- Museum number
Rectangular votive panel painted on one side. Depicted is the legend of the introduction of sericulture to the regions of Khotan. The central figure is a Chinese princess who smuggled mulberry seeds and eggs of the silk moth to Khotan, hiding them in her head-dress. In front of her there is a basket full of cocoons. The figure on the left is probably a female attendant pointing to the hidden items in the head-dress, while the figure on the right appears to stand in front of a loom holding a weaver's comb. The four-armed deity seated cross-legged probably represents the God of Silk, who appears to hold in the hands a goblet, a weaver's comb and a shuttle. Painted in ink and colours on wood.
- Production date
6thC (Whitfield 1985)
7thC-8thC (Ghose 2004)
Height: 12 centimetres
Width: 46 centimetres
Depth: 2.20 centimetres
- Curator's comments
From Whitfield 1985:
This is one of the most arresting of the painted wooden plaques found by Stein at Dandan-oilik, all of which owe their fine state of preservation to the fact that they were placed above floor level. D.X at this site was a small cella with wall paintings of rows of small Buddha figures and a single stucco image, nothing of which remained, however, save the octagonal base, waisted in hourglass fashion, with a broad ledge at the bottom for offerings. The plaque was standing on end against one of the facets of the base.
The figures are depicted, as in the fragments of wall painting from Khadalik, with the main features outlined in red, and the upper eyelids and eyebrows in black. Stein recognized the subject as the legend of the introduction of sericulture to Khotan. The central figure is the Chinese princess who, according to Xuanzang (Da Tang xiyu ji, Chapter 12), warned by the envoys that there was no means of raising silkworms or mulberry leaves in Khotan, hid mulberry seeds and the eggs of the silk moth in her headdress (here indicated by the attendant on the left) and smuggled them to Khotan to raise silkworms from them, thereby circumventing the Chinese embargo on their export, which had previously frustrated the king of Khotan’s efforts to obtain the means of making silk. At the border post, the official did not dare to examine her headdress. The resulting cocoons are seen in a basket in front of the princess.
At the far right another figure stands by a loom with stretched warp, holding a beating comb in her hand, like those illustrated in Figs. 34-35. Behind her is an object that may be a reel for thread, and between her and the princess sits a presiding four-armed deity. All these identifications were made by Stein, who also noted the petal-shaped spots of dark pink set around the figures, and compared them to the auspicious sandal-ointment marks used by Hindus. In addition the four-armed god has been identified by N. V.D’ yakonova as a patron of weaving, presiding over the Silk Legend, as on this panel, and occasionally represented separately, as in Pl. 70-2 and another panel in the Hermitage Museum, Leningrad (Joanna Williams, 1973, Fig. 63). Still another panel on exhibition in the Hermitage Museum (ibid., Fig. 64) presents the same figures in a vertical composition, with the four-armed god at the top of the panel and below him the princess holding the bowl of cocoons, with a kneeling attendant holding a shuttle (?). Below that, the princess is shown once more, this time with an attendant pointing at her headdress, just as in the Stein panel reproduced here.
Yet another panel brought by Stein from Dandan-oilik, and now in New Delhi (ibid., Fig. 58, and Ancient Khotan, Pl. LXVII), displays a slightly different version of the same subject, which can be seen as an important local legend, of which the panel shown here was the first and is still the finest example.
From Whitfield 1985:
站在撐滿經線的織機旁右端的像，右手拿著與Figs. 34-35展示的相同的筬。她後邊放著紡車樣的器械，她和公主中間坐著四臂神像。斯坦因對以上進行過比定，也進一步對散落于諸像周邊的暗紅色花瓣形裝飾，和印度教的塗白檀香的吉祥標誌做了比較。另外，N. V.D’ yakonova將四臂神像與掌管養蠶的編織守護神作了比定，圖70－2和艾爾米塔什美術館收藏的另外的一塊木板畫（參照Joanna Williams《和田佛教美術圖像》，Fig. 63），是作爲獨立像描繪的。而陳列于艾爾米塔什美術館的有另外一塊木板畫，內容是縱向排列的（同上，參照Fig. 64），最上部繪著四臂像，其下是手持盛繭容器的公主和手捧梭樣器械跪著的侍女，最下段描繪的公主和指向其頭飾的侍女的樣子，與本圖木板畫中的一樣。
The Department of Asia would like to thank Xanthe Carmichael for her help with updating the information on the site of Dandan-Uiliq.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1990 20 Oct-9 Dec, Japan, Tokyo, Setagaya Art Museum, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.173
1991 5 Jan-20 Feb, Japan, Yamaguchi, Prefectural Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.173
1991 9 Mar-7 May, Japan, Osaka, National Museum of Art, Treasures of the British Museum, cat. no.173
2003 18 Oct-14 Dec, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 17 Jan-28 Mar, Kobe City Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 10 Apr-13 Jun, Fukuoka Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2004 26 Jun-29 Aug, Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum, Treasures of the World's Cultures
2010 14 May- 13 Sept, British Museum, G90, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Legend of the Silk Princess
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The 1907-11-11 group refers to objects from Stein's First Central Asian Expedition, 1900-01. According to Stein's Introduction to 'Ancient Khotan' (1907), the expedition was funded by the Governments of India, the Panjab (Punjab) and from provincial funds of Bengal. All the finds were shipped to London for sorting, research and publication. The Government of India then recommended that Dr Rudolf Hoernle, together with the British Museum, should determine the distribution of the finds (BM Archives, Stein Papers, CE32/23/5).
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: D.X.4 (Stein no.)