painting / 繪畫
Painting of Avalokiteśvara, shown seated as the Saviour of Perils. Side scenes show perils as described in Lotus Sutra (Miaofa lianhua jing). The Good and Bad Boys stand below the lotus throne, holding scrolls. The larger figures in the bottom register are the deceased parents of the donor, a soldier, who is the smaller figure on the right. Three inscribed carotuches in lower register, eight blank ones above. Ink and colours on silk.
- 926-975 (circa)
- Excavated/Findspot: Qian Fo Dong, Ch.lvii.001 (from bundle Ch.lvii 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: 86.2 centimetres (painted area)
- Width: 54.1 centimetres (Painted area)
- Height: 104.5 centimetres (Frame)
- Width: 70.1 centimetres (Frame)
- Diameter: 3.1 centimetres (Frame)
Inscription Positionin cartouches next to the donors
Inscription TranslationInscription by the donor, a soldier, in bottom right cartouche, dedicating painting on behalf of his deceased parents. Other cartouches only partly legible. Not yet translated.
With its background silk of an overall greenish line and the symmetrically disposed multi-coloured cartouches, this painting presents an attractive appearance and must originally have been even brighter. Avalokitesvara, in the centre on a lotus throne with hexagonal paneled base, is four-armed, holding aloft the sun and moon. His hair was originally blue, and blue and red are dominant themes in the colouring throughout. On either side of the Bodhisattva are depicted the Perils, as recounted in the Lotus Sutra and seen in many other paintings from Dunhuang. These scenes are represented with great fidelity to the Perils as described in the verses added at the end of Chapter 25 of the Lotus Sutra. For instance, the scene at the top right illustrates the lines:
If ...meeting suffering by royal (command)
His life is to end in execution,
He thinks of the Cry-Regarder’s power,
(The executioner’s) sword will break in pieces (kato, 1971, p. 412)
And the painting shows the sword actually shattering (Pl. 21-4), while, below, to illustrate the lines:
Though (others) with harmful intent
Throw him into a burning pit,
Let him think of the Cry-Regarder’s power,
And the fire-pit will become a pool (ibid., p. 411)
The pool is shown in such a way that it is clear that the burning figure will be immediately quenched in it.
The costumes of the male figures in these scenes, with their limp cap ribbons (quite different from those of the donors below), lead one to imagine that this painting was fairly closely modeled on an early ninth century prototype, but decorative details such as the flower in a bowl in front of the Bodhisattva (Pl.21-5), and the triple-flowered canopy above, are clearly of the mid-tenth century.
The donor is in fact the smaller figure on the right, a soldier dedicating this painting on behalf of his deceased parents. Clearly, the Perils from which Avalokitesvara was the saviour were not merely those of this life: those of the next world weighed greatly on the donor’s mind. This must be the explanation for the two attendants standing beneath the lotus pedestal: although they are not labeled, the fact that they hold scrolls suggests that they are the Good and Bad Boys, the recorders of good and evil. In Pl. 27, a similar pair of figures is actually so identified.本畫原來的整個背景都塗了美麗的綠色，左右對稱的長方形題箋框也用了各種顔色，是件華麗的作品，而最初應該還要鮮豔。中央是四臂觀世音菩薩，以半跏趺姿勢坐在六角形祭壇上的蓮華座上，上方的兩手捧著日月。頭髮當初可能是青色的，色彩是以青和紅色爲主調貫穿全身。
觀音的兩旁，畫的是在敦煌出土的其他繪畫中也多見的，《法華經》中講的表示危難的圖。這些極忠實地描繪了加寫在《法華經》第二十五品《觀世音菩薩普門品》後的偈頌中所記的危難。如右上圖（圖21－4）中，就是基於“或遭王難苦 臨刑欲壽終 念彼觀音力 刀尋段段壞”，描繪刑吏的手將要行刑時，只要心中念觀音，劍節節折斷的樣子。其下面的是根據“假使興害意 推落大火坑 念彼觀音力 火坑變成池”，描繪有惡意的人即使想殺人，把人推進大火坑，只要心中念觀音，火坑立刻會變成水池等畫面。從这些危難圖中出現的男人（參照圖21－3）頭戴軟腳襆頭（和下欄中硬腳幡頭的供養人像完全不同）看，這些圖不是非常忠實地模寫了9世紀初的情況嗎？但是，另一方面，放在觀音前的盤中生出的花（參照圖21－5）以及上方三個花連接的華蓋等裝飾性的描繪，明顯是10世紀中葉的作品。
2012 5th May -29th July, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, ‘The Printed Image in China’
Textile fragments located in drawer
- Associated Title: Lotus Sutra (Miaofa lianhua jing)
For full acquisition history, see 1919,0101,0.1.
- Ch.lvii.001 (Stein no.)
Front Painting of Avalokitesvara, shown seated as the Saviour of Perils. Side scenes show perils as described in Lotus Sutra (Miaofa lianhua jing). The Good and Bad Boys stand below the lotus throne, holding scrolls. The larger figures in the bottom register are the deceased parents of the donor- a soldier, who is the smaller figure on the right. Three inscribed carotuches in lower register, eight blank ones above. Ink and colours on silk.
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Object reference number: RFC630
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