painting / 繪畫
Fragment of a very large painting about Buddha Śākyamuni preaching at the Vulture Peak. The Buddha is recognisable by the long arm extending downward on the right, the only part of the figure which survives. Behind the Budhha, a rocky background with several birds, including a vulture. The main part of the fragment shows the monk Liu Sahe and, on the left-hand side, several scenes from the story of the miraculous Buddha image of Mount Yugu. Ink and colours on silk.
- 8thC-9thC (circa)
- Excavated/Findspot: Qian Fo Dong, Ch.0059 (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: 95.9 centimetres
- Width: 51.8 centimetres
The subject of this painting is an unusual one at Dunhuang, being found among the wall paintings only in Cave 72. Only the right arm of the central standing Buddha is now visible, outlined in ink and shaded in orange to give the impression of a golden colour. The arm is extended straight downwards with open palm and thumb and fingers closely pressed together. It is immediately recognizable as the gesture found in the Sakyamuni of the great embroidery shown in Vol. 3, Pl. 1, indicating that the subject is the sermon on the Vulture Peak, that is, the preaching of the Lotus Sutra. This is indeed confirmed by the rocky background and, among other birds in flight, an actual vulture perching on the top of the mountain above the canopy (Fig.66).
As the painting survives, only a little less than a quarter is preserved. This can be surmised from the construction alone, since a join in the silk runs down immediately behind the head of the monk, perhaps Sariputra as Waley suggested, who stands beside the Buddha. Following the usual make-up of a central whole width of silk with two half-widths, one either side, this means that the whole painting was originally very impressive, with the central figure of a standing Buddha, his body resplendent in its orange shading against the ornate mandorla and flame surround, set off by the dark rocks of the Vulture Peak, attended by a disciple on either side, and with narrative side scenes to the left and right. Something of its magnificence can still be seen from the sumptuous decoration of the petals of the lotus on which the monk stand: blue and orange seem to have been the dominant colours of the painting.
While the identification of the central Buddha allows us to refer to the embroidery (and the tiny embroidery, Vol.3, Pl.2) as well as to the image of Sakyamuni Preaching on the Vulture Peak found on a painting in New Delhi, other parts of which (Stein painting 51,Vol.2Pl.11) are in the British Museum, it is the narrative scenes at the side which link it to the wall paintings at Qianfodong. As suggested above, these narrative scenes cannot have been confined to the left side but must have been present on the right also. Of great interest is the fact that the standing image of the Buddha grasping his robe and with the right hand extended straight down is twice repeated in these scenes, to the lower left as a sculpture surrounded by a scaffold, with two men reaching out to the head, and near the top left outside a city wall as a free-standing image, towards which a monk stretches his left hand.
The explanation of these side scenes is made clear by the wall painting on the upper part of the south wall of Cave 72, which bears a series of inscribed cartouches that tell the story. Here the image of the Buddha, large and small, is shown many times in a landscape setting. In the centre of the wall Sakyamuni is shown with a large assembly; it is the scene to the right of this that chiefly concerns us here. The first image appears (Lo Archive, no. 072-7) at the top left of this part of the wall, with the caption: “The appearance of the iron(?) image from India” 鐵像從度印來現時. In the next scene to the right, the image is seen much larger, accompanied by apsarasas and disciples, but with the head missing. The inscription reads: “When the head was lost from the image of the Divine Countenance” 聖容像＃下去頭時. In the centre of the whole composition the image is shown again, this time with a scaffold erected around it, one figure climbing a ladder, two men half-way up the scaffold and four more at the top supporting the head of the image, which is still slightly tilted. The caption reads:“When they managed to get the original head of the image of the Divine Countenance and replace it as it was before” 却得聖容像本頭安置仍著時.
Further repetitions of the image, with narrative of other events, occur in the top right section of the wall painting, but the three scenes already described are those that are give some prominence, just as the scene of the replacement of the head by two men on a scaffold is clearly the principal event shown in the surviving part of the silk painting. Nevertheless, some other parallels may be attempted; for instance, just in front of the scaffold in the silk painting is a pavilion with a blue roof (Pl.22-2). A pavilion also appears in Cave 72, and next to it the inscription reads: “When the Lohan saw the Divine Countenance and recorded it on a tablet”羅漢見聖容碑記時. Unfortunately, available photographs from the cave (the entire lower half of the wall has in any case faded leaving only a single image visible) are not clear enough to identify the other scenes in the silk painting. These, besides the two wind or thunder spirits with their rings of drums, supported on clouds (Pl.22-2, Fig.67), include a rider apparently reviewing a troop of soldiers in armour (Fig. 65) and, higher up, a monk on a mule, followed by an elephant carrying a large number of scriptures (Fig.64). The whole painting is thus concerned not only with the central image of the Buddha in the act of preaching the most important Mahayana scripture, the Saddharma-pundarida, or Lotus Sutra, but with the transmission of both images and scriptures from India eastwards.
Since writing the above, the good fortune of a visit from M.Robert Jera Bezard has led to the identification of another substantial (H.72.0 cm, W. 28.0 cm) and important part of the same painting. On seeing Stein 20 he immediately recalled a fragment in the Pelliot collection with the same basic colouring (Bannieres, No.25). The piece in question (Fig.63) shows a Bodhisattva kneeling before an incense burner, described in the catalogue entry as being that which stood directly beneath the main image. Indeed a fragment of two multi-coloured petals of the lotus pedestal is just visible. There are numerous much smaller figures :a group of musicians, two groups of horsemen with pennants, five monks and another figure of some authority near them. These and the landscape setting already recall the Stein painting, but the most fascinating detail is immediately in front of the kneeling Bodhisattva, the head only of a Buddha, described as green in colouring (the statues in the London painting appear metallic in hue although no colour is actually left), seen on a rectangular plinth between two trees. There can be no doubt that the same story is represented, and I personally have no hesitation at all in believing this to be a part of the same painting, the figure of the Bodhisattva being almost directly below that of the large standing monk in the Stein painting (Fig.62). By this we can deduce that the whole painting was over 170 cm high and about 120 cm wide. There would have been space for many more scenes from the whole narrative as shown in Cave 72.該畫的主題在敦煌非常罕見，石窟壁畫中也僅在72窟中發現一例。主尊的立像只殘留右臂，墨描輪廓，橙色暈染，顯示出金色光輝。手臂筆直下垂，手掌展開，手指緊並。看一眼就會立刻想起第3卷圖1的刺繡作品，即《法華經》中所講的《靈鷲山釋迦說法圖》中主尊的描繪。背景的山岩以及空中飛翔的鳥，其中還夾著停留在華蓋上方山頂的禿鷹（參見Fig.66）等則是更有力的證明。
撰寫上文時，恰好M.Robert Jera Bezard來訪，確認了另一件可能是此畫的一部分重要的殘片（高72.0釐米,寬28.0釐米）。看到本圖，他立刻想起了在伯希和收集品中的同一色調的一件斷片（《敦煌幡和繪畫》，圖25）。在這個斷片中，一個菩薩跪在香爐前（參見Fig.63）。根據說明，香爐應該在主尊正下方的位置。實際上，這裏只能在上部窺到顔色豐富的蓮華座的兩片花瓣的尖端。另外，斷片中還繪有樂人一群、兩群騎馬人，比丘五人，以及諸多權貴人物等小像。這些人物和山水風景等的描繪，與斯坦因收集的作品也有關係，但最引人注目的是繪於跪姿菩薩正前方的佛頭，是用綠色描繪，用兩根樹夾起置於長方形的臺上（斯坦因此畫的顔色實際上幾乎完全脫落，但感覺像的顔色是金屬色）。伯希和收集的斷片，描繪的無疑是相同故事的一個斷片，我個人毫不猶豫地認爲，那是此圖的一部分，菩薩像應該連接於本圖大的比丘立像的正下方（參見Fig.62）。從以上的情況，可以推測全圖高170.cm,寬120cm以上，它應該像敦煌第72窟的宏大場景那樣，也有充分的餘地收進相當大的畫面。
- Associated with: Vulture Peak
- (Asia,South Asia,India,Bihar (state),Rajgir,Vulture Peak)
For full acquisition history, see 1919,0101,0.1.
- Ch.0059 (Stein no.)
Front Fragment of a very large painting about Buddha Sakyamuni preaching at the Vulture Peak. The Buddha is recognisable by the long arm extending downward on the right, the only part of the figure which survives. Behind the Budhha, a rocky background with several birds, including a vulture. The main part of the fragment shows the monk Liu Sahe and, on the left-hand side, several scenes from the story of the miraculous Buddha image of Mount Yugu. Ink and colours on silk. (Also referenced by 1919,0101,0.347)
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Object reference number: RFC620
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