painting / 繪畫
Painting of Avalokiteśvara in three-quarter view, holding a sprinkler vase and willow branch. Ink and colours on silk.
- 751-850 (circa)
- Excavated/Findspot: Qian Fo Dong, Ch.lvi.0016 (from bundle Ch.lvi at 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: 119.5 centimetres
- Width: 55.4 centimetres
Avalokitesvara is shown in three-quarter view, holding a sprinkler vase between the fingers of his right hand, and a spray of willow over his shoulder in his left. Despite the loss of the border and parts of the top and bottom of the painting itself, including a large part of the halo and the top of the head (Fig.36), the painting is generally in good condition. The damage to the halo was probably caused by the corrosive nature of the green pigment used. The top of the head of the “parent” figure of Amitābha can just be seen as all that remains of the headdress. To the left of the nose above the mouth, the damage extends some way into the face and there is some restoration on the backing silk, but the rest of the face is original, and was originally white, shaded with pink. The elegant token moustache and wisp of beard were probably originally green. An ink line, swelling at the right end, divides the lips.
The Bodhisattva’s long black hair, although not visible around the head, frames the shoulders on either side and ends in broad, swelling locks behind the elbows, with a smaller upturned lock on either shoulder. A green stole covers the shoulders and falls in parallel folds outlined in ink. Although these ink lines seem to waver, this is probably due to distortion of the weave, and the original appearance of these lines would have been smooth and flowing. Some idea of this may be gained from the appearance of the narrow white riband or sash hanging from the neck, which descends in an easy loop, swaying with the movement of the body and over the gathering of the stole at the waist. Underneath the stole, the crimson underrobe, orange-shaded skirt and white folds around the waist are all clearly distinguished.
The Bodhisattva wears a broad belt whose edges and buckle holes are a reddish brown, outlined in ink and highlighted in yellow. Apart from a single string of purple beads, the same combination of colours is used for all the other ornaments worn by the figure, from the earrings and pendants of the headdress to the breast pendant, the wrist bangles and the longer series of pendants hanging from a large central rosette. Both in form and colouring, this type of adornment for Bodhisattvas seems to have found favour over a long period at Dunhuang, and especially during the ninth century.
Painted as it is upon a single width of silk, the painting must originally have been considerably taller than it is now if we allow for the canopy above and the missing portion of the lower robes and feet on a lotus pedestal. The total height may thus originally have been about 150-160 cm, or close to the height of the large paradise scenes such as Pl.9. In the caves at Dunhuang and Yulin, large figures of Bodhisattvas can be seen flanking the paradise scenes, as for instance the figure of Avalokitesvara on the left side of the Maitreya paradise in Cave 25 at Wanfoxia (Warner, 1938, Pl.ⅩⅩⅩⅥ). It seems almost certain that the present painting, with Avalokitesvara in a similar stance and with a similarly placed cartouche, was intended to be hung next to a paradise scene. Indeed it could hardly have hung on its own.側立的觀音像右手指間持淨瓶，左手握著搭在肩上的小柳枝。盡管周圍的邊框和畫面上下的一部分均已殘缺，以及大部分頭光和頭的頂部也不能倖免（參見圖36），總的來說保存狀態大致良好。頭光的損壞，大概是因爲所使用的腐蝕性較強的綠色顔料導致的。寶冠也基本完全遺失，僅能看見上方殘留的化佛頭頂。口的上方到鼻子左側都有傷殘，經過下襯絹子的修復。臉的其餘部分保持原樣，白色上面用粉色渲染，雅致的唇髭和一綹顎須原來大概是綠色的。嘴唇合閉處拉出很長的墨線，右端往上略翹。
這幅畫畫在單幅寬的絹上，如果我們考慮到頭上的華蓋、下方殘缺的裙裾和踏著蓮花座的足等因素，該畫當初無疑要比現在要高。原來的高度大約在150～160釐米，與圖9淨土變的尺寸接近。敦煌和榆林窟壁畫中，可見側立在淨土變旁的大型菩薩像。如，萬佛峽第25窟的彌勒淨土變相圖左側，繪有巨大的菩薩像（Langdon Warner ：Buddhist Wall-Paintings，1938，圖36）。由此可以確認，該繪畫與另一幅繪有相同姿勢、相同榜題的觀世音菩薩像懸挂於淨土變兩側。這幅畫確實無法單獨懸挂。
Top of head, most of halo and part of bottom missing. Allowing for canopy, painting was probably a good bit taller than it is now.
For full acquisition history, see 1919,0101,0.1.
- Ch.lvi.0016 (Stein no.)
If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Object reference number: RFC608
British Museum collection data is also available in the W3C open data standard, RDF, allowing it to join and relate to a growing body of linked data published by organisations around the world.
The Museum makes its collection database available to be used by scholars around the world. Donations will help support curatorial, documentation and digitisation projects.