painting / 繪畫
Fragmentary painting with part of the story of the contest between Śāriputra, Buddha's disciple, and the heretic leader, Raudraksa. The top episode shows an elephant, created by Śāriputra, drinking dry the pool Raudraksa magically made. The bottom episode shows Raudraksa falling back in final defeat. The landscape with tiny deer at the bottom may have been exploited to give huge scale to the main figures. Three inscribed cartouches. Ink and colours on silk.
- Excavated/Findspot: Qian Fo Dong, Ch.lv.002 (from bundle Ch.lv 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: 63.5 centimetres
- Width: 46.7 centimetres
Inscription Positionin cartouches
Inscription TranslationNot yet translated.
Although it only shows two episodes from a longer story, this painting is of great interest as an example of the literary genre known as bianwen 變文, dramatized recitations by monks in return for donations from the faithful. They correspond to the bianxiang 變相，or pictorial illustrations of the sutras, of which most of the wall paintings in the caves, as well as those on silk, are examples.
The story of the contest between the Buddha’s disciple Sariputra and the heretic leader Raudraksa is told in the Xianyu jing 賢愚經，Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish, apparently a Chinese compilation of stories from the area of Khotan. The most famous illustration of the contest is the long scroll in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, brought from Dunhuang by Paul Pelliot (Vandier-Nicolas, 1954). That is an illustrated roll with the relevant text written on the back behind each scene. Using it, the monk could read the text from the back as he held up the pictures for the audience to see. All six episodes of the contest are shown in it, although some prefatory scenes are missing at beginning.
The present silk painting shows only two episodes. Above, an elephant is seen standing in a pool with lotus leaves and flowers. To the lower right, Raudraksa can just be seen, kneeling and reeling backwards in astonishment as the elephant, miraculously created by Sariputra, instantaneously drinks dry the pool that Raudraksa had created by magic. A caption at the left reads: “in the pond there appeared thousand-leaved precious flowers”池中生千葉寳花,while a second caption continues (in part)“seeing the elephant of the Buddhists entering the pool”見佛家象入池.
The lower left corner of the painting, separated from the rest by the zig-zag bank of the pool, shows Raudraksa in the final episode of the story, falling to the ground in complete defeat. The depiction of his contorted frame is vigorous and energetic, recalling some of the figures of Lokapalas in the treatment of out-stretched hands and feet. Below the falling figure is a glimpse of a landscape in ink, with deer grazing in a rocky valley and trees. This is tiny in scale. Although it appears unrelated to the main scene, it seems quite possible that it was deliberately used to give the effect of huge scale to the main figures; according to the story, Raudraksa in the final contest himself took shape as a gigantic yaksa, but was defeated by Sariputra who personally repeated the miraculous transformations and apparitions of the great miracle of the Buddha at Sravasti.
Despite the evident fragmentary condition of the silk, the fact that an early episode (the second contest) and the final one are shown together makes it unlikely that this is a fragment from a larger painting showing the entire contest. More probably the major portion is complete here. The painting is certainly no later than the ninth century and according to Professor Akiyama, who considers it to be the earliest illustration of the story, may be as early as the mid-or late eighth century.該繪畫僅僅描繪了長篇故事中的兩個情节，是文學領域中所謂的“變文”的極爲有趣的例子之一。“變文”是僧侶們接受佈施後作爲回報將經文用戲劇的形式演唱給施主聽的一種文學題材。與此相應的有“變相”，就是以繪畫形式表現佛經內容。除了絹畫，石窟壁畫中也有不少遺留的例子。
- Associated Event: Contest between Sariputra and Raudraksa
For full acquisition history, see 1919,0101,0.1.
- Ch.lv.002 (Stein no.)
Front Fragment of a painting with part of the story of the contest between Sariputra, Buddha's disciple, and the heretic leader, Raudraksa. The top episode shows an elephant, created by Sariputra, drinking dry the pool Raudraksa magically made. The bottom episode shows Raudraksa falling back in final defeat. The landscape with tiny deer at the bottom may have been exploited to give huge scale to the main figures. Three inscribed cartouches. Ink and colours on silk.
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Object reference number: RFC671
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