- Museum number
Painting fragment with Mañjuśrī, Bodhisattva of Wisdom, seated on a lion and flanked by attendants. Another fragment (OA 1919,0101,0.33) belongs with it, and they are the only examples in the Stein collection with curved upper borders. Ink and colour on silk.
- Production date
- 851-950 (circa)
Height: 218.70 centimetres
Width: 114.80 centimetres
- Curator's comments
From Whitfield 1983:
The paintings shown in Pls. 13 and 14 form a matching pair, unique among the silk paintings of the stein collection, but clearly intended to serve the same purpose as similar wall paintings showing the two Bodhisattvas, one on either side of a central niche with Sakyamuni, or on either side of the doorway on the entrance wall, in several of the caves at Dunhuang. One feature that remains unexplained, however, is the curved upper border of the two paintings (Pls. 13-2, 14-1). It suggests that they were hung in a cave-temple with barrel-vaulted roof, but no such cave exists at dunhuang itself. Such semi-circular vaults are of course seen in shrines at other central Asian sites such as Bezeklik and Kucha. Nevertheless, in style and composition the two Bodhisattva paintings are readily comparable with wall paintings at Dunhuang, for example, Cave 36 (Dunhuang bihua, Pl. 160), and especially at Yulin, Cave 16 (Lo Archive, no. 2966).
Both Bodhisattvas are shown riding their respective vehicles, the white elephant and the lion, each with a black keeper who occupies a prominent foreground position. In fact the elephant and the lion themselves are somewhat difficult to make out, lost among the wealth of decorative detail so that only their heads and a part of their hind flanks emerge. This is in sharp contrast with the paintings dated A. D. 836 and A.D. 864 (Vol. 1, Pls. 16, 23), where the two animals are depicted standing almost free.
The retinues of the two Bodhisattvas are very similar. The heads of a number of attendant Bodhisattvas emerge beyond the borders of the aureoles, together with three red-faced Dharmapalas in each painting. In the foreground corners, on the left and right respectively, are two standing Bodhisattvas, each holding a fan and with their voluminous sleeves supported by smaller attendants, very much in the fashion of Chinese and other rulers in the audiences of the famous debate between Manjusri and Vimalskirti (Vol. 1, Pl. 20). In front and leading the procession are musicians ,better preserved on Samantabhadra’s side, where they play a bili 篳篥(double-reed flute) and a sheng 笙(mouth organ )(Pl. 13-3). The whole of each assembly is seen advancing towards the centre, as evidenced by the swaying of the canopies above the main figures. Samantabhadra’s appearance corresponds with the chapter on Samantabhadra in the Lotus Sutra (Taisho Daizokyo, vol. 9, no. 262, p. 61a), where he is described as coming from the east accompanied by many Bodhisattvas, musicians, and other beings in order to hear Sakyamuni preach at the Vulture Peak.
Turing to the style and execution of the two paintings, we may first of all see that much of the surface pigment has been lost, so that the colours are less intense than originally painted and the ink lines of the preparatory drawing are revealed, Especially in details such as the faces, there are quite substantial changes between the original outlines and the final colouring and finishing touches. Prominent features of both paintings are the decorative patterns formed by the aureoles, and the slightly aloof stance of many of the figures, stiffly leaning backwards. Close parallels can be seen in Cave 16 at Yulin (Lo Archive, no 2966) and Cave 36 at Dunhuang (Dunhuang bihua, Pl. 160). The latter is said to date from the middle Tang, that is, the period of Tibetan control (A.D. 781-847), but a slightly later date seems possible in view of this stiffness, and facial details such as the eyelids, drawn with an almost straight line, and the mouth, small with a dividing line ending in downturned hooks.
From Whitfield 1983:
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- For full acquisition history, see 1919,0101,0.1.
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Ch.xxxvii.005 (Stein no.)