- Museum number
Painting fragments showing Śākyamuni Buddha accompanied by two bodhisattvas, the disciples Ānanda and Kasyapa, four lokapalas (guardian kings) and four more bodhisattvas offering flowers. The section below, with numerous small figures (some missing), illustrates scenes from the Fumu enzhong jing, an apocryphal sutra about the blessings received from parents. Lowest section, much of which is missing, including inscriptions, shows donor figures. Ink and colour on silk.
- Production date
- 951-1000 (circa)
Height: 134 centimetres
Width: 102 centimetres
- Curator's comments
From Whitfield 1983:
In the upper part of this painting (Pl. 28-2) is Sakyamuni, accompanied by two principal Bodhisattvas and the disciples Ananda and Kasyapa. Behind this main group are two of the Four Guardian Kings, while in front are four more Bodhisattvas with offerings of flowers. The next section of the painting identifies the whole, for it consists of scenes illustrating the Fumu enzhong jing, an apocryphal sutra popular at Dunhuang in the Five Dynasties and early Song. Eiichi Matsumoto has shown (1937, pp. 196-200) how the texts in the cartouches accompanying each scene correspond almost exactly to this text as preserved among the Stein manuscripts from Dunhuang. The mountains above the main Buddha group must therefore be Mt. Grdhrakuta 耆阇崛山, which features at the beginning of the sutra as its setting.
Because the sutra deals with the blessings received from one’s parents, the figures in these small scenes correspond precisely to donor figures of the period. On the right, a boy is shown receiving instruction from his father, and there is a baby in the arms of its mother (Pl. 28-3). The relevant text is that in the cartouche to the left of the scene: “Father and mother cherish and hold him making gentle sounds; he smiles but cannot vet speak. When he is hungry and needs to cat, were it not for his mother he would have no food; when he is thirsty and needs to drink, were it not for his mother he would not be given suck.” To the far left, the upper scene illustrates what happens when the son marries and has children of his own: absorbed in private pleasures, no one visits the parents in their old age and failing strength. The central scenes, on either side of a now missing altar, show Ananda, on a lotus seat, and opposite him a devout gentleman, both accompanied by monks, and below by male and female members of the household, all kneeling and with hands clasped. They illustrate the concluding passage of the sutra, originally inscribed on the pink cartouches, in which the Buddha tells Ananda how, by various acts of devotion such as burning incense, making sutras, or giving food and drink to monks, one may requite the blessings received from one’s parents.
Finally, below these scenes at the bottom of the painting and extensively damaged, some much larger figures are seen. Those nearest the centre and now almost completely destroyed are the deceased father and the mother of the donor, who is identified as a student. But the head of the father (Pl. 28-4) and the whole figure of another lady of the family (Pl. 28-5) remain to bear witness to the fine execution and lavish costume, with carefully applied rouge and beauty spots in the shape of a small bird on the lady’s face, exactly as found in the long lines of lady donors in the wall paintings. Despite the fine detail, however, there is no hint of individual characterization and the donors always remain type figures: they are depicted, in harmony with the intention behind the whole painting, as they would wish to be and not as they really were.
Before leaving this painting we should note how the organisation of the main Buddha group is typical of the tenth century. By this time the geometric forms of the haloes are very prominent, and the available space is evenly filled by the main figures. The whole group corresponds closely in its proportions to the preaching groups found on the ceiling of the Song dynasty Cave 61 at Dunhuang, and to the stencil (Pl. 78), which was probably used to produce similar preaching groups on other ceilings.
From Whitfield 1983:
- Not on display
- Associated titles
Associated Title: Fumu enzhong jing
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- For full acquisition history, see 1919,0101,0.1.
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Ch.lii.004 (Stein no.)
Miscellaneous number: Ch.lxi.008 (Stein no.)