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painting / 繪畫

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1919,0101,0.20

  • Description

    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.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 8thC-9thC (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 95.9 centimetres
    • Width: 51.8 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    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。
    該繪畫殘留部分不到整體的四分之一,这整體畫面只是通过比丘頭部正後方所見絹的綴接針眼推測的。如同Waley講的,佛旁站立的比丘大概是舍利弗。按慣例,中心是整幅絹子,兩邊再接缀半幅絹,当初应是一件很華美的作品,中央位置的立佛身上用橙色暈染,圍繞著絢麗的身光或火焰光,更加襯托出靈鷲山的暗色山岩。佛兩側各有一身弟子陪伴,左右兩側是故事圖。華麗程度,从比丘所站的蓮華座的豪华裝飾,亦可窥其一斑。整體畫面,依然以青、橙色爲主調。
    主尊的身份,可以參考刺繡品(還有小型刺繡品,第3卷圖2)以及新德里國立博物館所藏的《靈鷲山釋迦說法圖》、大英博物館的其他藏品(斯坦因繪畫51;第2卷圖11)。而畫面兩側的故事圖,則與千佛洞的壁畫有聯係。如前所述,那些故事圖不僅應在左側,右側也應有描繪。非常有趣的是,左手執衣襟,右手筆直下垂的佛立像,居然出現兩身。一身在左下方的建築架中,有兩個男人貼近佛頭。另一身在左上端接近城壁外側的獨立像,旁邊站著舉起左手的比丘。
    這些故事圖的情景,在敦煌第72窟南壁上部有榜題説明的壁畫中得到了更清楚的解釋。壁畫中,中央是釋迦,周邊圍著諸多聖衆,左右的山水圖中佈置了幾身大小不一的佛像。這裏,我們的問題主要在右半部展開的畫面。首先出現的是右半壁畫的左上方的佛像(參照羅寄梅No.072-7)。此場景的解說文是“鐵像從印度來現時”。右邊的佛像比這個佛像還大,頭部殘缺,伴隨著佛弟子和飛天,解說文是“聖容像(木+勿)下去頭時”。隨後中部出現的是被建築架圍起來的這一佛像。一個人爬著梯子,建築架半空有兩個男人,上面也有四個男人支着傾斜的佛頭。解說文是“卻得聖容像本頭安置仍舊時”。
    壁畫右上方有若干身佛像,各自都有解說故事情結的榜題,特別引人注目的是上述三個場景,即建築架上的兩個男人進行佛頭修復作業,它們表現的顯然是此繪畫的殘留部分的主要事件。還可舉出若干相同的描繪,如該繪畫建築架正前方繪著青色屋頂的建築物(參見圖22-2),在第72窟中也可以見到,其解說文是“羅漢見聖容碑記時”。遺憾的是,手中所掌握的該窟照片(壁畫下半部全都很模糊,只見一身佛像),無法與此畫的其他部分做充分的比較。在此畫中,還可見到乘著雲彩,手持輪形大鼓的風神和雷神(參見圖22-2,Fig.67),有一隊騎馬著甲的士兵(參見Fig.65),在其上方有騎騾馬的僧侶及負載著經文的大象等(參見Fig.64)。從而,此畫中央描繪的說法佛,不僅僅與最重要的大乘經典《法華經》有關連,也與佛像和經典從印度東漸有關。
    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。

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  • Bibliography

    • Sullivan 1962 bibliographic details
    • Whitfield & Farrer 1990 cat.no.6 bibliographic details
    • Whitfield 1982 pl.22, figs 62-67 bibliographic details
    • Stein 1921b pl.XIII bibliographic details
    • Wu Hung 1996 pp.32-43 and fig.1 bibliographic details
    • Whitfield 1989b pp.64-67 and fig.2 bibliographic details
    • Stein 1921a pp.951-952 bibliographic details
  • Subjects

  • Associated names

  • Associated places

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1919

  • Acquisition notes

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

  • Department

    Asia

  • Registration number

    1919,0101,0.20

  • Additional IDs

    • 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)

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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