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Avalokiteśvara / 觀世音菩薩像

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1919,0101,0.14

  • Title (object)

    • Avalokiteśvara
    • 觀世音菩薩像
  • Description

    Painting with ink and colours on silk
    This painting with brilliantly preserved colours shows the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara standing with a willow spray in his left hand and a flask in his right. His headdress bears a little figure of Amitabha Buddha, the Buddha of the Pure Land.

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 910
  • Production place

  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 77 centimetres (Painted image)
    • Width: 48.9 centimetres (Painted image)
    • Height: 100.1 centimetres (Framed (including mount))
    • Width: 68.5 centimetres (Framed (including mount))
  • Inscriptions

      • Inscription Type

        inscription
      • Inscription Position

        in cartouches
      • Inscription Language

        Chinese
      • Inscription Translation

        Green cartouche in front: Praise to the great merciful, great compassionate saviour from hardship Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, in perpetual offering. Offered in the hope that the Empire may be peaceful and that the Wheel of the Law may be continually turned therein. Secondly, on behalf of my elder sister and teacher, on behalf of the souls of my deceased parents, that they may be born again in the Pure Land, I reverently made this Great Holy One and with whole heart dedicated it.
        Cartouche above Yanhui dates painting to the tenth year of the Tianfu reign of the Tang, AD 910. The Tang dynasty, however, had been overthrown in AD 906. Perhaps remoteness of the area kept this information from reaching Dunhuang.

        The other inscription identifies the 'elder sister and teacher' as the deceased Very Reverend nun Yanhui, admitter to the Dharma and Vinaya in the monastery of Universal Light, who is seen on the left, while the young man on the right is named as the probationary Chamberlain Zhang Youcheng, younger brother of the donor.
  • Curator's comments

    As is clear from the outset from the lengthy and well-written inscriptions, a great deal of care was lavished on the execution of this small votive painting of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara. The principal inscription is on a green cartouche in the upper right-hand corner, in three columns starting on the left (Fig.7):
    Praise to the great merciful, great compassionate saviour from hardship Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, in perpetual offering. Offered in the hope that the Empire may be peaceful and that the Wheel of the Law may continually turn therein. Secondly, on behalf of my elder sister and teacher, on behalf of the souls of my deceased parents, that they may be born again in the Pure Land, I reverently made this Great Holy One and with whole heart dedicated it. (Translation adapted from Waley, 1931, p. 26, who reads the columns in reverse order.)
    爲亡考妣神生淨土敬造大聖一心供養 奉爲 國界清平法輸常轉二爲阿姉師 南無大慈大悲救苦觀世音菩薩永充供養
    The other inscriptions, including two additional ones on paper attached to the back of the painting (Fig. 8), identify the “elder sister and teacher” of this inscription as the deceased Very Reverend nun Yanhui, admitter to the Dharma and Vinaya in the monastery of Universal Light, who is seen on the left, while the very young man on the right is named as the probationary Chamberlain Zhang Youcheng, younger brother of the donor (Pl.7-3). Terukazu Akiyamu has kindly drawn my attention to the fact that the two longer inscriptions end with the formal phrase “finished and inscribed”畢功記: We shall find that this careful formality and stylization extends to the pictorial execution as well.
    Several features of the picture deserve attention, particularly in view of the fact that it is dated; indeed the date itself, which appears in the longer inscription on the painting and again on the back, is of interest, since it is given as the tenth year of Tianfu, while that reign only lasted four years and the Tang dynasty itself had been deposed in A.D. 906. Evidently Dunhuang was fairly isolated from events in China at this time; nevertheless, under the patronage of powerful local families, such as the Cao 曹 family who were prominent at this time, caves continued to be opened on a grand scale. The ostentation of the time is perhaps evident here in the attention lavished on the nun Yanhui and the young boy. The inscription on the back makes it clear that they were intended as portraits, since the words 貌真 are used twice. In actual fact, of course, the two figures are almost as much standard types as the donors seen in other paintings, but they are sensitively painted and must accurately represent the costume of the time. The brightly coloured band across the chest of the nun’s garment and the black slipper with cloud-shaped toe, trimmed with red, add a touch of vanity, while the bright blue of her shaven head matches well with the azure locks of the Bodhisattva. The dress of the youthful chamberlain, the long black coat parted to the waist to reveal an underrobe of lighter colour (Pl.7-3), is of a type that will become familiar in many other tenth century donors.
    The pink flesh tones used for the boy’s face are the same as those employed for the Bodhisattva (Pl.7-2). In the latter, the delicacy with which these tones are shaded and the darker outlines of the same colour have the effect of a pattern. We can note the symmetry of these outlines in the neck or at the elbow, while the blue hair envelops the shoulders in an airy tracery that is quite unlike the spreading locks on the shoulders of ninth century Bodhisattvas as seen in Vol. 1 (e.g., Pl.16-2). The face, as Waley observed, is perhaps disproportionately large, but it has lost the solidity still to be seen in the Bodhisattvas of the mid-ninth century (Vol. 1, Pl.23-3); and its outline has changed from oval to something almost rectangular. The eyebrows, in green lines sharply angled downwards to the nose, reflect this change, and the ink line of the mouth is sharply hooked at either end, a feature that will be exaggerated in later tenth century paintings. Some of these features may be helpful in attempting to date other works: the fine representation of Ksitigarbha (Pl. 8) is one such painting where the resemblance, particularly in colouring, suggests a similar date.Zwalf 1985

    The principal inscription in the upper right-hand corner reads: 'Praise to the great merciful, great compassionate saviour from hardship Avalokiteśvara Bodhisattva, in perpetual offering. Offered in the hope that the Empire may be peaceful and that the Wheel of the Law may continually turn therein. Secondly, on behalf of my elder sister and teacher, and on behalf of the souls of my deceased parents, that they may be born again in the Pure Land, I reverently made this Great Holy One and with whole heart dedicated it.'

    The other inscriptions identify the 'elder sister and teacher' as the deceased Very Reverend nun Yanhui, admitter to the Dharma and Vinaya in the monastery of Universal Light, who is seen on the left, while the young man on the right is named as the probationary Chamberlain Zhang Youcheng, younger brother of the donor.The pose of the bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, the flow of his scarf and the attributes of the deity closely resemble those on the prints of Avalokitesvara made in late Tang or early Five Dynasties.爲亡考妣神生淨土敬造大聖一心供養,奉爲國界清平,法輸常轉,二爲阿姉師,南無大慈大悲救苦觀世音菩薩永充供養(根據Waley翻譯,1931年,p26,他以相反順序讀)
    初看這個整齊的長篇題記,就可清楚地看出畫家在此觀世音菩薩的小型供養畫的製作上費了不少心思。最重要的題記在畫面右上角,綠色的長方形題箋中,從左開始共三行,記錄如下(參照Fig.7)。
    南無大慈大悲救苦觀世音菩薩永充供養
    奉爲 國界清平法倫常轉二爲阿姊師
    爲亡考妣神生淨土敬造大聖一心供養
    在其它的題記---包括附加的兩張貼在繪畫背面(參照Fig.8)紙上的題記中,稱 “姊師”的人,是亡者普光寺法律臨壇尼大德嚴會,她出現在畫面左側,右側的年輕人(參照圖7-3)是她的弟弟試殿中監張有成(裏面的題記中是張有誠)之像。秋山光和教授指出,兩個長篇題記末尾所使用的“畢功記”都是嚴格遵守固定格式寫成的,而且繪畫也同樣依照固定模式來製作。
    此畫有幾點值得注意,特別是正面和背面的兩個題記中出現的紀年 “天復拾載庚午”更引人注意。此年號實際只用了四年就結束了,唐王朝本身也在906年滅亡。顯然此時敦煌與中國已經完全隔絕,但受當時最有名的曹家等地方豪族的贊助,大規模的石窟營造得以繼續。畫家精心描繪的嚴會尼和小男孩肖像也許能成爲當時誇耀和虛飾畫風的證據。背面的題記中兩度使用“貌真”一詞,說明是有意描繪的嚴會和張友成的肖像。乍一看這兩者的像,與其他繪畫中所見的描繪供養人像的標準形式基本無差別,然而細緻的描繪體現出衣著的時代特徵。著色鮮豔的嚴會尼的胸帶以及她的紅邊的黑色雲頭履等,多少增添了些華麗。剃髪光頭的美麗青色,與觀世音菩薩的淡青色毛髮協調。年輕的試殿中監張友成的衣裳,長黑色上衣兩邊自腰間向下叉開,露出白色的內衣(參照圖7-3),是此後10世紀的供養人像中常見的樣式。
    張友成像臉上可見發粉的膚色暈染,與觀音臉上所使用的顔色相同。而觀音是用濃淡變化的暈染,用同一顔色的濃色線勾勒外沿,是略帶模式化的描繪(參照圖7-2)。這一點,還表現在左右對稱的脖頸和肘部等的線描上,也引人注目。但另一方面,披在肩上的青色頭髮像隨風搖擺的裝飾,顯得格外輕飄。此頭髮的描繪,與第1卷圖16的《藥師淨土圖》等,9世紀的菩薩(參照同一圖16-2)披在肩上的頭髮描繪完全不同。如Waley所述,比起身體,臉部大得有些不成比例,但9世紀中葉的菩薩像(參照第1卷圖23-3)的固定模式已消失。另外,臉部形狀,也從卵形逐漸變成長方形。綠色眉毛深深刻向鼻子,像是要和那棱角感對應,嘴唇兩端稍微往上翹。這種表現,到了10世紀後半葉,逐漸變得更加誇張。這些特徵,對其他作品的年代考證提供了參考,如下一圖所介紹的《地藏菩薩像》(圖8),特別是色彩使用上的類似性,可以看出與此畫是同時期的作品。

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Zwalf 1985 317 bibliographic details
    • Whitfield & Farrer 1990 cat.no.12 bibliographic details
    • Fraser 1996a fig.145 bibliographic details
    • Whitfield 2004a fig.95 bibliographic details
    • Stein 1921a p.1059; vol.IV, pl.LXIX bibliographic details
    • Fraser 2000 p.202 and fig.18 bibliographic details
    • Chandra & Singhal 1995 p.97 bibliographic details
    • Whitfield 1983 pl.7 bibliographic details
    • Stein 1921b pl.XXII bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2003 18 Oct-14 Dec, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2004 17 Jan-28 Mar, Kobe City Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2004 10 Apr-13 Jun, Fukuoka Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2004 26 Jun-29 Aug, Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
    2007 8 Feb-5 Aug, BM Gallery 91, 'Gods, Guardians and Immortals: Chinese Religious Paintings'
    2010 May-Sep, BM, Dept of Asia, The Printed Image in China

    PROMISED FOR AN EXHIBITION IN THE USA 2012

  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1919

  • Acquisition notes

    For full acquisition history, see 1919,0101,0.1.

  • Department

    Asia

  • Registration number

    1919,0101,0.14

  • Additional IDs

    • Ch.liv.006 (Stein no.)
Front
Painting of Avalokitesvara standing on a lotus between two smaller figures. To the left, with shaved head, is the deceased Very Reverend Nun, Yanhui, identified by an inscription on the back. To the right, the young man holding a plate with a lotus is the deceased Probationary Chamberlain Zhang Youcheng, named in the cartouche above him. He was the younger brother of the writer of the inscriptions.  Three cartouches on the front, two on the back.  Ink and colours on silk.

Front Painting of Avalokitesvara standing on a lotus between two smaller figures. To the left, with shaved head, is the deceased Very Reverend Nun, Yanhui, identified by an inscription on the back. To the right, the young man holding a plate with a lotus is the deceased Probationary Chamberlain Zhang Youcheng, named in the cartouche above him. He was the younger brother of the writer of the inscriptions. Three cartouches on the front, two on the back. Ink and colours on silk.

Image description

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