painting / 繪畫
Large painting of Pure Land of Amitābha shown in an architectural setting. Central figure of Amitābha, with Bodhisattvas Avalokiteśvara and Mahasthamaprapta. Six musicians, infant souls, numerous other figures. In central foreground, Garuḍa plays a lute for peacocks and parrots. Illustrations of episodes from commentary on the Amitābha Sutra on the sides. Ink and colours on silk.
- 801-850 (circa)
- Excavated/Findspot: Qian Fo Dong, Ch.xxxiii.003 (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: 168 centimetres
- Width: 123 centimetres
This Amitābha paradise is comparable in size to the Sakyamuni paradise of Pl.8 and in date to the paradise of Bhaisajyaguru (Pl.9). It is, however, markedly inferior both in quality of execution and in its present condition.
In the centre, his features difficult to make out owing to the fading of the colours and the deformation of the silk, sits Amitābha, with Avalokitesvara and Mahāsthāmaprāpta seated with legs pendent on either side. He is attended exclusively by Bodhisattvas. The standing figures at the sides can be compared with a fragment from Stein painting 222 (Fig.31) which, though considerably larger and probably somewhat later, is similar in composition (other fragments from this painting still await mounting). In front of the altar and the steps leading to it is a dancer’s platform with musicians. The less ambitious nature of the painting can be gauged from the fact that instead of the usual total of ten or twelve musicians, here there are only six, three on each side. Additional platforms rising out of the lotus tank in the foreground support two more groups of a Buddha with accompanying Bodhisattvas. In a charming vignette in the centre foreground, a single garuda plays the lute for a group of birds, two peacocks and two parrots (Pl.10-3). Piles of golden sand and red and purple lotuses rise from the water, but the infant souls, newly born to paradise, find room only on the steps leading to the lower terraces on either side.
The architectural detail of the buildings above has undergone a similar process of simplification. The pattern of gateway, main hall, two-storeyed side pavilions and connecting galleries is familiar, but the columns, railings and bracketing are all indicated by flat red lines on a white background with no attempt to define the floor spaces within the buildings. Above the main buildings, where the Buddhas of the Four Directions rise in groups of three above the whole, are two empty round pavilions that presumably correspond to the bell and drum towers seen in more ambitious paintings such as Pl.9, but which in this painting have been moved to the rear for lack of space at the sides.
The side scenes (Fig.29)are those normally found with depictions of the Western Pure Land of Amitābha, namely the legend of Bimbisāra and Queen Vaidehī (see also Pl.19 and Fig.41, where the soul of the rishi slain by Bimbisāra in order to obtain a son for his wife is shown as a white hare, according to one version of the story). Arthur Waley has explained how these scenes illustrate Shandao’s commentary to the Amitayurdhyāna-sūtra, rather than the sutra itself so that they represent an Esoteric doctrine, not mere narrative illustration. This doctrine is that of “contradictory causation”, whereby evil may lead to good:“thus if Bimbisara had not slain the rishi, the rishi would not have been reborn as Ajātasatru;and if the rishi had not been born as Ajātasatru, Ajātasatru would not have imprisoned his father (Bimbisāra), and if he had not imprisoned his father, his mother could not have visited his in prison...and so on, leading finally to the point at which Ajātasatru’s crime in imprisoning his mother leads her to call upon Buddha, and hence to her reception of the famous sixteen visions. Thus Bimbisāra’s wickedness in slaying the rishi ultimately produced a contradictory (i.e.a good)effect.”(Waley,1931,p.xxi.)
Even in this painting which uses fairly simplified means of representation, there seems to have been room for the expression of individual artistic variation, as in the strangely shaped banks of the side scenes, rather like the interlocking pieces of a puzzle, and also in the life-like birds (actually magically created visions, since there are no lower forms of creation in the Pure Land).此觀無量壽佛經變相圖的大小可以與圖8的《報恩經變相圖》相媲美，年代則與前面的《藥師淨土變相圖》（圖9）相當，然而其質地以及目前保存狀態都非常差。
2005 25 Jul-8 Oct, Busan Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
- Associated with: Pure Land
- (Paradise,Pure Land)
- Associated Title: Amitabha Sutra (scenes from commentary on sutra, not sutra itself)
For full acquisition history, see 1919,0101,0.1.
- Ch.xxxiii.003 (Stein no.)
Front Large painting of Pure Land of Amitabha shown in an architectural setting. Central figure of Amitabha, with Bodhisattvas Avalokitesvara and Mahasthamaprapta. Six musicians, infant souls, numerous other figures. In central foreground, a garuda plays a lute for peacocks and parrots. Illustrations of episodes from commentary on the Amitabha Sutra on the sides. Ink and colours on silk.
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Object reference number: RFC677
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