control of Dunhuang)
- Excavated/Findspot: Qian Fo Dong, Ch.xxxviii.005 (from Cave 17 at Ch’ien Fo Tung (pinyin: Qian Fo Dong))
- (Asia,China,Gansu (province),Dunhuang,Qian Fo Dong (Caves of the Thousand Buddhas))
- Excavated/Findspot: 千佛洞
- Height: 147.3 centimetres
- Width: 105.3 centimetres
Inscription Positionin cartouche
Inscription TranslationCentral four lines of the inscription consist of the same two-line text, repeated to read from either side. It states that the painting was made by "...the disciple of pure faith,Yiwen, on his own behalf, having fallen [into the hands of the Tibetans], that he return to his birthplace." Later, the original inscription was extended to the left and right, with additions in which other persons claim credit for the painting and apply its benefits to their deceased parents.
This painting is one of the grandest of those attesting the popularity of Avalokitesvara with individual devotees at Dunhuang. In iconography it is very similar to Pl.13, but with two figures of the Bodhisattva instead of one alone. In addition, the inscription gives us clear details of the wishes of those who had this painting made. It is placed in the very centre of the painting, between the two Bodhisattvas who face each other in virtual mirror-reverse. In fact, the inscription itself (see below) is also so divided, and consists of two inscriptions, each starting from the middle (Fig.75). The top of both is damaged so that a character or two is missing from the top of every line. In addition, a small piece from the top right half of the inscription has been mounted at the top left. Nevertheless, most of the wording can be made out, as follows, beginning with the right half and starting from the centre:
Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva. The disciple of pure faith, Yiwen, on his own behalf, having fallen [into the hands of the Tibetans], that he may return to his birthplace, made and dedicated with undivided heart...-you and the female disciple Juehui toehui together made an Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva first that her deceased father and mother may be reborn in the Pure Land ...[may escape] the Three Ways and be granted birth in the Pure Country and soon ascend to the World of Buddha, dedicated with undivided heart.
The left half of the inscription, in five lines beginning again from the centre, reads in similar fashion:
[Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva]. The disciple of pure faith [Yi] wen on his own behalf, having fallen [into the hands of the Tibetans] that he may return home, made and dedicated with undivided heart. Cili, elder of the Yong’an temple, piously and reverently painted Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, on behalf of his departed father ...three, that he may soon pass into Buddha’s world, dedicated with undivided heart. The disciple of faith and son Yiwen, master of the Vinaya in the Yong’an temple, dedicated with undivided heart. The believer and performer Dong Wenhai dedicated with undivided heart.
In spite of the difficulties caused by the misalignment of part of the inscription and the missing characters, some facts emerge fairly clearly from it. Each of the two Bodhisattvas has a separate dedication, and in each case this seems to be divided, with two lines of larger characters first, followed on the right by two lines and on the left by three lines of smaller characters. We may perhaps take it that the chief donor and the principal wishes are recorded in the larger characters, and that other associate donors and their wishes are recorded in the additional lines to the right and left. The wording of the main inscriptions is then practically identical; and the donor in each case seems to be the same person. According to Professor Fujieda (personal communication ) the character “luo”(fallen) seems in each case to invite completion with the character “fan”, as in other inscriptions in the caves themselves, referring to the Tibetan control of this district, and the principal wish is undoubtedly the very Chinese one of a desire to return home. This seems to take precedence over the remaining wishes expressed on behalf of deceased parents, that they may escape rebirth in the Three Evil Ways (as animals, demons, or hungry ghosts) and may instead be reborn in the Pure Land or in the World of the Buddha.
According to Professor Fujieda’s theory, this would mean that the painting could be dated with some certainty to the period from A.D.781 to 847, before the restoration of Chinese control. This also seems possible from the point of view of style. The two Bodhisattvas, each in three-quarter view, mirror each other to the extent that, save for details such as the shape of the nose, they are distinguished only by their attributes and by the colour of the stoles that cover their shoulders. The figures are both solidly planted on their lotus pedestals, with rather large feet, their bodies swaying very slightly forward at the waist. The depiction is characterized by great precision of brushwork in the fine ink outlines of the main features, with schematic colour shading for the exposed areas of flesh .There are close resemblances to the single depiction of Avalokitesvara of Pl.13, but it could be suggested that Stein painting 3 is slightly later, since the ribands hang more stiffly and the lines of the faces appear also somewhat harder.
Although the painting shows two figures side by side, and might therefore have been expected to be made up also of two widths of silk, this is not in fact the case. There is a broken area right down the centre of the painting due to folding, but the method of assembly is precisely the same as that of other paintings of the same size, with a full width of silk in the centre, onto which are sewn two half-widths. The left figure has been mounted somewhat too high and the hands would originally have been directly opposite each other: a touch of yellow and two leaves from the flower held by the left figure can be seen on the right and indicate its correct position.此畫是說明觀音信仰在敦煌佛教徒間盛行的代表作之一。此圖與圖13的觀世音菩薩像極其相近，只是在這裏不是一身，而是兩身。并且有願文，明確表达了捐献此畫的人們的祈願。願文在繪畫中心，在面對面像是照鏡子的兩身菩薩中間的位置上。願文（見下）本身分兩部分，分別從中間行開始書寫（參見Fig.75）。上部的絹子有些損壞，每行上部的一個字均已丟失，第二個字也有缺損。左側上端所見的小斷片，原應是右側上部的願文。不過，大部分文字還可以讀出。
For full acquisition history, see 1919,0101,0.1.
- Ch.xxxviii.005 (Stein no.)
Front Very grand, finely painted composition of two standing Avalokitesvara figures facing each other, the one on the left holding a flower, the one on the right with a vase. Otherwise, they are in nearly identical mirror-reverse, as are the inscriptions, both of which begin in the middle of the cartouche and refer to Tibetan control of Dunhuang. Ink and colours on silk.
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Object reference number: RFC2813
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