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Title: The Thousand Buddhas

Ancient Buddhist Paintings from the Cave-Temples of Tun-huang on the Western Frontier of China

Author: Aurel Stein

Contributor: Laurence Binyon

Release Date: February 7, 2022 [eBook #67358]

Language: English

Produced by: Ronald Grenier


Transcriber’s Note

The cover image is from the title page of the folio size book containing the image plates. Blemishes have been removed. See other notes at the end of the text.

















An Introductory Essay by Laurence Binyon
I, II. The Paradise of Bhaiṣajyaguru 11
III. A celestial assemblage 13
IV, V. Processions of Mañjuśrī and Samantabhadra 14
VI. Details from a painting of a Buddhist Heaven 15
VII. The Paradise of Śākyamuni 16
VIII. Amitābha’s Paradise 18
IX. Legendary scenes from a painting of Maitreya’s Paradise 19
X. Amitābha with attendants 20
XI. A Paradise of Amitābha 21
XII. Scenes from Gautama Buddha’s Life 23
XIII. Scenes from the Buddha legend 25
XIV. Images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas 26
XV. Two forms of Avalokiteśvara 28
XVI. Four forms of Avalokiteśvara 29
XVII. Avalokiteśvara in Glory 30
XVIII. Avalokiteśvara standing, with willow spray 31
XIX. Two Avalokiteśvaras with the willow 32
XX. Avalokiteśvara with flame-wreathed halo 33
XXI. Avalokiteśvara standing 33
XXII. Two Avalokiteśvara paintings with donors 34
XXIII. Six-armed Avalokiteśvara with attendant Bodhisattvas 35
XXIV. Two paper paintings of Avalokiteśvara 36
XXV. Two paintings of Kṣitigarbha 37
XXVI. Vaiśravaṇa’s Progress 39
XXVII. Virūpākṣa and Mañjuśrī 40
XXVIII. Bust of a Lokapāla 42{viii}
XXIX. Two Dharmapālas and a Bodhisattva 43
XXX. Side-scenes and details from a Buddhist Paradise painting 44
XXXI. A Tibetan painting of Tārā 45
XXXII. Paper pictures of a Bodhisattva, saint, and monk 47
XXXIII. Paper pictures of hermit and horse-dragon 47
XXXIV, XXXV. Embroidery picture of Śākyamuni on the Vulture Peak 48
XXXVI. Bhaiṣajyaguru’s Paradise 50
XXXVII. Banners with scenes from the Buddha legend 51
XXXVIII. Buddha Tejaḥprabha and Avalokiteśvara as guide of souls 53
XXXIX. Kṣitigarbha with the Infernal Judges 54
XL. Kṣitigarbha as Patron of Travellers 55
XLI. Avalokiteśvara and two other Bodhisattvas 56
XLII. Avalokiteśvara, thousand-armed, with attendant divinities 57
XLIII. Avalokiteśvara with Lokapāla attendants 58
XLIV. Fragment of standing Avalokiteśvara 59
XLV. Vaiśravaṇa crossing the ocean 59
XLVI. Fragment with child on demon’s hand 61
XLVII. Three Lokapāla banners 61
XLVIII. Fragment with figure of demonic warrior 63



The purpose of this publication is to place before students interested in Eastern art reproductions of select specimens from among the great collection of ancient Buddhist paintings which in the course of the explorations of my second Central-Asian journey, carried out in 1906–8 under the orders of the Government of India, I had the good fortune to recover from a walled-up chapel at the ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ near Tun-huang. The essential facts concerning their discovery will be found summarized in Mr. Laurence Binyon’s Introductory Essay. Those who may wish for details of the circumstances attending it, and for some account of the local conditions which explain the preservation of these relics of ancient Buddhist art in the distant region where the westernmost Marches of true China adjoin the great deserts of innermost Asia, will find them in my personal narrative of that expedition.1 They have been recorded still more fully in Serindia, the final report on the results of my explorations, recently issued from the Oxford University Press.2

In Mr. Binyon’s Introductory Essay there will be found a lucid exposition, by the hand of a competent expert, of the reasons which invest those paintings with special interest for the study of Buddhist art as transplanted from India through Central Asia to the Far East, and with great importance, too, for the history of Chinese art in general. There light is thrown also on the manifold problems raised by the variety of art influences from the West, the South, and the East which are reflected in different groups of these paintings and which some of them show in striking intermixture.

But throughout it is Buddhist inspiration and legend, as propagated by the Mahāyāna system of Buddhism in Central and Eastern Asia, which furnish the themes of these paintings and determine the presentation of individual figures and scenes in them. For the proper appreciation of their art some knowledge of the traditional elements in subjects and treatment is indispensably needed. It has hence been my aim in the descriptive text referring to each Plate to supply such iconographic information as the non-specialist student may need for the comprehension of the subject and details, and as the present state of our researches permits to be safely offered. In the same descriptive notes I have endeavoured to record information also as to the state of preservation, character of workmanship, colouring, and similar points in each painting.

Having thus briefly indicated the object and scope of this publication, it still remains for me to give some account of the labours which had to precede it, and to record my grateful acknowledgement of the manifold help which alone rendered the realization of this long-cherished plan possible in the end. In Mr. Binyon’s Introductory Essay reference has been made to the protracted and delicate operations which were needed at the British Museum before the hundreds of paintings, most of them on fine silk, which had lain, often crumpled up into tight little packets, for centuries under the crushing weight of masses of manuscript bundles, could all be safely opened out, cleaned, and made accessible for examination. The far-reaching artistic interest of these pictures had already greatly impressed me when I first beheld them in their original place of deposit. But only as the work of preservation progressed did it become possible fully to realize the wealth and variety of all these materials, the novel problems they raised, and the extent and difficulties of the labours which their detailed study and interpretation would need.


The mixture of influences already referred to revealed itself plainly in features directly derived from Graeco-Buddhist art and in marks of the change it had undergone on its passage through Central Asia or Tibet. But the preponderance of Chinese taste and style was all the same unmistakable from the first. On the iconographic side, too, it soon became clear that the varied imagery displayed by the paintings, though based on Indian conceptions and forms, bore the impress of important changes undergone on its transition to China and after its adoption there. The chief hope of guidance for the interpretation of this Pantheon lay manifestly in comparison with the artistic creations of the later Mahāyāna Buddhism of the Far East, especially of Japan, and in the Chinese inscriptions displayed by many of the silk paintings. It was obvious hence that for this part of my collection a collaborator was needed who with knowledge of Buddhist iconography would combine the qualifications of a Sinologue as well as familiarity with Far-Eastern art in general.

Through Mr. Binyon’s friendly intercession I was able in the autumn of 1911 and towards the close of my stay in England to secure this collaborator, and one exceptionally qualified, in the person of M. Raphael Petrucci. Already distinguished in more than one field of research, M. Petrucci combined enthusiastic devotion to Far-Eastern art as a critic, connoisseur, and collector, with Sinologue studies begun under such a master as M. Chavannes. A series of important publications on the art of China and Japan bears eloquent testimony to his eminent fitness for what was bound to prove a difficult task. During the following two years M. Petrucci devoted protracted labours to the study of our paintings and their inscriptions. The results were to be embodied in an extensive Appendix to Serindia, probably requiring a separate volume.

In 1913 he supplied me with the draft of his introductory chapter dealing with the votive inscriptions of our paintings, and after my start that year for a third Central-Asian expedition he discussed in a separate essay those elaborate compositions or ‘Maṇḍalas’ which form the subject of some of the largest and artistically most interesting of our paintings.3 In addition to the above M. Petrucci had collected a great mass of Chinese textual materials for the identification of Jātaka scenes, individual divinities, &c., represented in the paintings, when the invasion of Belgium cut him off from his home at Brussels and all his materials. Under the conditions created by the world war he was unable to resume his task in earnest. But he found occasion even then, in the midst of voluntarily undertaken medical duties under the Belgian Red Cross, to revisit our Collection, to assist with his expert advice in the cataloguing of the Tun-huang paintings, and to publish in the Annales of the Musée Guimet a short but very instructive and stimulating conférence on them.4

When returning in May 1916 from my third Central-Asian expedition, I found M. Petrucci at Paris, still full of vigour and eagerly bent upon carrying through his task. When a few weeks afterwards I was able to inform him of the fortunate chance which, as will be explained presently, had offered to make select specimens of our Tun-huang paintings accessible in adequate reproductions to a wider circle of students of Far-Eastern art, he most willingly undertook to contribute the main portion of the text which was to accompany them. But some months later he began to suffer from an internal ailment, and though in the autumn of 1916 he was still strong enough to take a very helpful share in the selection of the paintings to be reproduced in The Thousand Buddhas, his condition became serious enough to necessitate a grave operation in February 1917. This he overcame with apparent success, only to succumb a week later to diphtheritis contracted in the hospital. Deprived thus by a cruel blow of Fate of a most valued collaborator and friend, we must rest content with dedicating to his memory this publication in which he was to have borne a principal share.

In accordance with the plan sanctioned in 1911 by the Secretary of State for India,{xi} the Detailed Report on the results of my second Central-Asian expedition was to include also a systematic survey and full descriptive list of all the art relics brought away from the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas. With this object in view I had taken care, at the same time when enlisting M. Petrucci’s collaboration, to use as many plates of Serindia as the claims of abundant ‘finds’ from other sites would allow, for the reproduction of characteristic specimens among the different classes of paintings, drawings, and wood-cuts recovered in the walled-up chapel.5 But it was clear from the first that the limitations imposed by the number and size of the Serindia plates, and even more perhaps by the cost of colour reproduction, would not allow adequate justice being done to the artistic, as distinguished from the iconographic and archaeological, value of the paintings. It was equally easy to foresee that, however numerous the small-scale reproductions in the plates of Serindia might be, and however thorough the description and analysis of the new materials in its text, the very character, bulk, and correspondingly high price of that detailed report would prevent it from making those paintings sufficiently accessible to students interested mainly in their art.

For these and cognate reasons I had been anxious from the outset to arrange for a separate publication like the present. But the attempts made in this direction before my return to duty in India at the close of 1911 failed from want of needful means, and subsequently distance and absorbing exertions in the field, as implied by my third Central-Asian expedition (1913–16), precluded their effective renewal. That auspices proved more favourable on my return from that journey was due mainly to the generous interest which a far-sighted statesman, the Right Honourable Mr. Austen Chamberlain, then H.M. Secretary of State for India, was pleased to show in the plan. His appreciation of the importance of these pictorial treasures and of the need of securing an adequate record of them before their impending division between the British Museum and Delhi was largely instrumental in inducing the authorities of the India Office, with the ready co-operation of the Trustees of the British Museum, to sanction the present publication at a cost not exceeding £1,900. Regard for the special difficulties then prevailing owing to the war is an additional reason for Mr. Chamberlain’s timely help being remembered by me with profound gratitude.

The execution of the plates, both by three-colour and half-tone process, was entrusted to Messrs. Henry Stone & Son, of Banbury, whose establishment, under the expert direction of Mr. J. A. Milne, C.B.E., had already proved its special fitness for such work by producing the colour plates for my Desert Cathay and Serindia.6 I feel all the more grateful for the great skill and care bestowed by them upon the truthful rendering of the paintings, and for the success achieved, because I learned to know the considerable technical difficulties which had to be faced, particularly in the case of the colour plates. After my return to India in the autumn of 1917 Mr. Binyon kindly charged himself in my place with all the arrangements which were needed in connexion with the reproduction work.

It was under the constant and ever-watchful supervision of Mr. Laurence Binyon that the exacting labours needed for the safe treatment and future preservation of the Ch‘ien-fo-tung paintings, and extending over a period of close on seven years, had been effected in the Prints and Drawings Department of the British Museum. To his unfailing knowledge and care all students of these remains of Buddhist art owe gratitude for the ease with which they can now be examined. But to those whom the present publication is intended to reach he has rendered a service equally great by contributing to it his Introductory Essay, The expert guidance it affords as regards the evolution of Buddhist pictorial art in the Far East and with regard to a variety of kindred questions helps appreciably to reduce the loss which The Thousand Buddhas has suffered through M. Petrucci’s untimely death, and for that help I feel deeply beholden.

That lamented event left me with a heavier obligation than I had anticipated in regard{xii} to the text both of this publication and of the corresponding portion of Serindia. In meeting this obligation I realize fully the limitations of my competence. Though familiar with the iconography of Graeco-Buddhist art and of such remains of Buddhist art in Central Asia as I had the good fortune to bring to light myself, I had never found leisure for a systematic study of the religious art of the Far East or Tibet. There was enough in the archaeology of the sites I had explored through the whole length of the Tārīm Basin and along the westernmost Marches of China and in the geography and history of those wide regions fully to occupy my attention. In addition, my want of Sinologue qualifications made itself sadly felt.

Fortunately I had taken special care to secure a sufficiently detailed description of all pictorial remains during the years of my renewed absence in Central Asia and those immediately following. This Descriptive List, now comprised in Serindia,7 was prepared mainly by the hand of Miss F. M. G. Lorimer, whose painstaking scholarly work as assistant at my British Museum collection has proved throughout a very valuable help. Besides M. Petrucci’s interpretations there was embodied in it also much useful information received on artistic points from my friend and chief assistant Mr. F. H. Andrews, and on Chinese inscriptions from Dr. L. Giles and Mr. A. D. Waley of the British Museum, as well as many helpful iconographic explanations kindly furnished by two Japanese experts, Professor Taki and Mr. Yabuki. This Descriptive List made it possible for me to provide in Serindia a systematic review of all our pictorial relics from Tun-huang,8 and this in turn has greatly facilitated the preparation of the descriptive text for the present publication. For details which could not find mention in it reference to the chapters of Serindia already quoted will prove useful.

It only remains for me to add my grateful acknowledgements for the care which my friends Mr. F. H. Andrews, Mr. L. Binyon, and Mr. C. E. Freeman have been kind enough to bestow, whether on plates or on print, and to express the wish that the reception accorded to The Thousand Buddhas both in the West and the East may justify the hope which prompted the sacrifice incurred for their sake at a time of great strain and stress.


Camp, Mohand Marg,
2, 1921.

1 See Ruins of Desert Cathay (Macmillan & Co., London, 1912), ii. pp. 20–31, 163–234.
2 See Serindia Detailed Report on explorations in Central Asia and Westernmost China, carried out and described under the orders of H.M. Indian Government by Aurel Stein, K.C.I.E., Indian Archaeological Survey (Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1921, vols. i–v, Royal 4to), pp. 791–825.
3 These contributions have since been printed in Appendix E of Serindia, pp. 1392–428, after having been carefully prepared for publication by M. Chavannes, with the assistance of common friends, MM. Foucher and Sylvain Lévi.
4 See Petrucci, Les peintures bouddhiques de Touen-houang, Mission Stein (Annales du Musée Guimet, Bibliothèque de vulgarisation, xli, 1916, pp. 115–40).
5 See Plates lvi-civ in Serindia, vol. iv.
6 Seven of those in the latter work have, with the kind permission of the Delegates of the Clarendon Press, been used also here.
7 See Serindia, Chapter xxv, section ii, pp. 937–1088.
8 See Serindia, Chapter xxiii, sections i-ix, pp. 831–94.





THE paintings and drawings here reproduced are a selection from the mass of precious material discovered by Sir Aurel Stein, and brought away by him from ‘The Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ at Tun-huang, on the extreme western frontier of China. The romantic circumstances of the discovery have been fully described by Sir Aurel in the second volume of his Ruins of Desert Cathay; and to those pages the reader is referred. But it may be well to recall briefly the main facts of the narrative.

In March 1907 Sir Aurel Stein’s expedition, which had left Kashmir in April of the preceding year, arrived at Tun-huang. From Kāshgar the travellers had proceeded to Yārkand; thence to Khotan, where Sir Aurel on his previous journey in 1900–1 had disinterred such interesting remains of the ancient civilization once flourishing in that region; thence eastward along the southern skirts of the great desert, exploring various sites by the way with rich results, till at Tun-huang they found themselves at last within the western border of the Chinese province of Kan-su.

Tun-huang is a square-walled town in a prosperous oasis of the desert. Sir Aurel Stein had been attracted thither by the knowledge that near the oasis were a number of sacred grottos known as ‘The Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’, filled with ancient Buddhist frescoes and sculptures.1 But after arriving at Tun-huang, he also heard, through a Muhammadan trader, rumours of something still more exciting to the archaeologist—a hidden deposit of manuscripts which had been accidentally discovered a few years previously in one of the caves. In a barren valley to the south-east of the town, above a narrow strip of irrigated soil, with rows of elms and poplars, there is a cliff of conglomerate rock, which is honeycombed with hundreds of cavities. These have been hollowed out to serve as Buddhist shrines, still frequented by pious worshippers; and the walls of the cellas are covered with old frescoes.

It was in one of the larger shrines that the deposit of manuscripts had been discovered by the Taoist monk in charge of certain grottos. The monk had collected money from the faithful, and had undertaken to restore this particular shrine to its former splendour; a laborious work, since the drifting of the sand and falls of crumbling rock had here, as in many other cases, blocked the entrance of the cave, and the sand and debris had to be cleared away before the actual work of the restorer could begin. While the men engaged on this labour were at work, they had noticed a crack in the frescoed wall of the passage between temple and antechapel. An opening was found; and this led to a recess hollowed out of the rock behind the stuccoed wall. The room thus disclosed proved to be completely filled with rolls of manuscript. Specimens had been sent to the Viceroy of the Province, but no steps had been taken to remove them; and in fact when Sir Aurel Stein first arrived at the Caves he found{2} that the deposit was carefully locked away behind a wooden door; and when, after leaving Tun-huang for a month’s journey of exploration, he returned in May, a brick wall had been added to protect the hidden treasure.

The reader must go to Ruins of Desert Cathay for the full account of the stages by which the Taoist priest who guarded the shrines was induced first to show some specimens, and finally to let Sir Aurel carry off a goodly hoard of the manuscripts and most of the pictorial remains.

The cave had been said to contain only MSS.; and bundles of MSS. were there in immense quantities; but on opening one of the bundles Sir Aurel was delighted to find that it contained paintings on silk. The paintings were all, or nearly all, crumpled up. It seems as if they had been hurriedly thrust away in the vault on some sudden alarm, probably of a barbarian raid. And, in fact, on one of the pictures is a votive inscription praying to Kuan-yin for protection against the Tartars and the Tibetans. The position of Tun-huang on the westernmost frontier of China, at the intersection of the great trade-route across Asia, from east to west, with the high road between Mongolia in the north and Tibet in the south, naturally exposed it to incursions and invasions. Internal evidence of dated documents seems to show that the treasure, or at any rate the great bulk of it, was hidden away soon after the close of the tenth century a.d.

To complete the story, we must add that M. Pelliot, the distinguished savant and traveller, paid a visit a year later to the Caves and was allowed to carry off what remained of the paintings and a large selection from the hoard of manuscripts. These are now in the Bibliothèque Nationale and in the Louvre. What was left of Chinese manuscripts was subsequently transmitted by official order to Peking; much being ‘lost’ on the way.

Not till the paintings were brought to London could any real examination of them be made. Each packet had to be carefully opened, and the brittle, dusty silk, sometimes in a hundred fragments, opened out, cleaned, and, where necessary, pieced together. This was done at the British Museum; and it was a labour of years for the staff of mounters attached to the Print Room.

The paintings were carefully cleaned, and the colours were found in most cases to have lost little of their pristine depth and brightness; though where a certain verdigris green was used, it has tended to eat away the silk on which it was laid, a whole figure in some cases having thus disappeared and left only its surrounding outline. Any attempt at restoration or retouching has been scrupulously avoided; but when a painting which is in fragments has been laid down on silk of a neutral tone, and mounted, the eye is easily carried over the gaps, and the main design reappears. Several of the paintings still retain their original borders, usually of a dull mulberry-purple silk. The small banners, of which a great quantity were found, had all originally a pediment-shaped head-piece, and long silk streamers with a wooden weight at the bottom to steady the banner as it hung. These banners are mostly painted on both sides.

The delicate work of mounting and cleaning was done by Mr. S. W. Littlejohn, Chief Mounter in the Department of Prints and Drawings, assisted in later stages by Mr. Y. Urushibara, a Japanese artist and craftsman. Meanwhile the large embroidery picture (Pl. xxxiv) had been skilfully stitched on to a new backing of canvas by Miss E. A. Winter of the Royal School of Art Needlework. A selection of the most important pictures, drawings, and woodcuts formed part of an exhibition of treasures of all sorts brought back by Sir Aurel Stein from his second expedition and set out in the long lower gallery of the new wing of the British Museum opened by H.M. the King in May 1914. The outbreak of the War so soon after, and the subsequent closing of the Museum, unfortunately prevented the exhibition from becoming adequately known to the public. In 1917 Mr. Littlejohn, who had received a commission in the R.G.A., was killed in action. During his last months at the Museum he had been preparing a note on the origin of the system of mounting pictures as kakemono, to use the convenient Japanese term. Those familiar with Japanese pictures know that kakemono are paintings mounted on silk, with borders of brocade above and below the design, and with two narrow strips of silk hanging down from above. These have been explained as intended to keep away{3} birds, or evil spirits; but neither theory has ever seemed satisfactory; and in the streamers of the Tun-huang banners, as Mr. Littlejohn perceived, was a much more plausible explanation of their origin. They are a survival. And other details in the Japanese (originally Chinese) system of mounting could be explained, he suggested, by a reference to this forgotten origin.


The pictorial treasures brought away from Tun-huang by Sir Aurel, and now divided between the Indian Government and the British Museum, consist of votive paintings (mostly on silk, though a certain number are on paper) of various sizes, some being as much as six or seven feet high; of a long series of small banners on silk and larger banners on linen; of one or two magnificent specimens of embroidery, the finest of which is reproduced (Pls. xxxiv and xxxv); of outline drawings, and of woodcuts.

The present publication is intended to illustrate the specimens which have most importance for the study of Eastern art.

The paintings and drawings, with a few unimportant exceptions, are all of Buddhist inspiration. At first sight the limitation of scope and the repetition of similar themes may give an impression of monotony. Closer study reveals a remarkable variety. This variety is due to differences of style, which are accounted for partly by the different dates, still more by the different localities at which they were produced, partly by the very varying degrees of skill in the painters who produced them. Being all found in one place, the paintings might be supposed to be all the product of a single local school. But this is certainly not the case, as a brief examination shows at once. There are specimens (of little account as art) which are purely Indian in style and probably Nepalese; there are examples of the well-defined Tibetan type of Buddhist picture; there are paintings which are entirely Chinese; and there are, lastly, a number which contain Indian, Chinese, and possibly Tibetan elements in varying proportions, but are in an intermediate style and may safely be held to be the product of local schools of Chinese Turkestān, and of the region which, on the east, joins it to China proper.

Until a few years ago, scarcely anything was known in Europe of Buddhist painting beyond the famous frescoes of Ajaṇṭā in India and Buddhist paintings by Japanese masters, of which the frescoes in the Horiuji Temple at Nara are among the oldest and most celebrated. It was known that the Japanese modelled their work closely on Chinese tradition; and a few Chinese Buddhist paintings of early periods are preserved in Japan; but while an extensive series of ancient Japanese Butsu-yé exists, corresponding specimens from China are very rare indeed. And if the early Buddhist art of China was little known, still less was known of the intermediate links in the tradition which passed on from India to China through Turkestān. But now, through successive explorations and discoveries, the story of Buddhist art and the phases of its progress eastwards through Asia are fairly plain and familiar. And some of the most illuminating and important documents have been supplied by the discoveries of Sir Aurel Stein.

In the paintings with which we are dealing, the Indian element is obviously very strong, just as ‘The Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’, where they were found, were hollowed out of the cliff in obedience to immemorial Indian tradition: we are reminded at once of the frescoed caves of Ajaṇṭā. But there are other elements besides the Indian, as we shall see.

How did Buddhism penetrate into Central Asia? From India proper it travelled by way of the extreme north-west frontier, the valley of Peshawar, then known as the kingdom of Gandhāra; thence to the countries lying north, and so eastwards by the great trade-route across the desert to China. Gandhāra is the first stage of this long journey: and it was in Gandhāra that the Buddhist art of the Further East, as we know it, was first formulated. The now well-known sculptures of Gandhāra, a fine series of which may be seen in the British Museum, date from about the first century of our era to about the sixth. They represent a late Hellenistic tradition put to the service of the Indian religion. It was in{4} Gandhāra that the types of Buddhist art became fixed. It was there that the type of Śākyamuni himself was first invented, or rather adapted from the ideal forms of Hellenistic sculpture. For some centuries after the Buddha’s death, Indian artists had always refrained from representing the image of the Lord.

The Hellenistic element, apparent in poses, in drapery, in decorative motifs like the acanthus-ornament, tends to become submerged in the later phases of the art, though something of it still persists recognizably in the Buddhist art of remote Japan, even to-day. At a desert site of Khotan, the little kingdom lying at the southern edge of the Taklamakān Desert, beyond the mountains on the north-eastern frontier of Ladākh and Kashmir, Sir Aurel Stein found on his first expedition (1900–1) the remains of settlements abandoned to the encroaching sand about the third century a.d. Among these remains were heaps of letters and documents written in early Indian script and language on wooden tablets, tied with string and sealed; and in most cases the seal was a Greek seal, engraved with a figure of Athene, Heracles, or other deity. Again, at Mīrān, a site near Lop-nōr and much further east, Sir Aurel, on his second expedition, discovered Buddhist shrines adorned with frescoes of about the fourth century a.d. painted in the style of late classical tradition.

Fascinating as are these traces of Greece and the West in the midst of the Asian deserts, the influence of Hellenism was not profound or formative. India was the main influence on the culture of the cities once flourishing along the chain of oases in the deserts west of China, Buddhism the great civilizing factor, and Gandhāra the source from which the local schools of art drew their inspiration. Gandhāra art was itself not without some admixture from Persian sources; and Iranian motives of decoration are found in these desert sites, as they are found in China itself, just as some of the Tun-huang manuscripts are written in the Iranian dialect called Sogdian. The art of Turkestān is full of mixed influences, the reflection of its civilization.

And what of China? For during the second century b.c. and the two centuries following China pursued a policy of political and military expansion westward, with a view to opening up trade-routes, consolidating her frontiers and protecting them from the ravages of the Huns and other tribes; and Eastern Turkestān became a Chinese protectorate. Though afterwards China’s hold became weakened and her power receded, in the seventh century a.d., under an Emperor of the great T‘ang dynasty, the whole region came again under Chinese government, and the Empire’s political sphere of influence was extended as far as the borders of Persia and the shores of the Caspian. But Chinese influence seems to have been confined mainly to administration, and to have affected but little the culture of the people, though traces of it are discernible in their arts and industries, ever more marked as we go further east.

This way passed the old great high road between east and west, by which the Chinese silks were carried overland to Antioch and the Roman Empire. It was a highway for commerce, but also for ideas and religions. And the early centuries of our era were marked by an extraordinary ferment of mystical beliefs both in east and west. While Christianity and Mithraism were contending for supremacy in the Roman Empire, Buddhism was making its victorious progress eastwards. But it was no longer the simple ethical doctrine preached by Gautama. Mahāyāna Buddhism, as the later development of Buddhism is called—the Great Vehicle, as opposed to the Hīnayāna, or Small Vehicle, of the original doctrine—was first formulated about the first century a.d. It was no longer the salvation of the individual which was the aim of the devout, but the salvation of the whole world, towards which the Bodhisattvas strive unceasingly out of their boundless love for every sentient being. The Bodhisattvas in this new phase of Buddhism became more and more the object of popular worship. They are either men who, having won the right to enter Buddhahood, refuse that peace for the sake of suffering mankind, or else celestial beings who assume a human form. Of this last order of beings is Avalokiteśvara, whom the Chinese know as Kuan-yin, and the Japanese as Kwannon; the favourite object of adoration in Mahāyāna Buddhism. He appears in art both in male and female form. In later art the female form is almost universal, but in the Tun-huang paintings the male form is predominant. Avalokiteśvara is the spiritual son of Amitābha, the impersonal Buddha, the Light of the Enlightened; and Amitābha is said to have created{5} a Paradise in the West, where souls who believe in him may be born and rest for a long age, or in popular belief for ever. Śākyamuni, we note, has no longer the supreme position, though sometimes he is painted as reigning over a Paradise, or, as in the large embroidery-picture (Pl. xxxiv), standing on the Vulture Peak, the scene of his last teaching.

As Avalokiteśvara is incarnate Pity, so, among other great Bodhisattvas, Mañjuśrī embodies the Spirit of Wisdom, Samantabhadra stands for the power of the Church, Kṣitigarbha is the breaker of the powers of Hell and the illuminator of its darkness. Bhaiṣajyarāja is the lord of medicine; and Maitreya is the Buddha that is to come.

Besides the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the Lokapālas or Demon Kings who guard each one of the Four Quarters of the World are frequent figures in art. These are survivals of primitive demon-worship adopted into Buddhism.

The subjects of the Tun-huang paintings are, then, single figures of Bodhisattvas, especially of Avalokiteśvara, or of the Lokapālas; small pictures of scenes from Gautama’s life, or the Jātakas, stories of his lives in previous incarnations; and representations of the Western Paradise. This last subject is sometimes highly elaborated, with an immense number of figures of the blest grouped in pavilions and terraces built about a lotus lake. Flowers are rained through the air, and celestial beings dance and sing for the delight of the souls dwelling in the Happy Land of Amitābha’s creation.

All this carries us far indeed from the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path—the simple doctrine in which Śākyamuni taught the means of Salvation here on earth. Much of this later Buddhism was doubtless an accretion from other faiths with which it came in contact on its progress through Asia. Amitābha may be a borrowing from the worship of Mithras; and certain of the Bodhisattvas may have been originally deified heroes of lands into which Buddhism made its way. In Eastern Turkestān, Manichaeism, the religion founded by the Persian Mani in the third century a.d., found a home; and at Turfān—one of the oases which have been explored—Manichaeans, Buddhists, and Christians were living peaceably side by side.

For the study of religion, then, the art found in the various sites on the borders of the Taklamakān and Lop deserts is of extraordinary interest. But, as art, it is of a local and provincial type, and though often of considerable merit, it nowhere rises beyond a certain level.


But at Tun-huang we are within the frontiers of China proper; and Chinese art during the T‘ang period, seventh to tenth century a.d., was at its grandest height of power. The extraordinary interest of these paintings is that, though a great number of them are, as we might expect, obviously provincial productions (e.g. Pls. xxiv and xxvi), others belong to the central tradition of Chinese Buddhist painting; and as scarcely any such paintings of the T‘ang period are known to exist, the importance of this group, for the study of Chinese art, can hardly be overestimated.

How do we know that these paintings belong to that central tradition? We know it from the early Buddhist paintings of Japan, of which noble masterpieces (some perhaps actually Chinese) are preserved in the Japanese temples. Even if we did not know that the early Japanese painters founded their style entirely on the T‘ang masters, the Tun-huang pictures, sometimes so singularly close to the Japanese Buddhist art of the same period, would prove it.

Plate iii reproduces rather more than the left-hand half of a large painting, which itself seems to be only the upper portion of a still larger composition. The original offers extreme difficulties to photography; and though the reproduction is more successful than might have been anticipated, it is necessary to study the original to appreciate the delicacy of the drawing, especially of the faces of the Bodhisattvas. The serene grandeur of the design is enhanced by a pervasion of grace in the delineation of every form. Here, surely, is the hand of a master. Rivalling this in beauty is the large painting of which a{6} portion is reproduced on Plate i, and another portion on Plate ii. Here there is a similar delicate expressiveness of drawing, combined with a glowing animation of varied colour. The picture is full of exquisite detail. Note the life and charm, for instance, in the figure seated with her back to us in the window of the high pavilion in the upper right-hand portion, next the border (Pl. i). Here again is a master of individual temperament.

In both of these pictures the artist has been able to control his complex material and multitude of forms into a wonderful harmony, without any restlessness or confusion; and we are taken into an atmosphere of strange peace, which yet seems filled with buoyant motion and with floating strains of music.

None of the other pictures is, as art, quite on this level, the tendency being for the quality of the workmanship to be inadequate to the conception and design. The two grand fragments illustrated on Plates iv and v; the Avalokiteśvara (Pl. xx); the Vaiśravaṇa crossing the ocean (Pl. xlv) are perhaps nearest. And next would come such examples as the Avalokiteśvara in Glory (Pl. xvii) and other representations of the same Bodhisattva (Pls. xviii, xix, xxi), and some of the Paradise pictures, and banners; but as we gradually descend the scale, an insensitive execution contrasts more and more with the dignity and grandeur of the design. These were not great painters, but they belonged to a great school. In such a picture as the Two Forms of Avalokiteśvara (Pl. xv) we feel that if only the rather inanimate workmanship corresponded to the grandeur of the design, we should be in presence of a masterpiece. We have a hint at least of what majesty the T’ang masters must have been capable.

This group of paintings gives to the collection found at Tun-huang an artistic importance quite beyond that of any of the groups of works of art discovered by various expeditions in Turkestān; and it is worth while to examine them a little more closely.

The flooding wave of Indian religion and Indian art, after traversing a region of inferior cultures, meets in China for the first time an established art of original power and native genius. The Indian religion, in spite of vicissitudes and rebuffs, takes a firm hold on the Chinese. Buddhist paintings are demanded of the great masters. Of what character is the resulting art?

We are unable to say what the earliest treatment of Buddhist themes by Chinese artists was like. Buddhist images were introduced from India as early as the first century a.d., and were eagerly sought for and studied in succeeding times. Plate xiv—the original of which is, so far as we know, unique—is of singular interest; for it consists of a group of drawings after Indian Buddhist statues—just such as the great pilgrim of the seventh century, Hsüan-tsang, might have brought back from his long journeyings among the sacred sites of India. In the fourth century the famous painter Ku K‘ai-chih painted, we know, many Buddhist subjects, but neither the ‘Admonitions’ in the British Museum, nor the Ló-shen Fu in the Freer Collection, shows any trace of Buddhist or Indian influence; on the contrary, they show the purely native style of China in its integrity.

That purely native style is found in the paintings we are examining, but not as a rule in the treatment of the main subjects. Many of the large pictures of Paradise have borders on either side, divided into compartments, in which are painted scenes from the Jātakas or stories of the former lives of Buddha. One is reminded of the predella pictures of an Italian altar-piece. Plate i affords a good example, showing part of the right-hand border of the picture. And here the figures, the dresses, the landscape, the style of drawing, the spacing, are all Chinese. Were it not for the subject-matter, no one would dream of suggesting any influence from India. In the small banners, these Jātaka episodes form sometimes the entire subject, three or more scenes being usually painted one above the other. Examples are reproduced on Plate xii, Plate xiii, and Plate xxxvii. On these banners we find scenes from the legend of Śākyamuni in his last life on earth; his conception by his mother, his birth in the Lumbinī garden, his first steps, his athletic feats as a boy; his first meeting with death and sickness; his flight from the palace at midnight. Even here everything is Chinese: types, costume, architecture, pictorial conventions; it is only after Gautama has taken up his mission and begun to teach that he is represented in Indian guise, according to the traditions derived from Gandhāra.


How comes it, then, that in portraying the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the saints and Lokapālas or Demon Kings, the Chinese painters follow so closely the Indian formula? We may suppose that just as fifteenth-century painters in Italy and the Netherlands, in representing Gospel scenes, portrayed Christ and his disciples dressed in a conventional, supposedly Oriental garb, but painted secular persons and spectators in the costume of their own time and place, so it was with these Chinese artists. And perhaps this is sufficient explanation. Yet, when we remark what fidelity to Gandhāran models was observed, once the Chinese artists had come to know them; when we remember that the Jātaka scenes were frequent subjects of the school of Gandhāra and were of course treated in the same style as the Bodhisattvas; and when we consider that Buddha himself, in his youth, is portrayed in these banner paintings as a Chinese boy in Chinese dress, we may be tempted by another hypothesis. We may suppose that when the Buddha-legends were first illustrated by Chinese painters they were known by written and oral tradition only, and that the painters, having no models to fall back upon, painted the chosen scenes in their own way and according to their own lights; and this style, this treatment, once fixed, remained. It might be that the tradition thus formed (which, be it noticed, is continued in Japanese art throughout) represents an earlier phase of Buddhism, when the Buddha-legend was more prominent in the mouths of missionaries than the worship of the Bodhisattvas. But all this is conjecture, and the simpler explanation may be the right one.

At any rate, what we have to note is the fact that Chinese painting had already developed a powerful genius of its own, and, however much it borrowed, was able to fuse its borrowings in its own style. But before dealing with this question of the fusion of Indian subject-matter in Chinese style, let us complete what there is to say about the purely Chinese features in the Tun-huang paintings.

Besides the illustrations of Jātaka-legends, there are at the foot of many of the pictures portraits of their donors. These are most valuable documents for the student of Chinese painting; for they give us portraits of people actually living at a certain date, they show us what costume they wore—thereby often helping us to determine the approximate date of undated pictures—and they afford more than a hint of the prevalent style of drawing in secular art.

Every one who has studied the earlier art of China knows how difficult it is to find a really trustworthy starting-point for dating pictures and arriving at a sound conception of the style of a given period. We have usually only an ancient tradition, at the best, of date and authorship. But here we have dated work, from which we can start.

Among the paintings reproduced is one, ‘Four Forms of Avalokiteśvara’ (Pl. xvi), which bears a date corresponding to the year a.d. 864. This is the earliest date found on any of the paintings. Others bear dates of the late ninth and early tenth centuries.

Comparing the picture reproduced on Plate xvi with other pictures which are not dated, we can have little hesitation in assigning the great majority of the paintings to the second half of the Tang dynasty (seventh to tenth centuries) and towards its close, though it would be rash to attempt any minute determination of dates, for reasons already given.

We know nothing certain of Chinese painting before Tang times, except the painting in the British Museum, ‘Admonitions of the Instructress in the Palace’, and the ‘Ló-shen Fu’ in the Freer Collection, both ascribed to Ku K‘ai-chih. Whether either of these be allowed to be an original of the fourth century or not, there can be no doubt that they represent the style of that period in its main characteristics: they show a great mastery of expressive drawing of the human figure, an extraordinary command of finely modulated, sinuous line, a love of it both for its own sake and as expressive of movement, and a quite primitive and rudimentary treatment of landscape.

The paintings we are now considering afford no adequate material for comparison; but one thing is at once noticeable, and that is the altered ideal of the human form; in place of the tall, slender proportions of Ku K‘ai-chih, T‘ang art substitutes shorter and more massive proportions. An ideal of power has superseded an ideal of grace.

Hints of the treatment of landscape, primitive by comparison with the mature Sung art, but decidedly more advanced than Ku K‘ai-chih’s, are also of much interest.


Among the Tun-huang paintings there is at least one (Pl. xxxviii) which seems to be in an earlier style than the rest. This painting of Buddha attended by divinities of the Planets comes nearer to the style we find in Ku K‘ai-chih, both in its finer, drier line, in its proportions of the figure, its generally more primitive aspect, and its comparative freedom from Indian influence. The bannered chariot may be compared with the chariot in the Ku K‘ai-chih picture in the Freer Collection. And yet this picture is dated with a year corresponding to a.d. 897, actually later than the ‘Four Forms of Avalokiteśvara’. Similarly a woodcut, dated a.d. 947, is much ruder and more primitive-looking than another dated a.d. 868. These facts and comparisons warn us of the danger of attempting to assign dates too confidently. It may well be that the paintings which are actually the earliest have the least primitive aspect. Another example which has an archaic air is the small picture of Kṣitigarbha enthroned, on blue silk (Pl. xxxix); but here, too, we may doubt whether the primitive features may not be due to provincial style preserving old tradition rather than to actual antiquity. At the same time it must be remembered that dates going as far back as the fifth century a.d. are found among the manuscripts heaped in the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas; there is no reason therefore why some of the paintings should not be considerably older than the earliest dated specimen.

One or two paintings in the collection seem to have been added to the hidden store at a later date. Such is the painting reproduced on Plate xxxviii of Avalokiteśvara conducting a soul. This is exceptionally well preserved, and both the style and the costume of the woman point to a date more recent than late T‘ang. It is a painting of great beauty.

We may now return to the question of the way in which Indian subject-matter was fused in Chinese style.

As we have seen, the narrative-pictures, depicting episodes from the Jātakas, were originally painted in a purely native manner, the whole theme being bodily translated into Chinese terms; and this tradition persisted, and even in Japan the Buddha legend is given a Chinese dress. But with the devotional pictures it was different. As early as the fifth century, Chinese artists, as we know from the sculptures at Yün-kang, were copying the Gandhāra types of the Bodhisattvas, though, as M. Petrucci has observed, the Gandhāra tradition appears at Yün-kang ‘à l’état de débris, comme une chose finissante’. We may suppose that the copying of Gandhāra models went on for a time side by side with the complete translation of Indian story into Chinese formula. But by degrees the Chinese genius asserted itself; and probably the advent of Wu Tao-tzŭ and a few other men of genius gave a fresh character to the Buddhist art of T‘ang.

The Chinese genius is strong just where the Indian genius is weak. The bent of the Indian artist is to pour out his emotions and imaginings in a torrent, shaping them to form and colour as they come; he delights in exuberance and a fine excess; he cannot bear to leave a corner of his space unfilled. If we compare the Ajaṇṭā frescoes with the best of the Tun-huang paintings, say with that partly reproduced on Plate iii, we feel a different instinct at work. The Indian painters draw their figures and animals with an admirably expressive power and sense of life; they have freshness of vision, and spontaneous vigour, and directness of emotion. And it is part of their spontaneousness that in grouping figures together they accept the accidental appearances of form, with a result that is often restless to the eye. In the Tun-huang painting we feel that the artist obeys an instinct which controls the complex lines of many grouped figures into a continuous reposeful harmony; a subtle relation between form and form and between group and group is set up; these relations rather than delineation of objects engross the painter. There is a sense of movement in the passage of the great Bodhisattva on his pacing elephant, preceded and attended by blessed beings, but it is as if they moved to music; and the sinuous streaming of the cloud on which a cluster of happy souls is borne enhances this effect of serene and rhythmic motion. This subtle unifying instinct of design inheres in the Chinese genius.

Look, again, at the small paintings of Jātaka scenes at the side of Plate i, and note even there the use of spacing. In contrast with Indian artists, the Chinese understand to the full the power of suggestion and the value of reticence. They know how to foil forms in movement{9} with forms in repose, rich detail with empty space, so as to stir in the spectator the intensest appreciation of each particular element. Space is not, in Chinese painting, something left over and unfilled; it is a positive power and an integral factor in design.

In the typical classics of Chinese art these special powers in the control of ordered, fluent line, and in mastery of spacing, are magnificently displayed. But even in these Tun-huang pictures, where the subject-matter, the imagery, and the canons of ideal form are taken over from India, we feel how all this is being fused in the fire of a different genius. And in such a picture as the large Paradise (Pls. i and ii) how potently this genius is at work, controlling all these many groups of crowded figures, and this built-up composition, with all its various colours, in the spell of a single mood of immaterial felicity and peace!


It has been mentioned that a series of Nepalese paintings of Bodhisattvas were found at Tun-huang. These are precious documents, because of the extreme rarity of Indian paintings of so early a period; but as their artistic interest is but slight, they have not been chosen for illustration. Plate xxxi reproduces a Tibetan painting. The territory of Tun-huang was conquered by the Tibetans in the middle of the eighth century a.d., and till the middle of the ninth century the Tibetan power was dominant. Quantities of Tibetan Buddhist writings were found in the cave: and among the paintings this one, certainly, is entirely Tibetan in style. (Two Tibetan drawings are reproduced on Pl. xxxii.) It is of the same type as the numerous pictures brought from Tibet itself in recent years, collections of which are in the British Museum, and in other museums of Europe and America. With regard to these pictures the question of date has always been a matter of conjecture. Many are darkened by incense-smoke, which in a few years can give an appearance of impressive antiquity. The probability is that the Tun-huang specimen dates from about the tenth century, and, if so, it is likely to be the oldest of its kind now in existence, or at the least one of the oldest. It is painted in distemper on linen, a technique favoured by the Tibetan artists.

But how did this Tibetan art grow up? What is the indigenous element in it? Buddhism was only introduced into the country in the seventh century, and whether Tibet had any art to speak of before its introduction we do not know. In Tibetan Buddhism the Tantra system of magic and witchcraft, and the worship of demons (supposed to be converted by Buddha and to be vassals under his sovereignty), play a dominant part; and in the paintings the forms are often monstrous and horrible, the colouring sombrely splendid. But the harmonies of fluid, sinuous line, for which they are even more remarkable, seem to be an element borrowed from Chinese art and carried to excess in Tibet. If we compare for a moment this painting with, for instance, the one reproduced on Plate xlii, we see how much this element counts for. And on the whole it seems likeliest to suppose that Tibetan painting is rather an offshoot of Chinese art, developed in a certain direction, and so acquiring a special character, than a native growth. But of this we cannot be certain.

Plate xlii illustrates, much reduced, an imposing example of the kind of painting in a mixed style which flourished in Eastern Turkestān. Note how the flowers dropping through the air suggest none of that sense of the fragility of flowers, and of their light floating on the air, which the Chinese artist knows instinctively how to give: they are heavy and motionless. There is a certain rigidity and solidity in the whole picture; and the effect of solidity is consciously aimed at by the system of modelling the central figure in two tones of colour. This system is carried yet further in Plate x, where high lights on nose and forehead (blackened through oxidization in some places) have been added in white. Compare also Plate xi, illustrating a very large painting of similar character, full of the most interesting detail (note the babies enclosed within the lotus-buds, souls of the blessed about to be born into Paradise). These pictures are painted in what Sir Aurel Stein calls ‘the fresco style’,{10} because they repeat on silk the manner of the fresco paintings of Tun-huang. In all these pictures the Chinese element is present but not dominant; and the system of modelling in two tones of colour comes, we cannot doubt, from the west. It is true that it was sometimes copied by the Chinese in their Buddhist paintings, as we know from early Japanese examples following Chinese prototypes: but the Chinese of T‘ang times were intensely interested in the western countries; they liked to introduce figures of people from those regions into their pictures; and, as we know, a painter from Khotan settled in China in the eighth century and had great success there. But the desire to suggest mass and roundness by means of modelling in painting was against the instincts of the Chinese and Japanese; it occurs only in certain Buddhist pictures, the survival of a borrowing from the west preserved by hieratic tradition.

One of the finest of all the Tun-huang pictures is not a painting but a piece of embroidery. Unfortunately it does not lend itself well to photography in colour; and its quality and impressive character are merely suggested in the small Plate (Pl. xxxiv) and in the detail with a group of donors (Pl. xxxv). Though merely the reproduction by craftsmen of a master’s work, it shows such skill and taste in execution, it is so fine in colour, and so well preserved, that it must be ranked with the very finest of the paintings as an indication of the grandeur of the Buddhist art of T‘ang.

1For the wall-paintings and sculptures of the cave-temples of Tun-huang, see now the fine reproductions in M. Paul Pelliot’s Les Grottes de Touen-houang, Peintures et Sculptures des époques des Wei, des T‘ang et des Song (Paris, Paul Geuthner, in progress).






THE first two plates reproduce portions, on half the scale of the original, from the right and left of a large painting on silk (Ch. lii. 003), remarkable for its noble design, the delicacy of its drawing, and its glowing colours. In spite of the damage it has suffered along its sides and bottom (see Serindia, Pl. lvii) it still measures close on seven feet in height and over five and a half feet across. It represents a Buddhist Paradise and, according to M. Petrucci’s interpretation, the one presided over by Bhaiṣajyaguru, the Buddha of Medicine, whose cult since an early period has been widespread in Northern Buddhism from Tibet to Japan. His Heaven is placed in the East by sacred texts preserved in the Chinese Tripiṭaka. In their descriptions as well as in our painting Bhaiṣajyaguru’s Paradise shares the essential features of that still more popular abode of Buddhist bliss, the Western Paradise, or Sukhāvatī, presided over by the Buddha Amitābha. Of this the ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ have preserved numerous representations both among the pictures recovered from the walled-up chapel (see Pls. vi–viii, x–xi) and among the mural paintings decorating the temples. But the legendary scenes occupying the side panels of our painting and connected with Bhaiṣajyaguru are different, and so are also certain details in the arrangement and personnel of the main subject. These distinctive features are found again in another somewhat less elaborate picture of Bhaiṣajyaguru’s Paradise, reproduced in Plate xxxvi.

His Heaven presents itself in our picture, as in all the large Paradise paintings of Tun-huang, as a great assemblage of celestial beings, elaborately staged on richly decorated terraces and courts which rise above a lotus lake. On the sides and behind the terraces there are seen pavilions and elaborate structures of characteristically Chinese style, representing the heavenly mansions. It is in this sumptuous setting that Chinese Buddhism has visualized from an early period the idea of a Paradise where the souls of believers in the Law may be reborn, free from all taint, in the buds of the lotus lake to enjoy thereafter for aeons, or in popular belief for ever, blissful rest and pleasures in the company of Bodhisattvas, Arhats, and other beatified personalities. The scheme of the whole, as in all representations of Buddhist Heavens among the Tun-huang paintings, is ordered on the strictly symmetrical lines of a ‘Maṇḍala’, buildings, trees, groups, and even individual figures balancing each other on either side of the picture and all centring round the presiding Buddha in the middle.

Here we see Bhaiṣajyaguru seated with folded legs and wearing a crimson mantle over a green under-robe. While his right hand is raised as usual in the vitarka-mudrā, the left holds the begging bowl in his lap. Behind him a couple of flowering trees support a hexagonal canopy of red drapery. A halo and nimbus of manifold but harmoniously blended colours{12} surround the Buddha’s figure, which in pose and dress and in the features of the mild pensive face bears the impress of the type first evolved in Graeco-Buddhist art even more clearly than the figures of the surrounding Bodhisattvas. Of these the two enthroned are identified by M. Petrucci with Mañjuśrī on the right and Samantabhadra on the left. Above these two chief Bodhisattvas rise six-tiered umbrellas wreathed in clouds, about which float gracefully poised figures of Apsaras. The rich flowing garments, which include shawl-like stoles, and the abundant jewelled ornaments of the two are shared also by other haloed figures obviously meant for Bodhisattvas, who appear in attendance on the central Buddha or in varying supple poses occupy the fore portion of the terrace. The features of all are drawn with extreme delicacy and pleasing variety of expression, the eyes being in many cases almost straight, while the flesh is white, with shading in tints of pink.

By the side of either of the enthroned Bodhisattvas there is seen a composite group of divinities, unhaloed and five on each side, of types not ordinarily met with among the attendants in these Paradise pictures. Three figures in each group are warrior kings, recalling the Lokapālas, or Guardians of the Four Regions (see Pls. xlv, xlvii), by their gorgeous armour and head-dresses. The features of most of them are grotesque, and this aspect of their appearance is enhanced by the animal figures, including a dragon, gryphon, phoenix, and peacock, which are shown rising above their shoulders or elsewhere in conjunction with them. Each group includes the figure of a demon closely resembling those which are usually met with in the cortège of Lokapālas (see Pls. xxvi, xlv). The demon on the right raises a naked infant on his hand, just as the demon in the fragmentary painting of Plate xlvi. Immediately behind the enthroned Buddha on the left is seen a youthful personage wearing what looks like a magistrate’s head-dress, while the corresponding position on the right is occupied by a warrior with three faces. Perhaps he represents Brahman and the former divinity Indra.

Before the central Buddha and in the middle of the picture is seen a large platform projecting from the main terrace and carrying a draped altar with sacred vessels. On either side of it kneel two unhaloed figures in graceful poses holding up offerings and suggesting nymphs. Projecting still further into the foreground is a smaller platform, and on it a dancer performs in rapid movement to the strains of an orchestra of eight seated musicians. The dancing figure, unmistakably that of a girl, is dressed in a billowy orange skirt tied round the hips and a close-fitting crimson jacket reaching only to the waist and surmounted by a metal-bound plastron. Her head and arms are richly adorned with jewellery. From behind the neck issues a long narrow stole which her hands wave as she dances. The figures of the musicians, four on each side, resemble those of Bodhisattvas in features and dress, but the shawl-like stoles over the shoulders are absent. Those to the left play on a harp, two lutes, and a psaltery, while those to the right play on clappers, flute, Chinese reed-organ, and pipe. The instruments, of which several have their ancient Japanese counterparts among the treasures of the Shōsōin collection (see Shōsōin Catalogue, i. Pls. 56, 60), have been fully described in Miss Schlesinger’s expert notes in Appendix K to Serindia.

At the head of each line of musicians there is seen in the background a small but very curious figure, that of a fat half-naked infant violently dancing and playing, the one to the left on a narrow-waisted drum, the one to the right apparently on castanets. Judging from other Paradise pictures we may assume that these playing infants represent newly reborn souls who in the joy of their celestial childhood have been drawn to join the happy scene of music and dancing.

A kind of gangway projects in front of the dancer’s platform into the lotus lake, and at its entrance stands a Garuḍa with widespread wings, playing on cymbals. From the lake rise trees and purple or scarlet lotus buds and flowers, the latter supporting souls reborn. Two of these, at the extreme right and left, are sitting upright as fully developed Bodhisattvas, but with a languid air of newly awakened consciousness. Two others, faintly visible in the foreground, are represented as naked infants just springing to life or still curled up in sleep. A rock on the left at the bottom edge of the lake is occupied by a crane; its pendant on the right, a peacock, falls outside the reproduction in Plate ii.


The bottom corners of the Paradise are filled by the twelve armed Kings, the generals of Bhaiṣajyaguru, who act as protectors of the Law. They kneel six a side upon small terraces with gangways sloping down into the lake. They are treated in appearance and dress like Lokapālas, but carry no distinctive weapons. Their hands are joined in adoration or else hold sacred vessels, jewels, &c.

Turning to the sides of the picture, we see the main terrace flanked by two-storied pavilions, both of distinctively Chinese architecture, and close by them trees carrying rich foliage but no flowers. The upper chambers of the pavilions are open and show small Bodhisattvas sitting on railings, pulling up reed-blinds or otherwise enjoying their leisured life. The lower chambers contain only unoccupied lotus seats and appear to have just been abandoned by two subsidiary Buddhas, who are represented as advancing, each with two attendant Bodhisattvas, on to projecting wings of the main terrace. The dress of the subsidiary Buddhas is exactly that of the presiding Bhaiṣajyaguru, of whom M. Petrucci takes them to be repetitions, and the expression of their faces is similarly mild and pensive.

The marginal scenes, of which Plate i shows the better preserved ones on the right side, have been identified by M. Petrucci as representing incidents of the legend of Bhaiṣajyaguru’s last incarnation as a Bodhisattva. Without reference to the text of the Chinese Tripiṭaka which records this legend, but of which the translation prepared by M. Petrucci is not at present accessible, no interpretation of the different scenes can be attempted here. Judging from the inscribed cartouches, at least five scenes are represented in the predella portion actually reproduced in our Plate. That the treatment of the figures, the dresses, the landscape is in purely Chinese style is an observation uniformly applying to all side scenes to be found in ‘Maṇḍala’ pictures from the ‘Thousand Buddhas’, as well as to the banners representing episodes from Gautama Buddha’s life-story (see Pls. xii, xiii, xxxvii). Mr. Binyon in his Introductory Essay (see above, p. 7) has discussed different possible explanations of the striking assertion of Chinese style and feeling in these scenes. Here it may suffice to draw attention to the skill with which the rapid movement of the animal figures appearing in our scenes is rendered, and to the clever use, observed elsewhere also, which is made of hill ranges and similar landscape features for dividing the several scenes into clearly marked compartments without sacrificing the effect of the whole as a connected story.

A combination of special qualities renders this painting of Bhaiṣajyaguru’s Paradise one of the most impressive pictures in the Collection and proves it to be from the hand of a master. As Mr. Binyon happily puts it, we see in it ‘delicate expressiveness of drawing combined with a glowing animation of varied colour.... The artist has been able to control his complex material and multitude of forms into a wonderful harmony, without any restlessness or confusion; and we are taken into an atmosphere of strange peace which yet seems filled with buoyant motion and floating strains of music.’



The observations just quoted apply with equal force to the large painting on silk (Ch. xxxvii. 004), of which Plate iii reproduces a little more than the left-hand half on the scale of about one-half. The painting itself, which though incomplete on all sides still measures close on six feet across by five feet in height, represents but the upper portion of a much larger composition. Judging from what survives of the central figure in the lower broken part (see Serindia, Pl. lix), the picture as a whole was meant for a ‘Maṇḍala’ of the thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara, the Kuan-yin of Chinese Buddhism. But the heavy band of rhomboidal ornament which, as seen near the lower edge of the Plate, passes behind the halo of this large central figure clearly marks off the divine assemblage in the upper portion from the rest as a well-defined theme by itself.


The Buddha presiding over this assemblage, whose seated figure our Plate shows in its upper right corner, is taken by M. Petrucci for Bhaiṣajyaguru, and the similarity in pose and accessories to the central Buddha of the previously discussed picture seems to support this identification. Unfortunately the inscription in Chinese and Tibetan which occupies the large yellow cartouche in the centre and might have afforded safe guidance has faded into illegibility. On either side of this central Buddha is seen a Bodhisattva, seated with one leg pendent and with the hand nearest to the Buddha raised, like the right of the latter himself, in the vitarka-mudrā, the gesture of argument. In pose, dress, and treatment of features these two seated Bodhisattvas bear a distinctly Indian air, and this would well agree with the identification proposed for them by M. Petrucci, who on the strength of inscriptional indications in a simplified Maṇḍala of Bhaiṣajyaguru is prepared to recognize Samantabhadra in the Bodhisattva to the left and his usual counterpart Mañjuśrī in the corresponding seated Bodhisattva to the right.1 Between the presiding Buddha and the Bodhisattva on either side are grouped three lesser Bodhisattvas in adoring poses and two haloed monkish disciples. The heads of the latter, one young, the other old and emaciated, are drawn with much expressive skill. The same is the case with the faces of most of the Bodhisattvas, though the great difficulties which the painting offers to photography do not allow the extreme delicacy of the drawing to be fully appreciated in the reproduction.

While the grouping and treatment of the divine personalities so far named follow well-established lines, a striking feature, met with again only once among our ‘Maṇḍala’ paintings, is introduced by the two processions which descend, carried on purple clouds, from either side towards the centre of the picture. On the left our Plate shows us the Bodhisattva Samantabhadra seated on a lotus which a white elephant, his recognized vāhana, carries, as he advances accompanied by Bodhisattvas and preceded by heavenly musicians to meet Mañjuśrī. The latter Bodhisattva appears in the corresponding right-hand portion of the picture seated on his lion and escorted by an exactly similar cortège.

Apart from six figures of undetermined lesser Bodhisattvas, some of whom carry sacred vessels, the cortège of either comprises four youthful musicians playing on clappers, pipe, flute, and mouth-organ. In front of them marches a dark-coloured boy, undoubtedly meant for an Indian, carrying a bronze vessel, while another strides by the side of the chief Bodhisattva, leading his mount. The exaggerated dark colour of these Indians is, like the misdrawing of the elephant’s head and limbs, significant of the painter’s want of familiarity with things Indian. In the background two of the Lokapālas, or Guardian-kings of the Four Quarters, attend the train of each divinity. About the fluttering canopy which rises above the head of each float gracefully drawn Gandharvīs (Apsaras). From the side there sweeps down a bevy of tiny Bodhisattva figures clustered within a wreath of purple cloud, while above it a group of picturesque hills, drawn with true Chinese feeling for landscape, fills the top corner.

Throughout the picture the workmanship is that of a master, and the serene dignity of the composition as a whole is very happily blended with tenderness of mood and harmonious subtlety of line and colour.



Closely allied in subject and treatment to the last described picture, though not quite equal to it in quality of execution, are the two grand fragments (Ch. xxxvii. 003, 005) partially illustrated by Plates iv and v. These two large pieces of silk with curved tops once belonged respectively to the right and left sides of one arch-shaped picture. The centre portion, which is likely to have contained a seated Buddha, is lost. But some idea of the size of the whole{15} may be formed from the fact that the surviving right side portion (Ch. xxxvii. 003, Pl. iv) in its broken state still measures six and a half feet in height with a width of about three and a half feet, while the dimensions of the badly broken left side are even larger. The shape of the picture suggests that it was originally intended to occupy the back of a vaulted chapel recess or of the aisle of an antechapel.

The right portion reproduced in Plate iv (scale one-fourth of original) shows us Mañjuśrī, mounted on his white lion, advancing towards the centre, surrounded by a host of attendant Bodhisattvas, Lokapālas, demons, and nymphs. His mount is led by an Indian attendant and preceded by a pair of musicians. The whole procession is carried on a purple cloud.

The figure of Mañjuśrī is seated in the same attitude as that of Samantabhadra in Plate iii, with one leg pendent, but with his right hand held out palm uppermost. The features of his pale-complexioned face with its peaceful expression are very delicately rendered. But the Indian model from which they are derived is reflected still more clearly in the richly draped garments of the Bodhisattva and the forms of his abundant jewelled ornaments. They are plainly borrowed in all details from Graeco-Buddhist art transplanted into Central Asia. The elaborate halo of Mañjuśrī deserves mention for its harmonious colouring and flame border.

By the side of the attendant Bodhisattvas, all showing peaceful features, we note Lokapālas with their demon followers. Of the former Virūḍhaka, Guardian-king of the South, is recognizable by his club. The demons are characterized by grotesque features and colouring of deep red. The attendant divinity seen walking in the lower right corner awaits identification. He wears the dress of a Chinese dignitary (high-waisted flowery under-robe and wide-sleeved jacket), while coiffure and nimbus are those of a Bodhisattva. He carries a fan and is attended by two nymphs; of the one on the right only the head survives in the extant fragment. The leader of the lion has a skin of chocolate-brown colour and coarse features, suggesting a negro type.

Of the figures of the musicians walking in front but little is preserved on the right side of the picture. But the corresponding pair on the left side, which Plate v reproduces on a scale of approximately one-half of the original, has suffered less damage and allows us to enjoy both the spirited design and the great delicacy of drawing in these figures. They march with uplifted heads, playing on whistle-pipe and mouth-organ. In the face of the flute-player on the left delighted absorption in the music is admirably expressed, while the curving lines of the body and the floating loose garments convey a sense of rhythmic motion in complete harmony with the subject. Equally expressive is the drawing in the face of the musician to the right, with its look of intent concentration. The larger scale of reproduction allows us to see here the method of shading used by the painter in the treatment of the flesh. The delicate colouring of the faces is well set off by the stronger but harmoniously blended tints of the large globe-shaped tassel which appears between them, hanging from the harness of Samantabhadra’s elephant. In the same way the strong black of their hair and the dark brown of the Mahout’s figure, partially seen on the left edge of Plate v, help to give strength to the colour scheme, in which light greens and reds prevail.



Here we see the left-hand bottom portion of a Paradise picture reproduced on the scale of two-thirds, but without the gay colours of the original (Ch. liv. 004). This represents a Buddhist Heaven presided over by a Buddha whom M. Petrucci takes to be Śākyamuni.2 In certain characteristic features of the main theme, as well as in the side scenes, our painting{16} agrees closely with the Paradise picture (Ch. xxxviii. 004), of which Plate vii shows a complete reproduction. To the latter, therefore, reference may be made as regards the general arrangement of the celestial scene with its central Buddha flanked by two principal Bodhisattvas, &c., and that of the marginal scenes, which in both paintings tell the story of Kalyāṇaṃkara and Pāpaṃkara, as contained in texts of the Chinese Tripiṭaka.

The portion of the painting actually shown in our Plate represents at the top the attendant host of Bodhisattvas, seated or kneeling by the side of the altar which occupies a central position on the terrace. A projecting part of this terrace serves as platform for the performance of the celestial dancer and carries at either front corner the figure of a Garuḍa playing on a musical instrument, apparently pipe and clappers. The whole of the terrace is clearly shown as of wooden construction and as raised on sloping piles above the waters of the lotus lake. An unusual feature is the grouping of the divine musicians on two separate terraces in the bottom corners. They are six on each side and play on harp, lute, syrinx and Chinese mouth-organ, whistle-pipe, and clappers. Behind the musicians are trees with pear-shaped leaves and groups of conventional pink and white flowers. From the lake rise reborn souls in the shape of infants carried on open lotuses. The face and gesture of the one seen on the left below the railing of the main terrace admirably express the awakening consciousness of the newly born soul.

Throughout the picture the workmanship is highly finished, and the delicacy of the drawing, especially in the features of the Bodhisattvas, deserves notice. The prevailing colours are, as usual, shades of crimson and dull green; but these are enlivened by the white of the flesh of all divine figures and the orange, pale blue, and purple used on stoles and haloes.

The legendary scenes on the sides which M. Chavannes first identified from the cartouches, here fortunately bearing Chinese inscriptions,3 display throughout purely Chinese style in the dress and attitudes of figures, &c. The figure of the kneeling lady in the left bottom compartment is the portrait of a donatrix and may claim special interest. Her costume and coiffure agree closely with those of the donatrices in two paintings bearing exact dates of the second half of the ninth century a.d.,4 while they show a marked difference from the far more elaborate fashion displayed by the ladies who appear in our numerous dated pictures of the tenth century. I have had occasion to call attention elsewhere to the very helpful indicia which changing fashions in the dress and coiffure of donatrices, and to a lesser extent in those of donor figures also, supply for the chronology of the Ch‘ien-fo-tung pictures.5



This painting (Ch. xxxviii. 004), reproduced here on the scale of two-sevenths, is practically complete and in a very fair state of preservation, still retaining its border of yellowish-green silk. As already mentioned in the description of the preceding Plate, it represents the Paradise of a Buddha in whom M. Petrucci recognizes Śākyamuni, the historical Buddha.6 The ordinance of the celestial assemblage is simple, though showing some peculiar features. The presiding Buddha, with legs interlocked and both hands in the vitarka-mudrā, occupies a lotus seat in the centre and faces the draped altar. By him we see seated two principal Bodhisattvas, alike in appearance and dress but with hands in different poses. According to M. Petrucci’s view based on the inscriptions of a much-reduced presentation of the same Paradise (Ch. xxxiii. 001), we may identify the Bodhisattva on the left with Ākāśagarbha and the one on the right with Kṣitigarbha. Between them and the Buddha is shown on each side{17} a small shaven disciple, of childlike appearance with hands in adoration. Above the heads of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas are seen canopies carried by pairs of trees and encircled by big flowers, and behind them appears the pavilion with boldly upturned eaves which represents the celestial mansion, the habitation of blessed souls. In the air above and carried on clouds float the small figures of four Buddhas amidst a sprinkling of orange flowers.

On the main terrace in front of the triad we see a dancer performing in spirited movement. Its rhythmic rapidity is happily conveyed by the graceful scroll-lines of the scarf she waves freely in her hands. On either side four Bodhisattvas occupy lotus seats with hands folded in adoration. Pairs of musicians sit in front of them, playing on a reed-organ, lute, psaltery, and clappers. Gangways lead down from the terrace to the lotus lake. Its bottom corners are occupied by Garuḍa figures, half human half bird, standing on rocks and displaying plumy semi-floral tails, with hands folded in adoration.

Most of the foreground is filled by a large isolated terrace carrying in the centre a subsidiary Buddha, an arrangement which is peculiar. On his right is seated a small Bodhisattva adoring, while to his left the corresponding place is taken by a haloed disciple with shaven head and hands in the same pose. He wears monkish robes with the addition of a necklace, and thus presents the appearance peculiar in our paintings to Kṣitigarbha, as seen in Plates xxv, xxxix, xl. This distinctly supports the view of M. Petrucci, who takes the group below for a repetition of the principal triad and accordingly identifies the Bodhisattva to the left with Ākāśagarbha and the Buddha with Śākyamuni. The appearance of the Buddha is very unusual; for the crimson robe lined with white, which covers him closely to the neck, shows the red disc of the Sun painted on the left shoulder, the white disc of the Moon (with the tree of immortality) on the right shoulder, and Mount Meru on the front of the body, flanked by a man’s figure on either side.7

The marginal scenes of the painting, eleven in all, are taken, as mentioned above, from the legend of Kalyāṇaṃkara and Pāpaṃkara. Their detailed interpretations were to have been furnished in the volume which M. Chavannes was preparing on a selection of our paintings for publication in the Mémoires concernant l’Asie orientale with the help of materials left behind by M. Petrucci.8 In the absence of such guidance it must suffice here to point out the purely Chinese style of all details in these scenes, including the curving hill ranges and pine-clad cliffs which serve to separate them.

A broad band resembling a tessellated pavement divides the main picture and side scenes from a panel below, which shows the donors kneeling on either side of what was the space left for a dedicatory inscription completely effaced or, perhaps, never written. On the right kneels a row of six men wearing loose belted coats of different colours, while on the left we see in front a bald-headed aged figure which may be meant either for a monk or a nun; behind it a lady alone, and in the third rank three others of more youthful appearance. Behind these again are three boys with their hair done in round tufts above the temples.

Here, too, the costumes are of interest as affording indications as to the approximate date of the painting. Among the men’s we may note that, whereas three wear black hats with wide side-flaps such as are found regularly on the heads of donors in our tenth-century pictures, the other three wear the black lobed and tailed caps which are common in the side scenes and the banners representing legendary incidents of Gautama Buddha’s life (see Pls. xii, xiii, xxxvii). Of the costumes in these representations I have, as I believe, shown that they go back to a period distinctly earlier than the bulk of our pictures from the ‘Thousand Buddhas’.9 The chronological observation regarding our painting (Ch. xxxviii. 004) is borne out still more clearly by the fashion which the donatrices display. The elaborate head-dress worn by the ladies in all tenth-century pictures is conspicuously absent, and the hair is done plain in a flat round topknot or in a large backward-waving crest just as in the donatrix figures of the picture dated a.d. 864 and reproduced in Plate xvi.


Good and refined as the drawing is, especially in the faces and hands of Bodhisattvas and donatrices, we meet elsewhere with details which have not been highly finished. As in other paintings of this class, the prevailing colour is crimson on dull light green, with orange on the Bodhisattvas’ robes and the tiles of the terrace, turquoise blue on the altar-cloth, &c.



The painting (Ch. lviii. 0011), which this Plate reproduces on the scale of two-fifths, is a good specimen of a fairly numerous group of pictures which represent Amitābha’s ‘Western Paradise’, or Sukhāvatī, as it is named in Sanskrit. It has lost the side scenes and its extreme top and bottom, but is otherwise well preserved. Though not as large as some representations of this, the most popular of Buddhist Heavens, nor quite as sumptuous in its pageantry, our painting yet well illustrates all the typical features of the series. The uniformity with which the general scheme is observed in these Sukhāvatī pictures of our Collection, more than a dozen in all, points to prolonged evolution before even the oldest of them was painted.

On the principal terrace we see the presiding Buddha, Amitābha, seated with his hand raised in the vitarha-mudrā. The Bodhisattvas seated on both sides, Avalokiteśvara to the right and Mahāsthāma to the left, make up the triad typical of Amitābha’s Paradise as determined by inscribed representations and familiar from an early period also to Buddhism in Japan. Between them and in front, by the side of the altar, appears seated a host of lesser Bodhisattvas. The altar carries vessels with offerings and is draped with a valance decorated with triangular tabs and streamers; it is of interest as exactly corresponding to the large silk valances I recovered from the walled-up chapel.10 In the background above, partly screened by the elaborate canopies of the triad, are seen the celestial mansions in the shape of pavilions and towers of purely Chinese style.

A portion of the terrace projecting in front of the altar is occupied by a dancer and six musicians, to whose strains she performs. Here, too, the dancer’s rhythmic movement is emphasized by the sinuous lines of the stole which she waves in her hands and by bands fluttering upwards from her head-dress. Mouth-organ, clappers, psaltery, flute, and two differently shaped lutes are the musical instruments played on. At the foot of the gangway descending to the water of the lotus lake is shown a figure suggesting a seated Bodhisattva as seen from the back. The lotus seat and the curling drapery of a stole are clearly recognizable. The bent arms seem to support some offering, perhaps like an Indian ‘Dālī’, as traces of red flowers and of leaves can be made out in the original.

Lotus flowers and rocks appear rising above the water. In the centre of the foreground is a black-tiled platform, on which are assembled a Garuḍa, peacock, crane, and some smaller bird resembling a duck but partly effaced. On either side of this platform there rises from the water a terrace bearing a subsidiary representation of Amitābha’s triad. The pose of the Buddha is the same as in the main group above, but both the Bodhisattvas by his side are here shown with hands joined in adoration. This repetition of the divine triad in the bottom corners is very frequent in the pictures of Amitābha’s Paradise. The representation of a newly born soul seated on a lotus and floating up the gangway which leads to each of these subsidiary groups is a pleasing addition to this conventional arrangement.

The workmanship of the painting is throughout careful and well finished. From a background of dull green crimson, orange-yellow and white stand out as the prevailing colours. The last is largely used on the decorated haloes and ‘Padmāsanas’, or lotus seats, as well as for the flesh of all attendant figures. The absence of black and blue is marked in the general colour scheme.




The scenes reproduced here, on half the scale of the original, are taken from the top and bottom portions of a large and well-preserved silk painting (Ch. lviii. 001) of Maitreya’s Paradise. For a reproduction of the whole picture and for its special points of iconographic interest, as the only representation in our Collection of that famous Tuṣita Heaven in which the future Buddha of the present world period is supposed to reside, a reference to Serindia must suffice here.11 The Chinese inscriptions which render the attribution of this Paradise to Maitreya certain (even though the Bodhisattva appears in it as a Buddha, a status which he is yet to attain) are taken from the text of the Maitreya-vyākaraṇa-sūtra and accompany legendary scenes shown in the top corners and along the bottom of the painting. These scenes, as seen in our Plate, are not formally separated from the Paradise proper, but merge into it at the bottom and are above only divided from it by a range of pine-clad mountains.

The inscriptions and the legendary scenes to which they refer were to have been interpreted in MM. Petrucci and Chavannes’ separate volume in the Mémoires concernant l’Asie orientale.12 The materials prepared for it by those lamented collaborators are not at present accessible to me, and in the absence of textual guidance the descriptive notes on the scenes must here be brief. In the scene above on the right we see three men in Chinese magisterial costume seated along a table on a terrace, while before them two men stand right and left of a large disc, provided with a tripod (?) and suggesting a metal mirror into which a third smaller figure appears to gaze. To the left, between two inscribed cartouches, are shown three men seated behind a table, the centre one being on a lotus seat. Their head-dress is the same black hat with broad flaps sticking out sideways which is worn by the three seated figures to the right and which, as stated above, is always found in the representations of donors on our tenth-century paintings.13 Still further to the left is depicted a husbandman in lobed and tailed cap, driving a plough before which are harnessed a dark bull or cow and a smaller whitish animal of the bovine species, apparently reluctant to move on.

In the left corner scene we see a personage in official dress seated on a small platform or throne before the gate of what seems to represent a walled palace. To the left of him a demon-like figure is shown striding, while on the right he is being approached by a group comprising a Buddha and two smaller figures of monkish disciples. A little to the right of this group stands a layman in adoring pose; above the whole there appears a dragon-like monster descending on a cloud. In the background to the right within the arched opening of a reed hut is seen a pair, apparently man and wife, seated on a low platform before which stands erect a lady wearing the wide-sleeved dress and the elaborate coiffure familiar from the donatrices of our tenth-century pictures.14

If the significance and interrelation of the top scenes at present escapes us we have less difficulty about the general interpretation of those at the bottom of the picture. On the right and left the scenes placed below the flanking terraces of the Paradise manifestly show conversions to the Buddhist Law. On the right is seen a personage elaborately dressed and obviously of high rank, who is seated upright on a square platform, with feet on a footstool, undergoing tonsure by a monk. Four men in secular costume, holding rolls of paper in their hands, stand behind him. Three others attend in front, one of them holding a wide dish to receive the cut hair and a second carrying a vase. In the background stands a groom holding three elaborately caparisoned horses. Their figures are well drawn with elegant small heads, broad shapely breasts, and slim legs. Two are white and one red. Their type closely recalls{20} the present Badakhshī breed of Western Turkestān, a favourite region for China’s horse imports since early times; it is exactly represented also among the numerous clay figures of horses which in 1915 I excavated in plenty from Turfān graves of the T‘ang period. The saddles, high-pommeled at back and front, and covered with long saddle-cloths, are met with there also. For the ornamentation of headstall, breast-band, and crupper, reference to a painted panel from Dandān-oilik showing a horseman and also of the T‘ang period is instructive.15

The scene on the left forms an exact pendant to the one just described. Here a lady similarly placed and attired is having her head shaved by a monk. Among the attendants behind her two ladies have their hair done in topknots with two high loops, whereas two others, evidently girls, wear it in a bunch on either side of the head with a short lock hanging from each. Behind appear bearers of the hexagonal palanquin with pagoda roof, of which a small portion is included in the reproduction.

The central scene shows the adorning of a Stūpa or Buddhist relic tower and presents points of distinct antiquarian interest. Its shape is cylindrical, with a low flat dome and a square base below. A three-tiered umbrella, hung with streamers and metal ornaments, surmounts it. Below workmen are seen engaged in arranging the draperies. Two long tables are laden with flasks, bowls, and other offerings, while bundles of manuscript rolls are placed at either side; they are all likely to represent votive gifts made at the time of consecration.



The painting (Ch. liii. 001) which this Plate successfully reproduces in colours, on the scale of three-eighths of the original, is a good representative of the small but interesting class of what may be designated as simplified Paradise pictures. We see in it Amitābha enthroned on a lotus between Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāma, with two lesser Bodhisattvas in front and a row of well-individualized disciples behind. No lake is represented; but a comparison with the painting represented in the next Plate, xi, with which ours shares a number of marked peculiarities in composition, style, colour, and treatment, suffices to show that a representation of Amitābha’s Heaven is intended.

Amitābha is seated with legs interlocked and his right hand raised in the usual vitarka-mudrā. His flesh is yellow shaded with red which has changed to a curious iridescent mauve; his hair a bright blue. His mantle, vivid crimson, is wrapped round both shoulders, its drapery reproducing all details of the arrangement which Graeco-Buddhist sculpture had borrowed from Hellenistic art and handed over to be stereotyped with hieratic convention in the Buddha figures of Central Asia and the Far East. The lotus, his seat, is raised on a high stepped pedestal and has its pink petals covered all over with beautiful floral scrolls in white, blue, and black. Similar rich scroll-work adorns the base of the pedestal and reappears on the canopy which hangs above the Buddha’s head, raised on two trees. Their stems are treated like jewelled poles, and their large star-shaped leaves are arranged in whorls enclosing conical clusters of red fruit. An Apsaras sweeps down on either side, scattering flowers; her floating garments and the gracefully curling clouds which support her express rapidity of movement.

Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāma occupy well-designed, if less ornate, lotus seats, the former raising a flaming jewel in his left hand and the latter an alms-bowl. Among the multicoloured jewellery with which they are bedecked, the Dhyāni-buddha set in front of the tiara may be mentioned. Below them are seated two lesser Bodhisattvas, in similarly rich dress and adornment, the one, in profile, holding a red lotus, the other, in three-quarters profile, a flask. Their foreshortened elliptical haloes in green and the transparent light blue stoles deserve notice.


A particularly interesting element is introduced into the celestial company by the six disciples ranged behind the triad, three a side in ascending tier. They all have the shaven heads of monks and plump solid features; but their alert faces are well individualized and the expression markedly varies, from the jovial smile of the second figure on the right to the serious and even severe look of the last on the left. It is specially regrettable here that, as in so many of our paintings, the cartouches above the different divine figures have not been filled in. The red lotus bud carried by the last disciple on the left and the priest’s staff in the hand of the corresponding figure on the right do not help to identify them, nor do the crossbars on their mantles. The haloes of all these figures, including those of the triad, are only outlined in narrow rings of red and white, the interior being shown as practically transparent—not a usual treatment.

Below Amitābha’s lotus seat, and partly covering the front of its pedestal, is the panel for the dedicatory inscription, in the form of a stone slab with a low arched top, carried on the back of a tortoise. Unfortunately the dedication was never inscribed, and we are thus left without means for exactly dating this interesting picture. But very valuable help in this direction is afforded by what remains of the figures of the donors in the bottom corners. That of the man on the right is lost, except for the top of his cap. But that of the wife kneeling on the left is complete and a figure of great charm. It is manifestly a portrait, painted with considerable skill, and was deservedly chosen by M. Petrucci for full-size reproduction in the Vignette of the present publication.

The lady kneels on a mat, her hands holding a long-stemmed red flower. The pose and face admirably express pious devotion. The delicate treatment of the features distinctly recalls that of female heads in a silk painting, unfortunately very fragmentary, which I recovered in 1915 from a seventh-century Chinese tomb at Turfān. The lady’s costume, with its pleated skirt high under the arms, small bodice with long narrow sleeves, and little crossover shawl, as well as her hair plainly done in a small knot on the neck, represent a fashion distinctly older than that to be seen in the donatrices’ figures of our earliest dated picture (see Pl. xvi) of a.d. 864. We find the same indications of an early date in the dresses and coiffures worn by the donors and donatrices in the silk painting Ch. xlvii. 001 (Pl. xi), which shares many peculiarities of our picture, and also in the undoubtedly ancient embroidery picture shown in Plates xxxiv, xxxv.16

This chronological observation lends special interest to a notable point of technique, the use of ‘high lights’ to bring out the modelling of the flesh, in addition to ordinary colour shading. This is very conspicuous in the faces of the monkish disciples, and equally striking also in most of the figures in Plate xi, but it cannot be traced elsewhere among our Ch‘ien-fo-tung paintings. The western origin of this system of modelling has been duly emphasized by Mr. Binyon.17



In this large and on the whole fairly preserved silk painting (Ch. xlvii. 001), reproduced on the scale of one-fourth, we have a Sukhāvatī scheme fully developed on lines which, while closely resembling those of the picture last discussed, differ from those of the usual Buddhist Paradise type. It shows us Amitābha and his two chief Bodhisattvas seated on lotus thrones rising from the Sukhāvatī lake, and on the terrace forming the foreground various celestial beings characteristic of Paradise scenes.


Amitābha, closely draped, raises his right hand in the vitarka-mudrā, while his left, mostly destroyed, is held against the breast. His flesh is yellow, as usual, his hair grey with outlines and close curls indicated in black as if copied from statuary. On either side of him is an elaborately decorated pillar with a flaming jewel at the top. Two trees with leaves as already described in Plate x rise behind him and support a canopy ornamented with rich floral scrolls. Two Apsaras sweep down on either side of it, just as seen in Plate x and the embroidery picture, Plate xxxiv.

Similar trees carrying many-tiered canopies rise over Avalokiteśvara seated on the left and Mahāsthāma on the right. Two attendant Bodhisattvas, in equally rich attire as theirs, stand by their sides with hands in varying poses. The flower-spotted materials of the Bodhisattvas’ robes and the graceful figure of the attendant to Avalokiteśvara’s right may be noted. At the back of the triad a wall of many-coloured marble blocks bounds the lake. In the air above descend Buddhas seated on clouds; cleverly drawn figures of naked infants, representing reborn souls, float with outspread stoles, while beribboned musical instruments symbolize harmonies pervading space.

On the lake swim ducks, emblems of happiness, and oval lotus buds rise enveloping infant souls. Inscriptions beside the lotuses describe the rank taken by the soul in its new life. There is no altar before the Buddha, as in other Paradise scenes, no dancer or musicians, no celestial mansions. But a sacred vessel is borne on a lotus from the water before Amitābha and small Bodhisattvas kneel on either side. In front of them again, on a wooden platform, are grouped a two-headed Garuḍa, a phoenix, duck, crane, and peacock.

On the terrace which fills the whole foreground are seated Bodhisattvas four a side and well spaced. By the rail in front are two half-naked infants, no doubt newly born souls, one advancing slowly, the other dancing or running. Both hold flowers or berries and have, like the infants in the sky, their heads shaved except for a two-lobed tuft of hair over the forehead and one over each ear.18 Between them and the Bodhisattvas are shown large flaming jewels on lotuses.

In the middle by the side of a slab, arched at the top and intended for a dedicatory inscription but left blank, are shown the small figures of the donors. On the right kneel two men with long belted coats and small lobed and tailed caps. Their attire bears close resemblance to the quasi-archaic dress in the Jātaka scenes as presented by our banners, and also to that in certain relievos of the early Buddhist cave shrines of Yün-kang and Lung-mên.19 The costume and coiffure of the lady kneeling on the left agree exactly with those of the donatrix seen in the preceding Plate and the Vignette. As regards the chronological evidence which these details of attire afford, I may refer to my remarks on that Plate.20

With the picture reproduced in Plate x our painting shares also a number of other characteristic peculiarities, such as the use of ‘high lights’ for the modelling of the flesh; the unobtrusiveness of the haloes, which are transparent and often shown only in outlines; the flower patterns spotting the materials of the robes, &c. On the other hand, striking differences of composition, such as the total absence of the celestial mansions in the background and the ample spacing of the figures, make it clear that we have here preserved a specimen of a Sukhāvatī scheme developed independently of the orthodox type which prevails among our Ch‘ien-fo-tung paintings, whether on silk or mural, and which has become stereotyped in Japan.

There is a general absence of vivid colours in our picture. Dull green, with grey and black for the tiled terrace in front, prevails in the background, and dull green, light pink or red, and greenish grey in the colouring of figures and accessories. This quiet and coolness of colouring and a certain emptiness of the background give an effect of air and space which such crowded compositions as the Paradise seen in Plates i, ii lack. The drawing is free and rapid but rather rough in detail.




This and the following Plate, together with Plate xxxvii, illustrate a group of paintings well represented among the silk banners of the Collection and of special iconographic and artistic interest. Painted like the rest of the silk banners on both sides of a fine gauze-like fabric, they show scenes taken from the legendary life of Gautama Buddha or closely connected with it. The usual length of the banners (exclusive of the triangular top and other accessories) does not appear to have much exceeded twenty-five inches, and their width, as seen from the specimens which Plate xii reproduces full size, is restricted. As a necessary result of the narrow shape of the banners, we find the succession of scenes always arranged one above the other and in the completely preserved ones limited to four.21

This group of paintings is as well defined in style as it is in range of subjects and external arrangement. Everything in the scenes connected with the physical types of the actors, their costumes and movements, as well as the setting, whether architecture or landscape, appears here ‘translated bodily into Chinese’, to use Mr. Binyon’s graphic phrase. The traditional subjects of the historical Buddha’s life-story have in fact, as M. Foucher has with equal pregnancy put it, ‘undergone the same disguising transformation which Christian legend has under the hands of the Italian or Flemish painters’.22 It contrasts strikingly with this, that the figures of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, in our banners and large paintings alike, show close conformity in physical appearance and dress to the hieratic types derived from the Graeco-Buddhist art of Gandhāra. For possible explanations of the very interesting problem thus raised reference to Mr. Binyon’s ‘Introductory Essay’ will suffice here.

Notwithstanding their frankly Chinese style, the banners with scenes from Gautama Buddha’s Life show considerable diversity of composition and treatment. We note these variations all the more easily because the banners range themselves into small groups, one alone not affording sufficient room for a representation of even the most important incidents of the Life. Two banners of such a group, each with only two scenes preserved out of the four which the original, no doubt, once comprised, are shown in Plate xii on the left and right. Both banners have the same decorated borders along the sides and between the several scenes, and both have cartouches, here fortunately filled with Chinese inscriptions naming the subjects represented.

The banner on the left (Ch. lv. 0016) shows us two of the famous ‘Four Encounters’ which bring before Prince Gautama’s eyes the three evils of earthly life—old age, illness, and death, and the means to escape them by renunciation. We find them all represented already in the fifth-century relievos of Yün-kang, while strangely enough they have not yet been found among the Gandhāra sculptures.23 Above we see the prince riding out of the green-tiled gateway of the battlemented courtyard wall of his father’s palace. Over it is shown a pavilion with red timber framework and greenish-blue roof. The red-maned well-drawn horse represents the Kaṇṭhaka of the legend. A courtier in flowing robes with a high black cap attends him on foot. Before him under a tree is shown the bent figure of the old man leaning upon a stick and wearing on his head a black hood. Another man, who stands by his side and evidently supports him, has the black lobed and tailed cap to which reference has been made above as the head-dress worn by the donors of our oldest Tun-huang paintings. It is that of all common personages in our Jātaka scenes. The high conical head-dress of the courtier is found also in the above-quoted relievo panels of Yün-kang.24 Prince Gautama himself in the scenes of both our banners here wears a head-ornament resembling a white lotus.


In the scene below we see the prince riding with bent head from the same palace gateway. Here it is shown on the right, and its interior timber frame clearly displayed. The courtier by his side, attired as above, approaches with compassionate expression the group on the left. Here under a tree is seen sitting upon the ground the sick man, supported by a friend in a red dress, while another in green offers him drink in a bowl. The emaciation of his body and of his arms spread upon his knees is shown with realistic skill.

In the companion banner on the right (Ch. xlix. 006) the lower scene, composed in exactly the same style, represents Prince Gautama as a child discoursing on his anterior lives to civil and military officers, as the accompanying inscription tells us. The future Buddha sits on a verandah of the palace, holding out his arms evidently in the act of reciting his Jātaka tales. In front of him kneels a man, in black cap and orange belted coat, holding a manuscript roll. On the ground below stands a bearded personage wearing the dress of a civilian dignitary; he also carries a roll in his hands, which are covered by the wide sleeves of his robe. Two persons stand behind the prince outside the verandah. One in the dress of an attendant carries in his arms a round receptacle filled with small objects no longer recognizable. The other, wearing a tall round black cap, a brown mantle, and white under-robe, grasps with his right hand what from the gesture seems to be the hilt of a sword, and may hence be taken as representing the military element in the royal entourage.

The seated figure of Buddha seen in the upper panel illustrates what has been said above about the close adherence to the models derived from Gandhāra art in the delineation of divine figures which stand outside Gautama’s life-story before his attainment of Buddhahood. This representation of the Buddha in our banner reflects Indian hieratic tradition in every detail. He is shown seated on a large scarlet lotus, with the left hand raised in the attitude of ‘protection’ (abhaya-mudrā).25 A crimson under-robe, with light blue lining, covers legs and right shoulder, while a brown mantle lined with light green is thrown over the bare left. The finely drawn face, with arched black brows and level eyes, shows no trace of Chinese influence. Throughout the drawing is firm and clear in the smallest details and the workmanship very delicate.

The banner reproduced in the middle (Ch. 0071) has survived only in badly broken fragments, but even thus claims attention for several qualities. Though of the topmost scene little else remains but the figure of the seated Prince Gautama, it can, on the strength of other closely corresponding scenes, be safely recognized as representing the farewell in the forest from his horse Kaṇṭhaka and its groom Chandaka,26 after the prince’s flight from his father’s palace. Lower down we are shown in an excellently composed scene the pursuit of the mounted messengers sent by his father Śuddhodana to search after him in the forest. The group of five horsemen with heads turned towards each other as if baffled as to the track to follow are plunging behind a forested hill to the left. The drawing of men and horses is very spirited and the movement of both vividly expressed.

In the bottom scene we may recognize with some probability a representation of the First Sermon in the Deer Park of Benares. Śākyamuni, in Buddha robes, with halo and vesica and gilded flesh, is seated on a lotus upon a chased throne. Over him hangs a draped canopy supported by a pair of red-flowering star-leaved trees just as Paradise pictures show them. Of three monks standing behind the throne the shaven heads are visible. In front kneel the audience—three men with high topknots and gay party-coloured jackets and long under-robes. With their faces raised towards the Enlightened One they seem to listen intently to his teaching. Throughout the colouring is ornate and carefully applied in illuminating style.




The banner reproduced on the right (Ch. xx. 008) on a scale almost full size belongs to a well-defined series of banners, all of the same style and workmanship, illustrating scenes from the story of Gautama Buddha.27 The scenes are all simple in design and divided from each other by low hill ranges. Their number in our banner is only three, as shown also by the three cartouches, all left blank.

The top scene shows King Śuddhodana seated on the verandah of his palace and giving instructions to the mounted messenger to be dispatched in search of Prince Gautama after his flight from the palace. The figure, short and squat, of the messenger is characteristic of the whole series; that of the horse, compact and heavy in build, suggests a type like that of the present Mongol pony. In the next scene we see the messenger engaged on his quest, carrying a red pennon and galloping to the left. The rapid movement of the horse, here bay with red spots and white mane and tail, is effectively rendered.

The scene below represents the messenger returning and reporting to the king the futility of his search. Śuddhodana is seen as before seated on the palace verandah while two musicians outside beguile him with flute and pipe. Further down in the foreground are shown an enclosure, containing a lotus tank and a bamboo tree, and outside its entrance a small hexagonal structure with an oblong yellow object within. Higher up kneels a white-coated man playing on clappers. The significance of the objects in the foreground is not clear. The drawing, though rough, shows vigour, and the general effect is bold and in the more active scenes full of character.

On the left of this banner is reproduced, on half-scale, what remains of the left-hand portion of an interesting but unfortunately much-damaged large painting on silk (Ch. 0059). The colour of the original is remarkably strong and the subject unusual. It represented, when complete, the figure of Śākyamuni standing erect in the grotto of the Vulture Peak (Gṛdhrakūṭa), famous in the story of the Buddha, and by his side Jātaka scenes of a type not met with elsewhere among our paintings and so far unidentified. Though only the right shoulder and arm of the Buddha figure survive, there can be no doubt about its iconographic character. The rocks, dark blue and brown, which appear piled behind and above, with the vulture perched on the top, would render this quite certain.

The identification is fully confirmed by the pose of the Buddha. The arm hanging stiffly downwards at full length and slightly away from the body, with fingers also stretched straight down, is seen again in the central Buddha of the great embroidery picture of Plate xxxiv and in the figure undoubtedly representing Śākyamuni on Gṛdhrakūṭa, which the painting shown in Plate xiv reproduces among other Indian statues of Buddha. The representation in the embroidery picture is recalled also by the deep yellow colour of the flesh in our painting as well as by the shape and certain details in the canopy. The elongated vesica, cobalt blue in its border, and the light green and vermilion nimbus are both edged with flames and cloud scrolls in vermilion and dark blue. More true to nature than the vulture on the top is the flight of wild geese and ducks shown above.

A disciple with shaven head, probably Śāriputra, stands by the side of Śākyamuni and turns towards him. He shows an unconventional type of features drawn with much vigour. The head is long and high at the back, with well-defined ‘corners’ there and over the forehead. The large nose, bushy eyebrows, and long pointed chin give a strongly marked character to the head. It is set off by a circular halo of brilliant vermilion. The costume, too, is peculiar; it consists of an under-robe of vermilion and light green, black shoes upturned at the toes, and a large mantle of mottled dark green, blue, and red, which covers both shoulders and arms.


The legendary scenes which appear on the side of the painting are preserved in a very fragmentary condition and still await interpretation. But that they are connected with a statue representing Śākyamuni on the Vulture Peak seems clear. In the background of the top scene there appears a statue of a Buddha in the same pose as the central figure, with the right arm stretched down stiffly. To the left, in front of a building (temple?), stands a shaven priest, pointing out the statue with his raised arm to passers-by below. In the foreground is seen a man in brown coat and top boots riding a mule with its legs hidden behind hilly ground. Behind him a white elephant, with a load of yellow objects, but rider or driver no longer visible, proceeds in the same direction to the left. On that side appear the roughly drawn figures of two men with black beards and shocks of black hair.

The next scene below is even more puzzling. In the middle are seen a pair of colossal hands rising from the ground and enclosing a human head in red. To the right four conical objects, suggesting tents and striped horizontally, form a row; a large vermilion pennon is shown above one of them. Behind them a man on a dark grey horse is seen riding rapidly. His right arm is raised as if to strike, and two mounted attendants follow him. The foreground to the left shows on a green slope a row of unexplained leaf-shaped objects, and above this two semi-naked figures incomplete.

Very curious is the bottom scene. The God of Thunder appears above on a cloud within a ring of drums which he beats in violent movement. In the centre, before a background of rocks, is shown a large Buddha statue within a scaffolding of vermilion poles. That the statue represents Śākyamuni on Gṛdhrakūṭa is made certain by the downstretched right arm and also by the characteristic pose of the left hand, which gathers up the drapery in an ‘ear’ at the breast, just as the figure in Plates xiv and xxxiv shows it. On either side of the scaffolding is perched a man, busy with his hands at the statue’s head and steadying himself with one foot at its shoulder. At the back of a building on the left a man seems to give instructions to the workers, while at the foot of the statue there squats a small figure with arms and legs outspread like the Thunder-god’s. The latter’s figure in fury is shown again by a small detached fragment below.

For a conjectural explanation of the scaffolding, which might be connected with some miraculous translation of a sacred statue, reference to Serindia must suffice here.28 But whatever the legend represented in our side scenes may prove to be, we cannot fail to note the striking contrast between the stiff hieratic image and the life and vigour in the rest of the picture.



The large but unfortunately poorly preserved silk painting (Ch. xxii. 0023), of which this Plate reproduces remains of the left-side portion, on the scale of one-third, presents exceptional iconographic interest. It shows numerous Buddha and Bodhisattva images arranged in separate compartments and drawn in an Indian style which is unmistakably derived from the Graeco-Buddhist art of Gandhāra. As first recognized by M. Petrucci from the few Chinese inscriptions still legible in the cartouches,29 the figures were intended to reproduce sculptured images worshipped at various sacred sites of India. Eleven of them appear in the portion of the painting as shown by the Plate, and seven more are traceable partly above this portion or in detached fragments.30 In the case of six the characteristic poses or attributes enable us at present to identify with certainty the particular{27} divinity which the original images were intended to represent. For others definite clues have yet to be searched for.

The figure in the top corner on the left reproduces an image of Gautama Bodhisattva, seated in the famous scene of Māra’s attack immediately preceding the Illumination. This is shown by the characteristic pose of the hand touching the rocky seat bhūmisparśa-mudrā and by the triple monster head forming a crown over the Bodhisattva’s head and symbolizing the demon army of Māra. It was in that pose that the miraculous image at the sacred site of Bōdh-Gayā, described at length by the great Chinese pilgrim Hsüan-tsang and still traceable in numberless replicas, presented Śākyamuni at the moment of Enlightenment. The identification of our figure with this far-famed image is confirmed by the Chinese inscription placed against it which describes it as a statue in the kingdom of Magadha. In the figure now seen in the top right-hand corner we meet again with a Bodhisattva seated in the bhūmisparśa-mudrā. His robe is like that of a Buddha and red. Two white crescents are shown within the nimbus, which, like the vesica, is flame-edged. Here, too, a fortunate chance has preserved the accompanying inscription from effacement. According to M. Petrucci it mentions as the original a silver image preserved in the kingdom of Kapiśa, which corresponds to the region of the present Kābul.31

Iconographic indications define four more of the images represented. The figure in the middle of the topmost row shows the statue of a Buddha standing with the right hand raised in the pose of ‘Protection’ and surrounded by an elliptical vesica which is filled with rows of small Buddhas standing in the same pose and visible from the breast upwards. The whole agrees in all details, down to the folds of the drapery, with two colossal stucco relievo statues excavated by me in 1901 on the southern corner walls of the great Rawak Vihāra of Khotan.32 Of these and similar representations on a much smaller scale in Gandhāra relievos M. Foucher has proved that they are meant to exhibit Śākyamuni in the act of performing the Great Miracle of Śrāvastī.33 In another standing figure, the one on the right of the middle row, the introduction of a pair of gazelles or deer into the ogee top of the vesica proves that an image representing Śākyamuni in the Deer Park of Benares, the scene of the First Sermon, is intended. The richly adorned standing figure of a Bodhisattva in the bottom row, holding the characteristic emblems of the lotus and flask, is certainly an Avalokiteśvara, and the presence by his side of various small attendant figures may yet help to the exact identification of the image intended.

Special iconographic interest attaches to the standing Buddha figure in the right-hand bottom corner of the Plate. Its hieratic pose of peculiar stiffness, the treatment of the drapery and what remains of the background of speckled rocks, leave no doubt as to the identity of the figure with the image of Śākyamuni on the Vulture Peak, which is represented in striking similarity also by the fine painting of Plate xiii previously discussed and by the embroidery picture of Plate xxxiv. The vulture shown in the former makes it quite certain that the background of all three paintings represents the famous rocky hill near Rājagṛha or Rājgir in Bihār, where ancient tradition localized various episodes of Śākyamuni’s later life. There is no inscription to tell us where the Indian image which all three representations were intended to reproduce was assumed to be. But the absolute identity of the pose, and the extraordinarily close resemblance of all details in the treatment of drapery, hair, dress, &c., prove all three to be replicas from the same model. That this was a sculpture in the Graeco-Buddhist style is obvious at a glance.

The rigid adherence in details to a common original model which is proved in this particular case supports confidence in the general fidelity with which the other figures, too, in our painting may be assumed to reproduce the original images represented. A close parallel is furnished by the miniatures in certain Nepalese manuscripts of the eleventh{28} century which illustrate various sacred images and shrines of Buddhist India. M. Foucher has conclusively proved that their painters, in all that concerns essential points, have always been at pains to reproduce faithfully the stereotyped models furnished by long-continued traditional imagery.34

In what form our painter had received the types he thus conventionally reproduced is uncertain. But the clearly preserved Graeco-Buddhist style shows that they were indirectly derived from Gandhāra, and early transmission through Central Asia is obviously most probable. The question may be hazarded whether the votive object aimed at in the painting and its assumed prototype was not that of securing the religious merit which might have attached to an actual pilgrimage to those distant sacred sites. The drawing in mere outlines with little or scarcely any colour, similar to the technique of certain Khotanese mural paintings, and the perished state of whole portions of the silk seem to point to the painting being of early date.



The predominant share which the Bodhisattvas claim in popular Buddhist worship as developed under Mahāyāna influences is illustrated by the fact that about one-half of our Ch‘ien-fo-tung paintings are devoted to their representation, whether singly or along with attendant divinities. However large may be in devout speculation the number of different Bodhisattvas, popular imagination had already in the North-Indian home of the Mahāyāna system been concentrated upon a small select group of Bodhisattvas. Among them Avalokiteśvara, the Bodhisattva of Mercy, occupies the foremost place, and the frequency of his representations among our Tun-huang paintings is just as marked as the popularity of his female manifestation, known to the Chinese as Kuan-yin, to the Japanese as Kwannon, the Goddess of Pity, is in modern Buddhist worship throughout the Far East.

The large and fairly well-preserved painting (Ch. xxxviii. 005), reproduced on the scale of one-third in Plate xv, presents two almost life-size figures of Avalokiteśvara standing erect and facing each other. Their outer hands are raised in the vitarka-mudrā, while the Bodhisattva on the left carries in the other hand a yellow flower, and the one on the right a flask and a willow sprig. These are well-known attributes of Avalokiteśvara.35 Which of his many particular forms are intended may be determined from the inscribed cartouche above, of which no translation is as yet available.

The figures, drawn with much care and painted in a wealth of harmonious colours, reflect a certain grandeur of design which breaks through the hieratic conventions of pose and externals. Except for the oblique eyes these conventions are all unmistakably Indian in type and origin. But equally clear is the change, here seen in highly perfected technique, which their treatment has undergone by the eyes and hands of Chinese painters. We notice their distinctive touch quite as much in the grace and dignity of the features as in the mastery of sweeping line with which the rich robes of the Bodhisattvas are treated. The features are finely drawn and delicately shaded with pink; the ears are elongated and show hieratic convention in a particularly striking fashion. The fine drawing of the shapely hands curiously contrasts with the clumsy foreshortening of the feet.

Dress, coiffure, and jewellery are of the elaborate style, often displayed by our Bodhisattva banners;36 but the ornamentation, though carefully treated in detail, is not overdone. On the front of the tiaras is shown Avalokiteśvara’s Dhyāni-buddha, Amitābha. From lotus buds at their sides descend rainbow-coloured tassels. The garments comprise shawl-like stoles, lined with light green, under-robes of Indian red, and long skirts of orange{29} hue. A white girdle is held round the hips by a jewelled belt; its end hangs down in front of the skirt and is tied below in a butterfly knot. From a heavy gold necklet descend jewelled chains, which are gathered together by a large circular jewel at the waist, and then part again to loop up the skirt about the knees. A jewelled anklet seems to gather the end of the under-robe above the feet, and these in either figure are set upon a pair of open lotuses. On the outer sides of the figures gracefully drawn flowers and leaves are shown as if floating down gently through the air.



This well-preserved large silk painting (Ch. lv. 0023), reproduced here on a scale of two-fifths, offers special interest.37 It is the oldest exactly dated painting in the Collection, the dedicatory inscription below indicating the year corresponding to a.d. 864. It also combines in a curious fashion hieratic conventions of Indian origin, such as prevail in the row of four Avalokiteśvara figures ranged stiffly side by side in the upper half, with the more Chinese and more animate treatment of others in the lower half. There the Bodhisattvas Samantabhadra and Mañjuśrī are represented in procession advancing towards each other on lotus seats carried by their respective ‘Vāhanas’, the white elephant with six tusks and the lion, and accompanied by their attendants, just as we have already seen them in the more sumptuous compositions of Plates iii and iv. Samantabhadra has his hands raised in the vitarka-mudrā and Mañjuśrī in the pose of adoration. Their dress, ornaments, circular haloes, &c., as well as their cortèges, here limited to two lesser Bodhisattvas carrying three-tiered umbrellas and a dark-skinned Indian attendant leading the divinity’s mount, all show very close agreement with the types displayed in those large paintings. These conventions are shared also by the single Bodhisattva figures in many fine silk banners of the Collection,38 and our dated picture proves them to have been already fully established by the middle of the ninth century.

In contrast to these two Bodhisattvas, always easily identified, only the short Chinese inscriptions by the side of the four Avalokiteśvaras above can tell us which particular form of this most popular Bodhisattva is to be recognized in each figure.39 All are practically alike in pose and dress except for some minor differences. All carry a red or red and white lotus in one hand, and all, except the Avalokiteśvara on the extreme left, a flask in the other. The dress comprises a long reddish-pink under-robe girt round the waist and reaching to the feet; a short tight upper skirt and a deep plastron passing over breast and shoulders. On the upper arms are close-fitting sleeves, half covered by armlets. Pink drapery hangs behind the shoulders and a narrow stole of green and red passes round them; thence it winds stiffly about the arms and ripples to the ground. The figure of the Dhyāni-buddha Amitābha appears on the tiara.

In all the details just mentioned these Avalokiteśvaras attach themselves to a class of Bodhisattva figures, largely represented among our banners, which reproduce characteristic Indian conventions in physical type, dress, pose, and flesh colouring with sufficient closeness to deserve the general designation of ‘Indian’.40 Their juxtaposition with the more ‘Chinese’ Bodhisattvas in the lower half of our painting is instructive as helping to bring out the distinctions of the two types.

In the narrow panel below we see ranged on either side of the dedicatory inscription{30} the donors and their ladies. The Chinese inscriptions attached to them acquaint us with their persons.41 On the right kneels the father attired as a monk with his three sons kneeling in secular dress behind him. On the left are shown two nuns, members of the family, and behind them two ladies, wives of two of the sons. To the interest presented by the costumes of the secular figures I have had already occasion to allude.42 The fashion represented in the dress and coiffure of the two ladies is particularly instructive as affording indications for the approximate dating of other paintings which show donatrix figures. The moderate width of the sleeves and the absence of ornaments in the head-dress distinguish this fashion of a.d. 864 very strikingly from that presented by the donatrices in tenth-century pictures. On the other hand, we see on the men’s heads the wide-brimmed black hats of the latter side by side with a stiff black cap of a manifestly earlier type.



The large silk painting (Ch. lvi. 0019), reproduced in this Plate on a scale of slightly less than one-fourth of the original, may rank among the richest of the Collection in respect of decorative effect and colouring, and fortunately has survived in very fair preservation. It represents Avalokiteśvara in his thousand-armed and eleven-headed form, surrounded by numerous groups of divinities constituting his ‘Maṇḍala’. The scheme is repeated on somewhat simpler lines in another fine painting, shown by Plate xlii. Elaborate as its representation is in ours, its interpretation is facilitated by the Chinese inscriptions attached to all the principal divine figures which appear in attendance on the great Bodhisattva of Mercy. Helped by these inscriptions M. Petrucci has been able to discuss at length the numerous and interesting questions of iconographic detail which are raised by figures in this and similar sumptuous compositions, and to his explanations and to the full description contained in Serindia reference may conveniently be made here.43

In the centre of the painting we see Avalokiteśvara’s large figure surrounded by a nimbus-like disc. This is formed by his outer hands making up the theoretical number of a thousand, and each showing an open eye marked on the palm. Avalokiteśvara’s thousand arms, arranged in this fashion, are well known, too, to the later Buddhist iconography of India and meant to symbolize the merciful divinity’s desire to save all human beings at the same time. The Bodhisattva is shown seated on a lotus and under a richly tasselled canopy. His inner hands, apart from the four in front, hold a multiplicity of well-known sacred emblems, including the discs of the Sun and Moon, flasks of ambrosia, conch, willow spray, trident, Vajra, the Wheel of the Law, mace, &c. From the centre pair of inner hands a shaft of rainbow light streams upwards. His flesh is yellow, as usual, shaded with pink; his hair blue, of the same shade as the general background. Of the small subsidiary heads, two of demonic appearance are shown by the side of the ears and the rest in three tiers above the tiara.

Among the attendant divinities we see at the top of the canopy the Bodhisattvas of the Sun and Moon seated behind their five white geese and five white horses respectively. In the upper corners appear on finely painted clouds the ‘Buddhas of the ten quarters of the Universe’, arranged as all the attendant deities in symmetrical groups. Below them are seated pairs of Bodhisattvas with elaborate flower-decked haloes and nimbi. Beneath them come on the right Indra with three attendants, and on the left Brahman with two. All are shown kneeling and wearing Chinese official dress of a rich type. Beneath again are shown two monstrous divinities, both unmistakably Śivaitic. On the right Mahākāla{31} with three heads and six arms reclines on the back of Śiva’s bull. On the left Maheśvara, of demonic appearance, stands with legs apart upon a crocodile-headed snake; his middle hands grasp pike and cords which hold two half-naked humans.

Below the lotus seat of Avalokiteśvara are seen emaciated pretas or beings in hell clutching with outstretched hands at showers of white grains (ambrosia) which Avalokiteśvara pours on them. In front of his lotus seat lies a tank in which stand two stalwart Nāgas upholding the stem of the lotus. They are in human shape, but carry above their heads a crest formed of five snake-heads, their ancient Indian emblem. Besides smaller Nāga figures of the same type the tank holds an infant soul (now almost destroyed) rising from a lotus.

The bottom corners are occupied on each side by a larger group of attendants. The central figure in each case is a four-armed female divinity of beneficent aspect, dressed like a Bodhisattva and seated on a bird. The one on the right rides on a phoenix and is followed by a Buddha. The female deity behind him is of interest, as from the children in her arms she may be recognized as the goddess Hāritī, whom a pious Indian legend represents as a wicked ogress converted into a patroness of children.44 The female divinity on the left is riding on a peacock, with two attendants behind her who in the absence of attributes or inscriptions remain unidentified. Lower down on either side are seen standing two Lokapālas, Kings of the Quarters, in armour, and in each of the bottom corners a demonic Vajrapāṇi, six-armed and serpent-decked, straddling against a background of flames. At the feet of each sits a smaller demon with a boar’s head. Before the Lokapālas and close to the edge of the tank are seated on the right an emaciated old man in ascetic garb, and on the left a richly-robed nymph offering flowers. Both these figures, described elsewhere as the ‘Sage of the Air (?)’ and ‘Nymph of Virtue’, are with particular clearness seen again in Plate xlii.

On the iconographic side the interest of this sumptuous presentation of Avalokiteśvara’s ‘Maṇḍala’ is obvious, were it only for the appearance in it of such Śivaitic deities as Mahākāla and Maheśvara. These aptly illustrate the influence which Hindu mythology, even in its later development, continued to exercise on the Buddhist Pantheon of Central Asia and the Far East. On the artistic side attention is claimed by the skill shown in the ordinance of the whole and the drawing of individual figures. But it is in particular the highly effective colour treatment which makes this picture rank with the most impressive in the Collection.



It is to qualities very different from those of the preceding picture that the figure of a standing Avalokiteśvara (Ch. 0091), reproduced in Plate xviii in half the size of the original, owes its special charm. The silk painting has lost portions of its sides and the whole below the knees of the figure, and the colouring throughout has much faded. But the disappearance of paint helps to bring out more clearly the excellence of the design and the very delicate drawing of figure and features. With workmanship showing mastery of a fully established technique in details, the painting combines an air of individual feeling which makes its subject one of the finest single figures amongst our Ch‘ien-fo-tung paintings.

Avalokiteśvara stands facing the spectator, with head erect but eyes downcast. His pose, with the weight thrown on the right hip and the body aslant to the left shoulder, is characteristically Indian. The head is that of a young man and shows marked influence of Gandhāra art in its features. The nose is long and straight, the brow high, and the eyes only slightly oblique. The moderately arched eyebrows sweep in a slightly recurved line{32} to the outer edge of the brow. The thinner cheeks and more natural proportion of the features give to the face a distinct individuality which those of the conventional semi-feminine Bodhisattvas lack. The expression is meditative and remote, the pose graceful and dignified at the same time. The right hand is raised in the vitarka-mudrā at the breast with a willow spray between the thumb and fingers; the left hanging by the side holds the flask and a twining spray with pink flowers.

The attire and head-dress are of the conventional style associated with the Bodhisattva type which has above been designated as ‘Chinese’. The Dhyāni-buddha Amitābha is shown on the front of the tiara, which is a simple circlet ornamented with flaming jewels and long tassels at the ears. The hair done in double-leaf form appears above it. Instead of the under-robe a light red scarf is thrown over the breast. A stole of grey and olive green, much faded, clings to shoulders and upper arms and is festooned across the front of the figure. From the waist descends the skirt, apparently brown.

In the right lower corner appear two small figures kneeling and holding lotus buds. They represent evidently donors, a boy and a girl. The way in which their hair is dressed, the boy’s parted and tied in a double bunch on either side of the head and the girl’s parted and tied behind, is not usual in our paintings. The plain long-sleeved robes covering the figures from neck to feet afford no clue to the dating.



The Bodhisattva of Mercy presents himself again, standing and without attendants, in the two silk paintings which this Plate reproduces on the scale of two-fifths of the originals. In both the portion of the figure below the knees is lost. The painting on the left (Ch. xxii. 0030) shows a good example of the Bodhisattva type which above we have referred to as ‘Chinese’, executed with much skill and refinement.

Avalokiteśvara, facing three-fourths to the right, raises the willow spray in his right hand, while the left at the waist carries the flask. The movement shown in the tassels of the canopy above the halo suggests that the figure was intended as walking; it is drawn particularly soft and full. The low forehead, full cheeks, small mouth and chin, and oblique eyes under highly arched eyebrows are characteristic of the type. The hair is black and descends in a love-lock by the ear. In front of the tasselled tiara stands the Dhyāni-buddha Amitābha with the right hand raised in the pose of ‘Protection’. Above the skirt, which forms an overfall at the waist, is shown an under-robe rising only to the breasts. A stole of fine dull blue forms the chief note of colour in the picture. The jewellery is elaborate and plentifully studded with pale pink stones. The cartouche to the right is filled with a Chinese inscription containing a salutation to Kuan-yin.

In the other painting (Ch. lvi. 0016) Avalokiteśvara is shown facing three-fourths to the left with both arms raised from the elbows. His hands here, too, hold willow spray and flask, but in reversed order. The upper portion of the head is lost; what remains of the features, including the eyes fixed in a straight gaze to the front, shows delicate drawing. The flesh is white shaded with pink. Over a crimson under-robe and orange-red skirt descends in ample folds a stole of olive green. To the usual heavy jewellery is added a small string of beads round the neck. The workmanship is clean and sure.




The fine silk painting (Ch. xviii. 003) reproduced here on a scale of a little over two-thirds of the original is a work of considerable artistic merit and is without a pendant in the Collection. It shows a standing Avalokiteśvara painted in a style which shows affinity to the ‘Indian’ type of Bodhisattva figures previously mentioned but has marked peculiarities of its own. The picture is complete, but the bare upper part of the figure painted with dull red outlines and comparatively faint pink colouring has unfortunately much faded, while the more solid and brilliant colours of the dress and jewellery are well preserved and in consequence now absorb a disproportionate share of attention.

Avalokiteśvara stands facing the spectator with his feet planted on the bright green centres of two open dark-pink lotuses. His face, turned slightly towards the right shoulder with eyes downcast, bears an expression of serious mildness, as if of comprehending pity. The hair about the forehead is shown in pale blue, the eyebrows light green. Eyelashes, pupils of eyes, and the dividing line of lips, being painted in black, stand out distinctly among the otherwise faded features. Both arms are raised at the elbow, the right holding the willow spray over the shoulder, while the left carries on the open palm a short flask of blue and pink. The dress consists mainly of brilliant scarlet sprinkled with small blue trefoils and tied at the waist with a narrow blue girdle. A green sash is also loosely knotted round the hips. A long narrow stole of dark pink lined with green winds round the body from the left shoulder and flutters about the arms. White draperies descend from behind the head and shoulders.

The head-dress consists of a gilded circlet with a ball over the forehead supporting the Dhyāni-buddha’s figure, and behind this of a tall cylindrical piece in dark pink and green surmounted by what may be meant for a topknot of hair but is now almost effaced. The rich jewellery is set with stones of bright scarlet, blue, and copper green, and hung with strings of pearls. A large greenish disc wreathed with scarlet flames forms a nimbus. Open lotus flowers are seen floating down in the air. The Chinese inscription in the left top corner describes the painting as the gift of a son in memory of his father, without recording the date of its dedication.



The figure of Avalokiteśvara which this Plate shows us on the scale of one-third of the original silk painting (Ch. liii. 005), well preserved except for the extreme top and bottom, shares with the Bodhisattvas of ‘Indian’ style characteristic features of physical type, pose, and dress. But the air of grace and gentleness which the Chinese painter has here infused into the formality of their conventions invests the figure with a peculiar charm and raises it well above their average level as a work of art.

We see Avalokiteśvara standing with the slender-waisted body inclined from the left shoulder and its weight thrown on the right hip in characteristic Indian pose. But the stiffness of this attitude, just as that of certain traditionally fixed details in the dress, is transformed by sweeping Chinese brush lines. The figure stands slightly to the left, with the eyes gazing down and the hands holding the usual attributes of the willow spray and the flask. The face is short and round, the mouth slightly larger than usual, with a tiny moustache and a tuft of beard indicated below by a small curl. The eyes are wide apart{34} and almost level, but with a finely recurved line added to the eyelids. The flesh is white shaded with red.

Over a long orange skirt, draped in conventional folds, the Bodhisattva wears a short and tight over-skirt of Indian red, sprinkled with blue and white rosettes. Over it is festooned a narrow cord-like band hanging in loops and streamers by the sides. The costume is completed by an olive-green girdle, a red scarf across the breast, and a narrow stole of dark chocolate colour descending from about the arms to the feet. The richly jewelled ornaments agree in general type with those seen on the four ‘Indian’ Bodhisattvas of Plate xvi, but the Dhyāni-buddha is absent from the tiara. The slate-blue outer border of the nimbus is ornamented with a ring of ‘enclosed palmettes’ in blue and white, as often seen elsewhere in Bodhisattva haloes.



In both the silk paintings which this Plate reproduces on the scale of three-sevenths, we see Avalokiteśvara represented in ‘Indian’ style and beside or below him the donors. In the picture on the left (Ch. liv. 006) the figure of the standing Bodhisattva is treated on very formal lines, typical of the ‘Indian’ style already repeatedly mentioned, and the colouring in bright crude tints solidly laid on is equally characteristic. Apart from the hieratic stiffness of the whole figure and pose it will suffice to call attention to such peculiar features as the narrow band descending from the head-dress to the knees and festooned in front of the body, and the loose locks of hair which hang over the shoulders. The hair is painted ultramarine, the flesh white and shaded with vermilion. The eyebrows raised disproportionately high over the almost straight eyes are, as often elsewhere, shown green. Avalokiteśvara stands on a large scarlet and white lotus which floats on a lake or stream. Behind him on green land is shown a row of tall bamboos filling the background.

To the left of the Bodhisattva appears standing the figure of the nun whom one of the Chinese inscriptions names as the donatrix, with a date corresponding to a.d. 910.45 She wears a wide-sleeved yellow under-robe with flowered band across her breast and a purplish-brown mantle. Her close-cropped hair is shown in ultramarine, and her hands carry a censer. Opposite to her stands a boy offering a scarlet lotus on a dish; he wears a long-skirted dark brown coat slit at the side and showing wide white trousers underneath. M. Petrucci recognizes in him the nun’s defunct younger brother, whom the dedicatory inscription associates with her votive gift.

The picture on the right (Ch. xl. 008) is in perfect condition and represents Avalokiteśvara, six-armed and seated, together with side scenes and donors. His upper hands hold up discs emblematic of the Sun and Moon, showing a three-legged bird and a tree respectively; the middle hands are raised on either side of the breast in the vitarka-mudrā, while the lower hands with rosary and flask rest on the knees. In front of him is placed a small draped altar with flasks and a covered dish. The Bodhisattva’s figure, within the limitations imposed by the conventional treatment, is very carefully drawn and the colouring well preserved and unusual. It consists mainly of terra-cotta red on the garments (excepting the stole, which is very dark brownish olive), and of white shaded with light pink on the flesh. A harsh yellow is used for the jewellery, while the ground throughout is left in the dark greenish-brown of the silk.

Down the sides are shown, in animated and expressive drawing of purely Chinese style, scenes representing Calamities from which Avalokiteśvara miraculously saves his{35} worshippers.46 On the right above we see a man, naked except for a loin-cloth, threatened with having his head cut off. Lower down two men are fleeing with their arms over their heads, while a thunder-cloud in the sky, represented like a monstrous Nāga, showers black drops on them. Below a man stands calmly in a pyramid of flame into which another behind appears to have pushed him. On the left above a man is being pushed by another over a precipice; but half-way down he is seen again composedly seated on a cloud. The next scene shows a man kneeling in an arched recess with his head in a cangue, while in front of him are wooden instruments for fettering feet and hands. At the bottom stands a man looking calm although surrounded by a snake, scorpion, and an animal apparently meant for a tiger.

In the bottom portion of the painting are shown the donors, on either side of a cartouche intended for a dedicatory inscription. Their figures are drawn with much care and offer good examples of costumes belonging to the tenth century. Of the men on the right the one in front holds a censer and the other a lotus bud between his hands joined in adoration. On the left kneels a lady in a wide big-sleeved robe; her hair is held by a central framework and big pins, painted in pink and white, but lacks the usual flowers and leaves. Behind her stands a boy in long white trousers and a flowered pink and white tunic, with his hair parted and ornamented on the top by a big bow.



The large silk painting (Ch. xxvi. 001) of which this Plate is a half-size reproduction was in its original condition a very fine composition, but has suffered much damage. The lower end has been destroyed by fire, the right edge is lost, and several large holes show where dark green paint has corroded the silk. Much of the colouring is gone; yet in spite of all these vicissitudes enough remains to prove the refined design of the whole and the sureness of the drawing.

The picture shows a six-armed Avalokiteśvara seated on a large white lotus in the attitude known as that of ‘royal ease’, with the right knee raised and the head inclined over the right shoulder. This characteristically ‘Indian’ pose corresponds to the slim-waisted body and the dress of ‘Indian’ Bodhisattva type. It is only in figures of the latter that we find the flower-ornamented caps over the knees here seen. The upper hands with gracefully curved fingers are raised towards the head; of the middle ones the right is raised before the breast in the vitarka-mudrā, while the left is held below palm up; the lower hands hang down below the knees. No emblems are displayed, except the Dhyāni-buddha in the front of the tiara, which appears as a high solid cone of chased bronze.

The ornamentation of the circular halo and nimbus is very elaborate and effective. Vandyke and flower patterns fill the former, waving rays the nimbus. One continuous flame border outlines the free edges of both, while a broad band of white surrounds them and encloses the whole figure in a circle of light. A string of small flowers seen in profile defines the outer edge of this circle.

Above it is seen a canopy set with flaming jewels. On either side of this appears a small Bodhisattva seated on a lotus which grows on a twining stem. Two corresponding figures occupying the bottom corners are all but destroyed.

In the colouring different shades of red and green prevailed, together with white; but the last, as well as the yellow on Avalokiteśvara’s flesh, has been rubbed off in most places.




The two pictures reproduced here both represent Avalokiteśvara and are painted on paper; but their interest varies greatly in character. The one on the right (Ch. i. 009, scale two-thirds of original) shows the Bodhisattva sitting by the water on a bank under willows. This representation of Avalokiteśvara is found only in one other picture of our collection and claims special iconographic interest because, as Mr. Binyon points out, according to Far-Eastern tradition ‘it was an Emperor of the Sung period who first in a dream saw’ Avalokiteśvara as he is here depicted ‘and commanded the dream to be painted; but, no doubt, the subject is of earlier origin’.47 We shall see below that in the case of Kṣitigarbha, too, the evidence of the Ch‘ien-fo-tung paintings proves a certain iconographic type to have developed earlier than Japanese tradition would lead us to assume.

Avalokiteśvara, dressed and adorned in the style of an ‘Indian’ Bodhisattva, is seated with the right foot tucked under and the left pendent, resting on an open lotus which rises from the water. His right hand holds a willow branch and his left the usual emblem of the flask. The whole figure is enclosed in a large circular halo drawn in red outline. A group of conventional willow trees fills the right segment of the halo and rises above it. On the opposite side there appears above on a cloud the small-scale figure of a man in a Chinese magistrate’s robes and head-dress, kneeling with hands joined in adoration. Two boys wearing their hair in rolls behind the neck stand at his back. A draped canopy extends across the upper end of the picture. At its bottom, on the bank bordering the water, is shown an altar. Flanking it on the right appears the donor, carrying a censer and wearing the black coat and wide-brimmed hat characteristic of tenth-century male costume. Four cartouches distributed over the picture have remained uninscribed.

The drawing is careful and the execution superior notwithstanding the simplicity of the colour scheme, restricted mainly to scarlet, light blue, and pale green.

The picture reproduced on the left (Ch. 0054), on the scale of three-fifths of the original, has some interesting peculiarities. Above we see seated on a rectangular platform a Bodhisattva who from the attendant divinities and the emblem, a tall vase, held by the one to his right, may safely be assumed to represent Avalokiteśvara. His dress, coiffure, and accessories are those of Bodhisattva figures of the type above distinguished as ‘Chinese’. The decoration of the platform, which, as the lions’ heads appearing in pairs below within arched openings show, is meant for a siṃhāsana or ‘lion’s throne’, reproduces textile patterns manifestly influenced by ‘Sassanian’ models.

The presentation of only the left half of the god’s ‘Maṇḍala’ is an unusual feature but accounted for by the narrow shape of the painting, no doubt intended for a banner. It comprises below two Bodhisattvas standing in adoration, next a pair of haloed monks, above them two Lokapālas, and at the top a trident-carrying demon. One of the Lokapālas is characterized by his jewelled mace as Virūḍhaka, Regent of the South. To the right of the central deity and below the canopy three infants are shown kneeling on a cloud and playing on flute, mouth-organ, and clappers. Below them again and by the side of the large halo stands a small Bodhisattva, also carried on a cloud and clasping the tall vase already referred to. It is stoppered and mottled blue and white, obviously in imitation of glazed ceramic ware.

The lower portion of the painting is filled by a procession moving to the left and comprising a high Chinese dignitary in the centre and his numerous retinue. In this central figure, who is attended by two men holding crossed fans over his head and is obviously the donor, we may in all probability recognize one of those local chiefs who, as we know from Chinese historical notices and inscriptions, ruled the region of Tun-huang in the ninth and{37} tenth centuries as hereditary governors under the suzerainty of the Emperors.48 This personage, over a trailing white under-robe, wears a black jacket ornamented with symbols in yellow, of which the discs emblematic of the Sun and the Moon, a pair of rampant dragons, and the Svastika can be made out quite clearly. He alone appears as a worshipper, and an elaborate head-dress of peculiar shape marks his high rank.

In his cortège we see officials wearing white under-robes and black jackets with various formal patterns of a stiff black head-dress. Three among them carry long swords before them, pointed downwards, while two hold rolls of paper. One of the latter, walking beside the chief, is represented as a mere boy and may perhaps be a son. Two others in somewhat different costume, including shirts of mail under shorter jackets, walk a little apart. The two fan-bearers are attired in short jackets and white trousers, and on the feet of the coarsely drawn figure to the right we notice string sandals of exactly the same type as attested by plentiful specimens among my finds from the Tun-huang Limes.

There can be no doubt that the lower portion of the picture, with its animated if rather rough drawing, represents a scene such as old Tun-huang must have often witnessed on ceremonial occasions. It is hence specially to be regretted that the absence of any dedicatory inscription leaves us in ignorance of the date and the particular local chief represented.



Both the paintings of this Plate represent Kṣitigarbha, Avalokiteśvara’s only possible rival in popularity among the Bodhisattvas of the Buddhist Pantheon of the Far East. Though well known in China as Ti-tsang and in Japan as Jizō, yet his early and frequent appearance among the Ch‘ien-fo-tung paintings was something of a surprise, considering that neither in Indian nor in Central-Asian Buddhism does his figure play a prominent part. Among the Bodhisattvas represented in our banners he is always clearly distinguished by the shaven head of the monk and the barred or mottled mantle, the mendicant’s garment.49 Other paintings help to illustrate the several aspects of his character which account for his still prevailing popularity in the Far East.

‘There he is still worshipped as one of the Eight Great Bodhisattvas. Through countless incarnations he has been working for the salvation of living beings, and he is in especial honoured as the breaker of the powers of hell. With his pilgrim’s staff he strikes upon the doors of hell and opens them, and with the lustrous pearl which he carries he illustrates its darkness. He is represented as Lord of the Six Worlds of Desire, the world of the Devas or heavenly spirits, of men and women, of Asuras or demons, of beings in hell, of Pretas or devils, and of animals; and also as the supreme Regent of Hell with the Ten Infernal Kings or Magistrates under him.’50

It is in this last-named character that we see Kṣitigarbha represented in the large silk painting (Ch. 0021) which is reproduced on the right of Plate xxv, on the scale of one-third. The Bodhisattva is seen seated on a rock covered with a figured cloth. His right foot rests on a lotus and the left is bent across. The left hand holds the mendicant’s staff over his shoulder, while the right, resting on the knee, supports a crystal ball. Over a green under-robe he wears a mantle of grey, mottled with black, red, and green, and barred with yellow. The traveller’s shawl, grey ornamented with a spot pattern in yellow, is bound round his head{38} and falls on his shoulders. Of the usual Bodhisattvas’ adornment only a jewelled necklace and bracelets appear. A multicoloured halo, edged with flames, forms the background to the figure, while above it hangs a canopy represented by flowered sprays and strings of jewels.

Down the two sides are ranged the ten Infernal Kings or Magistrates, seated at draped tables, on which scrolls of judgement are spread. Attendants wait on them in varying attitudes, taking instructions, delivering reports, holding fans, &c. With the exception of a fan-holder in demon shape, the attendants are all in secular Chinese dress. All the Judges but one wear Chinese magisterial costume: long under-robes, voluminous wide-sleeved coats of scarlet and white, and official head-dress in a variety of shapes, black, yellow, or white. The topmost Judge on the right is clad in full armour, with helmet and a coat of mail, fringed with tiger-skin, and reaching down to the feet.

In front of Kṣitigarbha is seated a white lion, faced by a monk raising his hands in adoration to the Bodhisattva. Further in the foreground we see a condemned soul, naked except for a loin-cloth, and wearing the cangue, led by an ox-headed mace-carrying demon. In a magic mirror he is made to see the crime for which he has been condemned—the murder of an ox. A cloud above the mirror marks the scene as a dream. Beside the mirror stands an attendant holding brush and scroll.

The numerous cartouches scattered about have been left uninscribed, or have become illegible. The same is the case with those by the donors’ figures at the foot of the picture. Foremost on either side kneels a monk holding a censer. Behind the one on the right stands a boy attendant holding the fungus sceptre (ju-ī), and behind him again kneels a man with the wide-brimmed black hat usual in tenth-century costume. The same chronological indication is furnished by the dress and coiffure of the ladies who are shown kneeling behind the monk on the left.

The picture on the left of the Plate (Ch. lviii. 003, reproduced on the scale of three-eighths) is complete with its border of purple silk gauze and suspension loops, and shows Kṣitigarbha in his character of Lord of the Six Worlds, or Gatis, and Patron of Travellers. He sits facing the spectator on a scarlet lotus in a pose which is the exact reverse of the one shown by Kṣitigarbha in the previously described painting. Thus the right hand holds the mendicant’s staff and the left the ball of crystal. The under-robe, shaded in red and green, is covered by a mantle of red and black inwoven on white ground and barred with black. Over his head and shoulders is thrown a grey shawl ornamented with yellow spots and having a scarlet border on which large flowers in green and white are figured.

On a flat-topped rock in front of the Bodhisattva, covered with an altar-cloth, is a large green bowl, containing an open lotus. On either side sits or kneels a Bodhisattva in adoring attitude.

From either side of Kṣitigarbha’s red and green halo rise three waving rays of scarlet; each of them carry small figures meant to represent the Six Worlds of Desire. They are on the right: above, a man for the World of Men; a deity supporting discs of the Sun and Moon, for the World of the Gods; a Preta amongst flames for the World of Hell. On the left the Bodhisattva-like figure at the top represents the World of the Asuras, or demigods; on the middle ray two representatives of the World of Animals are recognizable in spite of the broken condition of the silk, while below a devil with pitchfork and cauldron symbolizes the World of Demons.

At the bottom of the picture we see represented a stone slab bearing a dedicatory inscription and on either side of it two finely drawn figures of men and ladies respectively. Their costume and hair-dress furnish good examples of the type characteristic or donor figures of the tenth century. The inscription on the slab is dated in A. D. 963, and according to M. Petrucci records the dedication of the painting by a certain votary who prays for deliverance from long illness. He makes his offering also for the benefit of his departed parents and of two other relatives named in the cartouches by their sides.




The excellently preserved painting (Ch. xxxvii. 002) which this Plate reproduces on a scale of slightly over one-half presents to us the triumphant progress of Vaiśravaṇa, Guardian of the North and the principal of the Lokapālas, or Protectors of the Four Regions. The important position which the Lokapālas still enjoy in popular Buddhist worship of the Far East is clearly marked by the frequency of their representation among our Ch‘ien-fo-tung paintings. This again fully agrees with the early origin of their conception as attested by Indian art and tradition, and with what numerous frescoes and sculptures brought to light by recent excavations in Chinese Turkestān show as to their popularity in Central-Asian Buddhism.51

The foremost place among the Lokapālas of our paintings is occupied by Vaiśravaṇa, the Protector of the Northern Region. This is fully accounted for by the early Indian notion which identified this particular ‘world-protector’ with Kubera, the Hindu god of wealth, King of the Yakṣas. A further reason may be sought in the special worship which Vaiśravaṇa as genius loci enjoyed at Khotan, a main seat of Buddhism in Eastern Turkestān and one in close relations with Tun-huang.52 Apart from the frequent appearance of his figure in our banners, Vaiśravaṇa’s pre-eminent position is attested by the fact that, alone among the Protectors of the Regions, he is found in pictures attended by his demon host and in triumphant procession.

With one of these pictures, the small Kakemono-shaped silk painting reproduced in Plate xlv and a work of high artistic merit, we shall concern ourselves below. The other shown by our Plate, if not so careful in design and execution, is yet remarkable for its spirited composition and displays points of distinct iconographic interest. It represents Vaiśravaṇa riding in full gallop across the ocean accompanied by a numerous host representing his army of Yakṣas, or demons. He is seen, as always, in the guise of a warrior king, and wears here a young and strongly human appearance. Mounted on a white horse with scarlet mane and tail, he turns back in the saddle and with his mouth open seems to call to his followers. The right hand is raised, while the left grasps the reins. The straight nose and eyes give a distinctly Western look to his face, and in agreement with this are the light blue iris of the eyes and the dark brown colour of the hair, including a recurved moustache and tufts of beard and whiskers.

A long close-fitting coat of scale armour,53 coloured yellow with scarlet straps and border, reaches down below the knee. A leather skirt-piece ornamented with flowers is secured round the waist and hips, and below the coat floats out a long olive-green under-robe. A high three-leaved crown covers the head; its shape and the long streamers flying up from behind it distinctly suggest derivation from Persian models. There are more indications also of Iranian influence in details of this and other Lokapāla pictures; but this is not the place to discuss them.54 Broad streamers of flame rise from Vaiśravaṇa’s shoulders and take the place of a nimbus.

There are points of interest also in the accoutrement of Vaiśravaṇa’s horse. Its head, which is very small in proportion to neck and body, is protected by a frontlet of scale-armour. Above the head-stall is fixed a pair of black and white feathers. The numerous pompon-like knobs or tassels which hang from the breast-band and crupper belong to a type of ‘horse-millinery’ which is well known from Buddhist paintings of Central Asia and India and is{40} characteristic also of the representation of chargers in Sassanian relievos.55 Passing reference may be made here also to the appearance of decorative motifs unmistakably borrowed from textiles of ‘Sassanian’ style on the Lokapāla’s dress and that of his horse.

In front of Vaiśravaṇa march two Yakṣas clad in what seems to be meant for mail armour and carrying red pennons. Behind him are seen moving other demon followers, all grotesque in appearance, and two with animal jaws, &c. They carry a large flag decorated with a peculiar check and vandyke pattern and a miniature Stūpa, both emblems associated with Vaiśravaṇa also in the picture of Plate xlv, as well as a battle-axe and bow and arrows. In the foreground are shown in violent movement three goblins of savage look carrying jars and vases and apparently quarrelling with the Yakṣas. As one of them attacks the latter with a branch of coral or ‘Nāga tree’ in his hand, they may represent the Nāgas from whom according to the legend Vaiśravaṇa won his treasure. The flaming jewels and square-holed coins scattered in the foreground seem to have the same symbolic bearing.

At the rear stand two human figures in Chinese secular costume, the man with a mitre-like head-dress and a roll in his hands, the fair-faced lady with hands joined in adoration and her hair done in the elaborate tenth-century fashion. Whether they are meant for the donors of the picture seems uncertain. The whole host is swept along on a cloud from Vaiśravaṇa’s mansion, represented by a Chinese pavilion in the left top corner, and moves across the sea, which is bounded in the background by a mountain range (Mount Meru) and in the foreground by cliffs. Infants, ducks, a shark-jawed monster’s head, and a nymph float here in the water between scarlet lotuses, while on the cliffs there appears a stag. Flowers are scattered in the air above.

The workmanship, while well finished throughout, shows an ease and boldness which befits the subject. The simplicity of the colour scheme, which is almost entirely confined to yellow, scarlet, and white on greenish-brown tints of the background, helps the eye to take in the rapidity of the movement represented.



The silk banner reproduced on the right, on the scale of three-fifths (Ch. 0040), presents a fine example of the banners showing Virūpākṣa, the Guardian of the West. Next to Vaiśravaṇa he is the most frequently portrayed of Lokapālas in our paintings, always clearly recognizable by his particular emblem, the sword. Like the rest of the ‘Four Great Kings’ shown in the banners Virūpākṣa stands on the back of a crouching demon serving as his ‘cognizance’ (vāhana) and representing the Yakṣas over whom he rules. A small curling cloud above his haloed head marks the whole as a vision. Both ends of the banner are broken and its accessories lost, but otherwise it is almost intact.

The figure, displaying force and dignity combined, belongs to a class of Lokapāla representations among our paintings which, from certain peculiarities in the style of treatment and in detail, may be distinguished as ‘Chinese’ from another suggesting closer affinity to a Central-Asian prototype. Representatives of both classes are seen in Plate xlvii. But the general character of the figures and their warrior costume is essentially the same throughout. This suggests, in accord with other indications, that the type, though no doubt originally derived from the West, had undergone thorough adaptation to Chinese art feeling and was fully established long before the probable period when these banners were painted.56

Our painting well illustrates certain characteristics of the former group in the three-quarter profile of the Lokapāla’s figure and the sweeping curve of pose, with the body thrown{41} out to the waist; in the freedom and movement imparted to the drawing mainly by the treatment of the flowing drapery; and in some minor peculiarities of armour and dress. Though Virūpākṣa’s face is quiet, without any distortion such as usually imparts a grotesque look to the Lokapālas of the ‘Chinese’ group, we note the oblique cut of the eyes which is peculiar to it, as well as other Chinese features.

The rich armour and dress with which the Guardians of the World are always depicted and the manifold variations in their details are obviously of considerable antiquarian interest and have been fully discussed elsewhere.57 The painting in our Plate illustrates them with particular clearness. Virūpākṣa’s head is covered by a helmet made of scale-armour and strengthened with leather bands and a wide leather brim curling up at ear-level. That the scales represented on the helmet and elsewhere are meant for scales of lacquered hard leather is made highly probable by actual scale-armour remains of this kind brought to light by my excavations at sites in the Taklamakān and Lop deserts.58 A lotus-shaped spike is fixed on the top with a recurved gold stem in front, supporting a plume. Beneath the helmet comes a gorget, apparently also of scale-armour, descending on to the shoulders.

From there down to the hips the body is protected by a coat of mail, made of round-edged scales overlapping downwards as far as the waist-belt and of oblong scales laced sideways beyond it. A strong corslet, supported by straps from the shoulders and fitted with ornamented metal discs over the breasts, is fastened across the chest. Below is fixed an upper belt, apparently of ornamented leather. The lower belt, of black leather, carries a centrepiece in the form of an elaborate beast’s mask. The coat of mail is finished off at the bottom by a short pleated frill, shown here in green, and above the elbows by what looks like a ruff made of petal-shaped scales. From within this protrudes swathed drapery of red and dark grey, as if of sleeves.

From beneath the mail coat descends in rich folds a red skirt with blue border and whitish lining, leaving the knees bare; also the ends of a long girdle, looped up in front, curl about the legs. These from below the knees are encased in greaves, probably made of stiff leather like the corslet. A row of metal clasps secures them in front, while a large disc of dark purple leather set with a central gold boss covers the calf. The greaves are finished off at the bottom by ankle-guards, in the form of a stiff ruff, apparently also of leather. Guards of closely corresponding shape protect the forearms. The feet are shod with plain sandals held by a single toe- and heel-strap. A greenish stole, hanging round the shoulders and festooned across the front of the body, completes the Lokapāla’s rich costume.

The nude demon underfoot is shaded blue and has a dog-like face; the hands on which he crouches are misshapen and a flame bundle rising from his head takes the place of hair.

The banner reproduced on the left (Ch. 0036, scale seven-ninths) represents the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī seated on his white lion and, apart from the lost accessories, is remarkably well preserved. Its style, in instructive contrast to that of the Lokapāla picture just discussed, provides a good example of the maintenance of Indian tradition in Chinese Buddhist art.

The Bodhisattva, whom we have met already in several of the previously discussed paintings,59 is seated on a scarlet lotus which a golden pedestal carried on the back of his ‘Vāhana’ supports. Mañjuśrī’s figure is entirely Indian in physical type, pose, and dress. With his right leg bent across and the left pendent and resting on a small blue lotus, he keeps his body inclined to the left proper. To the right hand stretched downwards in the vara-mudrā corresponds the pose of the head, which is bent over the right shoulder and balances the slant of the body. The left hand rests on the lotus-seat and holds a long-stemmed gracefully curving lotus. The body has feminine contours and is painted a dull pinkish yellow. The hair, light blue in colour, shows flat above the forehead and straggles down to{42} the shoulder in small ringlets. The face is round with small features and oblique eyes cast downwards.

The dress is just as characteristically Indian. It consists of a short crimson laṅgōṭī flowered with blue rosettes and a transparent skirt of purple gauze which drapes the legs to the ankles. A fold of this crosses the body from the left shoulder. Round the neck is thrown a narrow stole, green spotted with white, which, where it passes over the right forearm, takes the form of a ‘triple cord’, distinctively Hindu. The rich jewellery comprises heavy bracelets and anklets, serpentine armlets, ear-rings, and a double necklace from which hang green and blue lotus buds. A tiara of solid gold work, mounted with jewels, crowns the head.

Behind the figure appears a circular halo and behind the head a nimbus of elongated oval shape, both of variegated rings of colour. Above are seen the remains of a tasselled canopy waving with the lion’s advance.

The lion strides to the left with his head turned back and the mouth wide open as if roaring. His mane is represented by conventional curls in different colours. Red spots are shown on breast, jowl, and back of legs. From his breast-band and crupper hang heavy tassels and ornaments similar to those above noted on Vaiśravaṇa’s horse. The attendant who leads him by a red rope is shown as usually with very dark skin, coarse features, and bushy black hair, suggesting a negro. His dress consists of a narrow stole and a red and blue dhōtī-like skirt, tucked up at the knees. He wears also jewellery of a simple kind.

The design of the whole is harmonious and instinct with life, notwithstanding the hieratic conventions of the subject borrowed from distant India, and the workmanship is very careful.



In this Plate we see a fine fragment of a silk painting once over life-size (Ch. liv. 003), reproduced on the scale of five-eighths and showing the upper part of the body of a Lokapāla. From the bow between his arm and body and the arrow held in his hand we can safely recognize him as Dhṛtarāṣṭra, the Guardian of the East. The figure, preserved only from the bearded jaws down to the hip-belt, is standing three-fourths to the left, with the left hand outspread at the breast and holding that World-Protector’s special emblem, the arrow.

The King’s flesh is painted a tawny brown, the finely drawn and slightly parted lips deep crimson. The sweeping beard, which must have given to the face a particularly strong if not fierce expression, is black. The equipment is very rich and painted in a series of vivid colours, scarlet, orange, blue, mauve, green, and black. Profuse jewel or semi-naturalistic floral ornaments, the latter, no doubt, copied from textile designs, all painted in the same bright colours, cover the discs of the corslet, straps, borders, pedestals of the jewelled shoulder bosses, &c.

Of special interest is the representation of the armour. On the shoulders and skirt it consists of oblong scales overlapping upwards, as very often elsewhere in our paintings and also in relievos.60 But on the body it is represented by small interlacing black circles, on a white ground, manifestly intended for chain-armour. The coat of mail is finished on the top by a blue jewelled collar, probably of hard lacquered leather like the rest of the armour, lying back from the neck. White streamers falling on the breast from behind the ears show that the Lokapāla’s head bore a tiara, not a helmet.

Though the surviving part is only a fragment, with edges broken all round, enough remains to show that with its vigorous drawing, fine workmanship, and brilliant colouring, the whole must have been a very effective picture.




Among the silk banners reproduced in this Plate, all on the scale of three-fifths, the two on the sides (Ch. liv. 002 on the left and Ch. 004 on the right) show us Dharmapālas, or ‘Protectors of the Law’. These divinities are conceived as forms of Vajrapāṇi in fury and are still favourite figures in the Buddhist imagery of the Far East. Originally derived from the ancient Gandhāra representations of the thunderbolt bearer (Vajrapāṇi), they meet us already in the sixth-century relievos of the Lung-mên grottoes in China.61 They show there those poses and that exaggerated development of the muscles which, together with other grotesque features, remain characteristics of the type exhibited in a more or less conventionalized form by the Dharmapāla figures in the paintings and sculptures of Tun-huang. These figures, as M. Foucher has justly observed, ‘already make us think of the athletic demons of Japan’.

Like the rest of our Dharmapāla paintings, the two banners reproduced here are but slightly distinguished from each other in type and may hence be briefly described together. They are excellently preserved and complete, with head-piece and streamers at bottom, which, however, from consideration of space are omitted in the Plate. Both Dharmapālas have the muscular body in tense attitude, the grotesque head with its furious downward look, and the large richly ornamented Vajra representing the thunderbolt. They stand slightly to one side with the feet planted apart on two lotuses and the head turned back over the shoulder. There is a difference in the pose of the arms and hands. In the banner on the left the Dharmapāla raises his right arm with the hand open threateningly above his head, while the left hand by the side grasps the Vajra. In the other figure the right hand supports the end of the Vajra and the left, with fingers stiffly spread, steadies it half-way up.

In either figure the head shows a grotesque face with enlarged staring eyes, misshapen nose, fierce moustaches, and a beard in long straggling tufts. The flesh is painted light brown. The muscles and joints of body and limbs are emphasized with conventional exaggeration, but with an effect full of vigour. The muscles are drawn in strong black lines to which modelling is added by brushwork in light red or pink. Abundantly decked with jewellery as the figures are, they carry but scanty dress. It comprises a short skirt, bright crimson or scarlet with slate border, which is tied round the hips by a trailing white girdle; also a narrow stole, olive green with brown or pink reverse, which winds over both forearms.

The sinuous lines of the drapery, the fillet ends of the head-dress flying upwards, the coiling clouds above the haloed heads, all help to intensify the expression of violent effort. The same end is well served by the bold lines of the drawing and the strong and clear colours used.

The banner in the centre (Ch. 001) is, but for the lost accessories, in an excellent condition, and shows in its figure a fine example of the Bodhisattva type which has been distinguished above under the conventional designation of ‘Chinese’.

The Bodhisattva, as yet unidentified, stands in a peculiar pose not elsewhere represented among our paintings. He stands on an open lotus, with the raised right hand holding at shoulder level a round bowl of mottled green glass with a metal rim. The head is turned three-quarters towards the bowl, while the left hand hangs down by the side. As the weight of the body is carried on the right leg and the body slightly inclines from the right hip towards the left shoulder, attention is cleverly drawn by the pose to the object which the right hand supports.

The face shows conventional features of the ‘Chinese’ Bodhisattva type in the small slanting eyes, heavy cheeks, and small full mouth. The down-turned corners of the mouth and the wrinkles marked below the outer ends of the nostrils impart a curious expression{44} to the face. As in all these banners, the flesh is left the natural colour of the silk, with delicate shading in faint pink to show the modelling of face and body.

The dress is the traditional Bodhisattva attire in a particularly elaborate form. A trailing skirt of pale pink, with blue border, drapes the figure from the waist to the feet. Its upper edge is held by a white girdle and gold-edged belt. The end of this girdle hangs down with loops in front and the end of another behind it, made of a rich flowered red material. An under-robe of dull red appears only above the feet. The upper half of the body is nude except for a band of purplish-pink drapery, elaborate jewellery, and a filmy blue stole which shown in delicate transparent colour descends over shoulders and arms to the ground.

The abundant jewellery is of a type with which we have already become familiar in paintings of Avalokiteśvara and elsewhere. The head-dress consists of a narrow fillet of white drapery, ending with a narrow white band which hangs in a long loop to the knees. Over the forehead it carries a light gold ornament ending above in two lotus buds which spring backwards over the black hair. This falls behind in heavy locks down to the elbows and forms a dark background to the bust. The circular nimbus is made up of variegated rings of colour such as are seen round the heads of the Bodhisattvas in Plate xli. The elaborate canopy is of a kind we have already met with. Its straight-hanging tassels agree with the motionless attitude of the figure. Yet notwithstanding this attitude the whole picture in its highly finished style seems instinct with life.



This Plate reproduces some side-scenes and small portions from the fine but very fragmentary remains of a large silk painting (Ch. 00216) representing a Buddhist Heaven, probably that of Amitābha. The colours of what is preserved are in remarkably fresh condition, and this, together with the large scale of reproduction (four-sevenths), facilitates close examination of interesting details.

Taking the side-scenes as shown in the left portion of the Plate we may note first the fine floral border which separates the two at the top from the main picture. Its vermilion ground is covered with rich trailing bunches of flowers and leaves painted in a variety of vivid colours. With their naturalistic style they closely recall the designs which are displayed by plentiful embroidery remains I recovered from the hoard of the ‘Thousand Buddhas’.62 The outside border of the whole is decorated with bold groups of entwined tendrils in orange-red over dark brown, showing in their style a curious affinity to certain of the cloud scrolls which appear on the fine textile remains of Han times brought to light by me from ancient sites in the Lop Desert.63

The two side-scenes above form part of a series extending along the left side of the picture and illustrating the ancient Buddhist legend of Ajātaśatru, the wicked son of King Bimbisāra. Chinese inscriptions accompany most of these scenes; but the upper one of those here reproduced has lost its inscription and its identification is hence not quite certain. It, however, appears to represent Ajātaśatru with his sword drawn menacing Bimbisāra, who is attempting to draw his own. Both are wearing flowing robes such as form elsewhere in our paintings the costume of ministers. The scene seems laid below the stairs leading up to the royal palace.

The scene below appears, according to the but partially legible inscription, to represent Ajātaśatru after repentance entering the Buddhist monkhood. What survives of the scene shows three men in plain belted coats advancing to the left in front of a decorated and{45} streamered pavilion. This and the building behind display very clearly characteristic features of Chinese architecture such as the tiled roofs, the recurving roof-tree ends, the confronting bird heads on the roof ridge, &c. On the right of the scene we see a subsidiary Buddha, standing with a Bodhisattva by his side, as in the corresponding groups of other Paradise paintings.64

The scenes below belong to a different series which extended along the bottom of the picture. They show in the left corner the Death of the Wicked. He lies stretched out on a couch placed in a verandah with his wife watching him, while two shock-headed demons strangle him with scarlet ropes. Below is seen on a cloud, as a vision, the boiling cauldron into which his body is being flung by one of the ox-headed gaolers of hell, who stands by carrying a trident-shaped pitchfork.

The adjoining scene depicts the Sickness of the Wicked. He sits up, supported by a woman, on the bed laid within a porch or verandah. In the foreground a younger woman with a lute and a man carrying a leaf-shaped red object and stooping advance towards what seems a mat with offerings laid on the ground. They are small black dishes with red contents (burning incense?), clouds of white smoke drifting from some of them.

The third scene of this series is incomplete and having lost its inscription cannot be identified. It shows a man in purple coat and tailed cap running to the back of the scene between a verandahed structure and a shrine built of grey tiles, with his hands brandishing a stick over his head. In front a man, similarly dressed and perhaps meant to be the same person, is seen with bared arms and body violently belabouring another, in purple coat and with the blue close-cropped hair of a monk, who kneels on the ground and holds his hand to his head.

Of the fragments of the main picture reproduced on the right the upper one shows us a group of musicians, seated on a small evidently carpeted platform and facing towards a dancer (now lost) as usually seen in the large Paradise pictures. Of the instruments played a psaltery, harp, lute, and two flutes of different kinds are still recognizable. It is of interest to note that the carpet with a Chinese floral pattern in the centre combines a medallion border of unmistakably ‘Sassanian’ design.65 The Bodhisattva figure on the left belongs to the group of a standing subsidiary Buddha already mentioned.

The fragment reproduced below is from the top left corner of the picture. There, against a deep blue sky sprinkled with gilded stars and above the steeply curved indigo roof of a celestial mansion, we see a flaming jewel on a lotus pedestal; white streamers flying from a central pavilion; small drums floating in air to symbolize heavenly music, and in the middle Samantabhadra seated on his white elephant and attended by two Bodhisattvas. The drums, painted dark brown and tied with red ribbons, are of interest on account of their different shapes. Whether cylindrical or narrow-waisted, they have strings stretched outside for the production of different notes by pressure under the arm. One has also a projecting staff with cross-hammer.



This Plate reproduces the only painting (Ch. lii. 001, scale three-fourths) among those brought away from the walled-up chapel which is entirely Tibetan in style. The special interest it derives from this fact is further increased by the probability of its being ‘the oldest of its kind now in existence, or at least one of the oldest’. Mr. Binyon in his Introduction66 has already referred to the Tibetan supremacy established in the Tun-huang region from{46} the middle of the eighth to the middle of the ninth century as explaining the presence of this Tibetan painting. He has also lucidly discussed the relation which links the art of Buddhist Tibet, in spite of its marked and strangely persistent peculiarities, closely with Chinese art. My remarks may hence be confined to the technique and iconography of the painting.

The picture, which is preserved complete together with its frame of dark green silk, is painted in tempera on strong close-woven linen. The colours have generally darkened and in places have been rubbed off, leaving whitish patches or the cloth bare.67

The subject is the goddess Tārā, the Śakti or female emanation of Avalokiteśvara. The goddess, represented in her usual form as a beautiful young woman, is seated in the centre on a variegated lotus which floats on the blue water of a lake. She sits with her right knee raised and the left leg bent across. The right hand with palm turned outwards in the vara-mudrā rests on the right knee, the left is at the breast, both holding long curving sprays with a conventional blue lotus at the end. The pose of the body slightly inclined to the right is balanced by the head leaning in the opposite direction. The sinuous line of the whole figure conforms to a characteristic tendency of Tibetan art. The flesh had been gilded, but this gilding has almost entirely worn off.

The goddess wears a dark red skirt and stole spangled with gilded flowers. Her knees are covered with elaborately ornamented caps. Rich jewellery decks neck and breast. Above her black hair bound with scarlet fillets is set a five-leaved tiara with a high-peaked crown. A nimbus of very dark green, now almost turned to black, sets off the head, while behind the figure is shown an oval vesica with a rayed border of rainbow-like colours.

On a dark cloud above the goddess’s head appears the small figure of a Buddha seated in meditation with the alms-bowl in his lap. On either side of him, on praying mats carried by dark green clouds, sit two black-haloed saints wearing the peaked hoods of Lamas. Along the sides of the picture are ranged eight subsidiary forms of Tārā, differentiated by varying colours of flesh and dress. Their pose is the same as that of the central goddess; the right hand rests on the knee, holding a flask, and the left raises a long-stemmed blue lotus.

Interspersed between these subsidiary Tārās are shown six scenes of deliverance from Calamities similar to those represented on the sides of certain Paradise paintings, such as the one in Plates i, ii. Not all are intelligible; but we may note in the middle one on the left a man being pushed over a cliff into the lake. In the scene opposite on the right he is seen calmly kneeling on a lotus, flame-encircled, while another man on the cliff above looks on in astonishment. In the left bottom corner are seen three men pursued by different animals, and to the right of them a barge-like boat sailing on the lake, with a fourth man kneeling in prayer. The men throughout these scenes are shown in Chinese secular costume such as is often seen in our Jātaka banners.

While these figures clearly point to a Chinese model of the scenes, the demonic deity in the centre of the foreground shows characteristic features of truly Tibetan taste. His squat dark blue figure sits sideways on a yellow horse, brandishing a scarlet club in his right hand. His hair is a flaming mass streaming upwards; a man’s bleeding head hangs from his saddle-cloth. It is impossible to mistake here a conception of that monstrous type which Tibetan Buddhism under the influence of Tantra doctrines absorbed from India and under that of its own demon worship has always greatly cherished.




Of the pictures reproduced in this Plate (all on the scale of three-fifths) the two on the sides bear Tibetan inscriptions and thereby prove themselves as produced and deposited after the Tibetan conquest of Tun-huang. But there is nothing essential to distinguish their style from that of other of our paintings in which hieratic figures are represented with close adherence to traditional treatment derived from India.

The paper painting on the left (Ch. 00377) shows a Bodhisattva of the type above designated as ‘Indian’ seated on a yellow lotus, with legs all but crossed and the right hand raised in the vitarka-mudrā. The Tibetan inscription kindly read by Dr. Barnett68 describes him as the ‘Lord of the upper region’, and as the Indian cosmic system places the Sun and Moon in this ‘upper region’, the discs above the Bodhisattva, with the emblem of the Sun god on the right and that of the Moon god (now effaced) on the left, are fully accounted for.

The Bodhisattva’s face bears a somewhat ferocious aspect; his flesh is faintly coloured with pink. His garments are touched with pink, crimson, and olive green, while the jewellery is left uncoloured. The black hair is tied into a high topknot and descends in stylized ringlets on the shoulders. The oval nimbus and vesica are both edged with flames.

The paper painting (Ch. 00376) on the right, which belongs to the same series, is a more pleasing production. According to the Tibetan inscription below the haloed figure represents Kālika, a disciple of Śākyamuni and the fourth of the Great Apostles. He is seated on a mat, cross-legged and wrapped in a red and buff mantle lined with olive green. The right hand carries the mendicant’s bowl; the head is shaven. The monk’s features are full of character and drawn with much decision. On the right is stuck the beggar’s staff, with a bracket from which hangs his wallet.

Superior to these paintings in design and workmanship is the drawing on paper (Ch. 00145) reproduced in the middle. It shows a monk seated on a mat in meditation. His shaven head, with large, somewhat straight, features, bears an expression of firmness and concentration admirably rendered with a few fluent lines. Neither eyes nor nose and mouth bear a Chinese look. And yet the whole drawing clearly bears the impress of a Chinese artist’s brush.

The monk wears an ample mantle, and below it an under-robe with conventional cross bars marking the mendicant’s patched garb. In front are deposited his shoes, behind to the left is placed a high stoppered vase, while on a thorn-tree to the right are hung his rosary and wallet. The drawing of the tree is unmistakably Chinese in character, and the whole disposition of the little picture illustrates the mastery of spacing inherent in Chinese artistic feeling. For once we are taken away from the sphere of hieratic conventions and brought into touch with life as the eyes of the artist, or those of an earlier master, saw it.



The two pictures on paper reproduced in this Plate on the scale of three-fourths claim interest by their subjects as well as by their artistic merit. The one on the right (Ch. 00380) presents an aged hermit with a tiger walking by his side. The hermit is represented with a face extremely wrinkled, shaggy eyebrows, deeply sunken eyes and cheeks. With his right hand he leans upon a rough staff, in his left he carries a stick ending in a Vajra and fly-whisk. He wears sandals, long spotted trousers, and two tunics, the shorter{48} of which is spotted, has long sleeves, and reaches below the waist. His head is covered by a mushroom hat put above a skull-cap and tied under the chin by scarlet bands. On his back is seen a bundle of manuscript rolls tied in a cover and slung by a chain to a thorny branch. The attachment of this branch to the hermit’s person is not clear; but in another picture of the same subject a pole supporting the bundle is shown as carried on his right shoulder.

On the further side of the old man there advances a tiger of disproportionately small size. Both figures stand on a cloud of dark red fire, and above them in the left top corner appears a small seated Buddha, also on a cloud. The paint used for the cloud scrolls has destroyed much of the paper, and of the figure too, where it was used on it. The only other colours are grey and a light pink, distributed over the clothing and figure, while the flesh is left uncoloured. The drawing of the hermit’s figure is done with masterly skill, especially in the features, to which impressive strength is imparted by a few lines combining firmness with great freedom.

Very different in character is the picture on the left (Ch. 00150), one of the very few non-Buddhistic paintings from the ‘Thousand Buddhas’. Its subject has not been determined with certainty, but may possibly be related to the story of how the Emperor Fu-hsi, the legendary founder of the Chinese polity, first received the system of written characters from a ‘horse-dragon’.69

Before the kneeling monster we see standing a bearded man, with smiling face, who holds tablet and brush in his hands in the act of writing. The back of his figure has been cut off when adapting the picture as a mount for the two woodcuts under which it was discovered. He is clad in a white-sleeved under-robe, long pink mantle, and a stiff black head-dress with a square ornament stuck in front. A branching column of flame rises from the tablet. Others stream from the dragon’s head and body.

The dragon is a composite monster. The head is of a conventional lion-like type, with voluminous upstanding mane, out of which rise three sharp-pointed objects resembling mountain peaks. The body suggests that of a scaly snake, with wings of curling feathers attached and with the forelegs of a bull (?). In the foreground lies a string of square-holed Chinese coins, an emblem the meaning of which at present escapes us. The whole is drawn with much vigour and, in spite of the fearsome appearance of the monster, with a distinct touch of humour.



The large hanging in silk embroidery (Ch. 00260), to which the small scale, one-tenth, and certain photographic difficulties do not allow full justice to be done in this reproduction, is by its size—the perfectly preserved central figure is close upon life-size—by its remarkably skilful execution, and by its fine colours one of the most impressive of the pictorial remains recovered. That it represents Śākyamuni on Gṛdhrakūṭa, the ‘Vulture Peak’, famous in Buddhist legend and situated near Rājagṛha, the present Rājgir, is conclusively proved by the rocks behind the Buddha’s figure in the centre.

This fine, if hieratically stiff, figure, as I have already had occasion to point out,70 when discussing the statues shown by the pictures in Plates xiii and xiv, in every detail of its pose and dress reproduces a specific type, fixed originally by some Indian sculptural representation.71 But if its iconographic characteristics are determined by long hieratic tradition, it is different with the setting it has found here. In the whole composition of our picture{49} is revealed the individual touch of a master, and the skill and taste of the craftsmen who reproduced his work make it easy for us to recognize the merits of the lost original.

The design in our hanging has been worked solid throughout in satin-stitch. The embroidery has been executed with admirable care and the silks used have remained clean and glossy.72 The ground is a coarse natural-coloured linen faced with light buff silk. This has mostly worn off in the interspaces of figures. Two of the figures, too, representing monkish disciples, having fallen along the line of folding, while the hanging was stored away and crushed for long centuries, have perished except for remains of the heads. Otherwise the picture is practically complete, and neither the effect of the whole nor that of characteristic features of treatment is impaired.

Śākyamuni stands facing the spectator with his feet on a lotus. His right arm hangs stiffly by his side with the fingers stretched downwards and the palm turned to the side. The arm wrapped in the folds of the glowing red mantle holds an ‘ear’ of it gathered at the breast. The mantle closely draped about the body falls in a point to below the knees and allows a light green under-robe to be seen thence to the ankles. The yellow lining of the mantle shows in a rippling edge along the outline of the left arm and down the body, a device which is familiar already to Gandhāra sculpture. The right shoulder and arm are left bare and are painted a deep golden yellow. The Buddha’s face is shown in light buff and, curiously enough, the right forearm as well. This distinction is emphasized in the case of the latter by the work being executed in thin rows of chain-stitch and is obviously intentional. But its iconographic significance is for the present uncertain.73 Behind the head, with its narrow, slightly slanting eyes and hair of very dark indigo, appears a nimbus in plain rings of variegated colours. A narrow halo shaped like a lotus petal, similarly coloured, surrounds the whole figure, and behind this again appears a border of rocks emblematic of the Vulture Peak.

By the side of the Buddha stand pairs of disciples and Bodhisattvas, both on lotuses. The latter, who may represent Avalokiteśvara and Mahāsthāma, turn three-fourths towards him; the one on the left with hands in adoration, the other with both arms slightly advanced from the elbows and the right hand held as if in the vara-mudrā. The dress and adornments of these figures conform to those of Bodhisattvas of the ‘Indian’ type as already noticed, but are drawn more trimly. A certain stiffness and simplicity in their design suggest close affinity to Indian models. But in the Bodhisattvas’ faces we notice the influence of Chinese style, as also in the ornamental borders of their dress.

Of the disciples’ figures in the background enough remains to show that their heads were shaven and haloed and their dress that of monks, with mantles barred with cross-stripes. The face of the one on the Buddha’s left was lined and frowning, which suggests identity with Kāśyapa; the other with face plump and benign may represent Śāriputra. By the side of the small and somewhat stiff canopy above Śākyamuni’s head are seen two graceful Apsaras floating down with outspread arms, borne up by fine cloud scrolls and their billowing stoles. Their resemblance to the Apsaras of Plates x and xi is striking.

Below the Buddha’s feet there kneels on either side a small lion of conventional type with one forepaw lifted. Below them again is a panel for a dedication, which, however, has never been worked in. Of the narrow cartouches placed by each line of donors, only the two foremost on the men’s side bear Chinese characters, now mostly illegible.

The groups of donors on either side of the panel, disposed in strict symmetry, present special interest by their life-like treatment and by their costumes. This is easily seen from Plate xxxv, which reproduces the group of the ladies on the more adequate scale of two-fifths.{50} Arrayed in three lines and kneeling on mats, they all wear a very plain type of dress. It comprises high-waisted skirts of brown, green, or blue, bodices with long close-fitting sleeves, and small shawl-like stoles. They have no jewels, and their hair is done in a small topknot without any ornaments. By the side of the hindmost two ladies kneels a child, and at the back stands a young female attendant in a long plain gown. On the men’s side there kneels foremost a shaven monk in a brown cloak, behind him three men dressed in long belted coats of light greenish-blue and wearing peaked and tailed caps of dark brown or blue. A young attendant with bare head holding a staff stands at the back.

A glance at the lay donors is enough to prove that the dress in each case is in closest agreement with that worn by the donors in the two paintings of Amitābha’s Paradise in Plates x and xi.74 For these a series of concordant indications postulates a date distinctly older than that of our earliest dated picture of a.d. 864.75 A variety of considerations lead me to believe that the date of those two paintings and of our hanging as well cannot be later than the eighth century, but may possibly be even somewhat earlier.76

In accessory details, too, a very close contact reveals itself between the embroidery picture and the paintings shown in Plates x and xi, proving that they belong to the same period and were probably produced under the influence of the same pictorial school. In all three we see the identical pair of graceful Apsaras figures, in an attitude not found elsewhere among our paintings. In the dress of the Bodhisattvas we may note as a common peculiarity the same brocade-like decoration of the edges of the lower robes. Peculiar, too, to the three pictures are the plain sage-green lotus seed-beds underfoot or as seats of the divine figures. Whatever the exact date of production may be, there seems little reason to doubt that the hanging must rank with the oldest of our Ch‘ien-fo-tung paintings. The needlework is of the finest, as Plate xxxv shows with particular clearness, and to this the picture owes the striking freshness of its colour effects and the excellent preservation of all parts that remain.



The subject of the silk painting (Ch. liii. 002) reproduced here on the scale of one-sixth is a Buddhist Heaven, and by evidence of the side-scenes preserved on the right, which are identical with those of the larger painting seen in Plates i and ii, it can be recognized with M. Petrucci as another representation of Bhaiṣajyaguru’s Paradise. The reproduction in our Plate is too small to permit of close study of details. But it suffices to convey an adequate impression of the style and general arrangement which correspond closely to those of the larger painting fully discussed above. For these reasons my comments may be brief here.

Apart from the top and bottom portions and the side-scenes on the left, which are lost, our painting is in excellent condition and retains its colours in particular freshness. The colouring is rendered very distinctive by the large proportion of black and blue. The drawing is refined and the work well finished throughout.

In the centre we see the figure of the presiding Buddha in the same pose and dress as seen in Plate ii; his flesh here, too, is yellow shaded with pink. The two enthroned Bodhisattvas on either side carry here purple or scarlet lotus buds in the hands nearest him and hold the others in the vitarka-mudrā. Immediately behind the central Buddha are seen four haloed monkish disciples with close-cropped black hair. The rest of the company on the main terrace is made up of twelve smaller Bodhisattvas seated with their hands in mystic poses or holding lotus buds, and two blue-haired nymphs kneeling in very graceful attitudes by the altar and holding offerings.


In front of the altar is seen a richly dressed dancer performing on a projecting terrace, attended by six musicians who are here of a masculine type with long hair like that of Bodhisattvas. Below at the sides remain in part the figures of two subsidiary Buddhas, probably seated, with attendant Bodhisattvas and elaborate canopies, like those shown above the enthroned figures in the centre. On the gangway leading down from the dancer’s terrace stands a peacock, and below it appear the heads of six of the Kings, probably twelve altogether, who were represented in the centre.

The lake of the Paradise is seen here only on the top of the picture about the piles supporting celestial mansions. These consist of a high-roofed central pavilion and two open hexagonal shrines with pagoda roofs. These are occupied each by a small seated Buddha and are joined to the central building by curving gangways which slope down steeply to the lake.

The marginal scenes on the right are drawn as always in purely Chinese style and correspond to those in Plate i, the connexion of which with the legend of Bhaiṣajyaguru’s last incarnation has already been touched upon.77



In my preliminary comments on Plate xii I have already had occasion to discuss briefly the general characteristics of that interesting series of silk banners which illustrate the legendary life of Gautama Buddha and scenes closely connected with it.78 This makes it possible to restrict my remarks on the paintings reproduced in our Plate mainly to the interpretation of the incidents and objects they are intended to represent.

The two banners (Ch. lv. 009–10) shown on the sides of the Plate on the scale of three-eighths form a pair exhibiting common characteristics in all externals and undoubtedly painted by the same hand.79 But for the loss of all accessories and some damage to the top and bottom scenes they are both excellently preserved. The drawing is notable for its fine yet vigorous brush-strokes, the colours strong and clear. The painter’s skill displays itself particularly in the landscapes of the background, which convey a sense of great width and distance. Like the figures, architecture, spacing, &c., of these banners they are thoroughly Chinese in their treatment.

In the banner on the left (Ch. lv. 009) the topmost scene shows the meeting of Gautama Buddha in a former birth with Dīpaṅkara Buddha. In open country with mountains in the background the Buddha advances to the right followed by two attendants in dress of the Bodhisattva type. With his left hand he touches the head of the boy, the future Gautama, who bows down before him with hands joined in adoration. The boy wears a short deer-skin tunic and is bare-headed. The Buddha’s right hand is lifted in the gesture of ‘Protection’.

The scene next below, chronologically out of order, represents the first three of Prince Gautama’s famous ‘Four Encounters’ condensed, as it were, into one. It shows with much realism the sick man on his bedstead supported by an attendant, the old man being led by a boy, and the putrified corpse. The first two of these ‘Encounters’ we have already met with in Plate xii. From the corpse there rises a cloud carrying a small kneeling figure in Chinese secular dress with belted coat and tailed cap. The figure is turned towards a palace-like structure raised on clouds and representing an abode of the blessed.

That the figure of Gautama is absent from the scene may seem strange. But the omission of the ascetic’s figure is less surprising. In the fourth ‘Encounter’ of the legend{52} he symbolizes the way of salvation, and for Chinese eyes this may seem appropriately replaced by the vision of a heavenly abode. The large paintings show us how completely the hope of Sukhāvatī, the Buddhist Paradise, has effaced the desire of Nirvāṇa in the minds of pious Chinese.

The succeeding scene represents the Bodhisattva’s miraculous Descent or Conception as revealed to his mother in her dream. In a court of the palace of Kapilavastu Queen Māyā is shown lying asleep upon a couch placed within a projecting apartment. Its green rush-blinds are partly rolled up. The infant Bodhisattva is seen kneeling with hands clasped on the back of the traditional white elephant, which gallops towards Māyā; two attendants kneel beside him. The whole group, enclosed within a circular space, is carried on a cloud and thus clearly marked as a vision.80

The bottom scene, which, unlike the rest, is not to be found among the very numerous representations of Gautama’s Nativity in Graeco-Buddhist sculpture, seems to show Māyā’s return to her father’s palace after the dream.81 Māyā, distinguished by a golden ornament on her head, is seen walking with a woman attendant from the palace of Kapilavastu. Both wear wide-sleeved over-jackets in which they muffle their hands.

In the companion banner (Ch. lv. 0010) on the right we see scenes which continue the story of the Nativity in chronological sequence. The top scene shows Māyā asleep in the same pavilion and pose as in the ‘Descent’ scene, but with three figures kneeling outside to the left on a cloud and in adoring attitude. The interpretation is uncertain. The succeeding scene, though also absent in the Gandhāra relievos, is quite clear in its character. It presents to us Māyā on her way to the Lumbinī garden. She is seated in a gaily coloured palanquin carried by four bearers, whose rapid movement is excellently expressed. Two more men carry trestles on which to set the palanquin down.

Immediately below we see the miraculous birth of Gautama Bodhisattva, a familiar subject in Buddhist art of all times and regions. The child’s issue from the mother’s right flank and her pose grasping a bough are in close conformity with Indian tradition. But the ingenious use made of Māyā’s wide-hanging sleeve discreetly to screen the act of birth seems characteristically Chinese. The infant is springing downwards where a woman attendant kneels to receive him on a cloth. A white lotus appears where he is about to fall.

The ‘Nativity’ series is completed in the lowest panel by the famous incident of the Seven Steps, with lotuses springing up beneath where the Infant Bodhisattva has set his feet. To the right stands Māyā, with her hands muffled in her long sleeves and her head turned back towards the young child. To the left of him stands two women attendants with bowed heads and hands raised in wonder or adoration. Enough of the landscape remains to show that the scene was laid in the same grounds as the preceding two. The Chinese inscription in the cartouche confirms the interpretation.

The scene of the Seven Steps appears also at the bottom of the silk banner (Ch. 00114), which is shown in the middle of the Plate reduced to one-third of its size. It is painted in a more ornate style than the other two, but lacks their sense of life and space. Here the child steps forward with an air of difficulty but determination, the left arm stretched upwards. Four ladies bend over him in surprise and adoration. Behind to the left appear a fifth lady and a man wearing a belted yellow robe and tailed cap. Their identity is doubtful.

The scene is preceded by the Bath of the Infant. The newly born Bodhisattva stands in a golden laver, raised on a stand between two palm-trees. Their tops are lost in a curling mass of black cloud, and in this there appear, ranged archwise, the heads of the ‘nine Dragons of the air’, gazing down on the infant with open mouths. A well-known Buddhist tradition makes Nāgas or divinities of the thunder-clouds, i.e. ‘Dragons’ in Chinese eyes, perform the laving of the New-born. The descent of the water, which their mouths are{53} supposed to pour forth, is not actually represented here. Five women stand round, one holding a towel.

The upper portion of the banner shows the Seven Jewels (sapta ratnāni) associated in tradition with Gautama. According to ancient Indian notions, the Seven Jewels, i.e. the best specimens of each kind that appear during the reign, appertain to every Cakravartin, or Universal Monarch, from his birth, and there is good reason to believe that the Predestined One was credited with this character and its attributes from an early date. We see them represented here in two groups: in the upper one the wheel, emblem of sovereign rule; the strong-box, symbolizing the jewel or treasure; the general and the wife; in the lower one the minister, the elephant, and the horse. They all stand on the curling white clouds, stylized in a peculiar fashion and edged in red, blue, and green. Flaming jewels adorn the wheel, the horse, and the elephant.

The general, clad in a coat of scale-armour and resembling a Lokapāla, holds with his right hand a narrow oblong shield and in his left a pennoned lance. The wife, Yaśodharā, is attired in a trailing skirt and wide jacket with sleeves reaching to the ground. Her hair, as usual with royal ladies represented in the Life scenes, is bound with a gold fillet and done in two high loops rising up from the crown. The minister’s dress is like hers, with a long terra-cotta band tied in a bow hanging down the back. In the white horse, with red mane and tail, we recognize, of course, Kaṇṭhaka, the Bodhisattva’s cherished steed, a favourite figure in the Life scenes of our banners.



The two silk paintings reproduced in this Plate on the scale of one-fourth, and originally mounted as Kakemonos, present special interest on account of their subjects and treatment. The one above (Ch. liv. 007), according to the Chinese inscription in the left-hand top corner, dates from A. D. 897, and yet is painted in a style which, as pointed out by Mr. Binyon,82 looks distinctly earlier. It represents the Buddha Tejaḥprabha (‘radiant with light’) on a chariot which two bullocks draw, and surrounded by the genii of the five planets whom the inscription mentions. The same subject appears to be treated also in one of the finest of the wall-paintings of the Thousand Buddhas’ Caves.83

The Buddha is shown seated on a blue lotus which occupies the top of an open two-wheeled car. A draped altar placed in front of him across its shafts is decked with gilded vessels. Two elaborately decorated flags float behind the car, hung from slanting poles. The Buddha, whose figure alone in the picture shows distinct Indian convention, raises his right hand in the abhaya-mudrā. His flesh was originally gilded and his hair is shown blue. Rays of different colours radiate from his person, replacing a halo. Overhead a rich canopy waving in his advance symbolizes rapid movement. By the side of the trotting bullock strides a dark-skinned attendant, recalling the ‘Indian’ leaders of Mañjuśrī’s and Samantabhadra’s mounts, but carrying a mendicant’s staff instead of a goad and playing a sistrum with his left hand, as clearly seen in the original.

Of the genii represented two stand beyond the car dressed in Chinese official costume with trailing under-robes and wide-sleeved jackets. The one on the left carries a dish of flowers, and within the crown of his black head-dress appears a white boar’s head. The other on the right holds a brush and a tablet in his hands; between two loops of his elaborate head-dress there rises the figure of a monkey. A third, dressed all in white, plays upon a large lute with a very long plectrum;84 his head is surmounted by a phoenix. The figure of the fourth divinity is of demonic type, four-armed, with fiery hair and{54} grotesque features. The right hands carry sword and arrow, and the left hands a trident and bow; above his crown is seen a horse’s head.

With the comparative stiffness of the figures contrasts the freedom of the whirling mass of cloud upon which the whole group is shown sweeping past as in a vision. The colouring is strong, yet harmonious, and the workmanship careful.

The picture below (Ch. lvii. 002), which is in excellent preservation and still retained its original Kakemono mounting of brown silk, is a noble composition strikingly different in style and entirely Chinese in feeling. It shows the figure of Avalokiteśvara, as Guide of Souls, drawn with much dignity and grace, and behind him an attendant soul represented on a smaller scale in the guise of a Chinese woman.

The figure of Avalokiteśvara, who turns head and gaze backwards over the left shoulder, is in physical features and dress a fine specimen of the ‘Chinese’ Bodhisattva type already repeatedly noticed. In his right hand he carries a smoking censer, in his left a curving lotus spray and a waving white banner with triangular top and streamers, the whole exactly alike in shape to the silk banners brought away from Ch‘ien-fo-tung. In the dress of soft and harmoniously blended colours the elaborate rosettes of the borders may be noted as manifestly reproducing contemporary textile patterns.

The figure of the woman behind, with her head bowed and hands muffled in wide sleeves at her breast, well expresses devout reliance on the divine guide. Her attire, by the brilliant colouring of the robes and the absence of the elaborate metal head-dress, stands out in marked contrast to the costume familiar from the donor figures of our tenth-century paintings. The purple cloud which carries both figures sweeps up behind them to the top of the picture. There a Chinese mansion resting on conventional cloud scrolls represents the Paradise to which Avalokiteśvara leads his worshippers.

By the evidence of the dress and coiffure of the Bodhisattva’s attendant, which seem to belong to post-T‘ang times, the painting may be classed amongst the latest of the deposit. But what for our appreciation of this beautiful picture must matter far more than this chronological difference is the fact that the style of its design and its refined execution give full and exclusive expression just to those qualities which are characteristic of Chinese pictorial art at its best. As Mr. Binyon, when comparing this picture with another presentation of Avalokiteśvara, the one reproduced in our Plate xlii, has pregnantly put it, ‘we have [here] a sense of suavity and flexile movement. Flowers seem really to be floating down the air, and the cloud on which the votaress follows the Bodhisattva coils up with a wavering motion. We feel the presence of the Chinese genius, with its instinct for living movement, and its love of sinuous line, and its reticent spacing.’85



The small picture (Ch. lxi. 009) reproduced here on half-scale is remarkable for its peculiar colour scheme and for its archaic appearance in composition and drawing. It represents Kṣitigarbha in his combined character as Patron of Travellers, Regent of Hell, and Lord of the Six Worlds of Desire. We have already above, when dealing with the paintings reproduced in Plate xxv, had occasion to indicate briefly the several functions which have made this Bodhisattva one of the most popular figures in the Buddhist Pantheon of the Far East.86 Our observations here may, therefore, be restricted to particular features of his presentation.

The picture is painted on indigo blue silk which, though much broken, especially on the edges, yet retains the strong colours of the painting in great freshness. Kṣitigarbha{55} in stiff hieratic attitude is seated on a red Padmāsana with his left leg resting on a small lotus and the right bent across. With his right hand raised he grasps the mendicant’s staff, while the left, palm uppermost, is held outwards empty. Over an under-robe of yellow with vermilion border he carries a maroon-bordered mantle of perished colour, while a traveller’s shawl of maroon covers head and shoulders. Gilded diamonds sprinkle shawl and borders. The face and breast are gilded, but the exposed portions of the limbs are painted light red.

From the large circular halo in blue, vermilion, and white spread out on either side three waving rays in the same colours, intended to bear figures representative of the Six Worlds (gati) as seen in Plate xxv; but these have not been drawn in. On either side of the Bodhisattva stands an amply robed figure with hands in adoration. From the fashion in which the hair of the figure on the left is done in two knobs it can be recognized as a man, while the hair descending in a roll on the neck of the other figure marks it as a woman. Whether the donor and his wife are intended is not certain.

In slanting rows descending from Kṣitigarbha’s lotus seat the Ten Infernal Judges are shown sitting on their heels, five on each side. They wear magisterial robes with head-dresses of varying shapes and carry narrow rolls of paper in their hands. Their faces, drawn in three-quarter profile, show some endeavour at individual characterization. Behind them on the right stand two men, with belted coats and wide-brimmed hats, holding a small and a very large roll of paper respectively. A third man, in a corresponding position on the left, carries what appears to be a writing-brush.

In the foreground we see again, crouching, a white lion, of very stylized form. A man’s figure, probably representing the soul of a departed, stands in adoring pose at its head, while on the opposite side another person with grotesque features raises his hands imploringly towards Kṣitigarbha. Both as regards its archaic style of design and its peculiar hard colouring the picture has no pendant in our collection. But, as Mr. Binyon has justly observed, it remains at present uncertain ‘whether the primitive features may not be due to provincial style preserving old tradition rather than to actual antiquity’.87



The painting (Ch. 0084) reproduced here on half the scale of the original also represents Kṣitigarbha, like the one in the preceding Plate, but shows striking differences of style in composition, drawing, and colouring. Simplicity of design, delicacy of line, and harmonious quiet of colours all combine to give to this picture a singular charm of its own, admirably expressive of serene beatitude. It is painted on pale green silk and, except where it is broken at the bottom, well preserved along with its border of greenish-blue silk.

We see the Bodhisattva seated cross-legged on an open lotus with gracefully pointed red petals. His face, round and youthful, bears an expression of benignant mildness. The eyes, long and straight, are cast slightly downwards. The right hand holds the mendicant’s staff and the left, resting on the knee, a flaming ball of crystal. He is dressed in a yellowish under-robe, apparently lined with pink, and a light green mantle which is barred and bordered with black. Head and shoulders are draped in a shawl of Indian red ornamented with a faint spot pattern in yellow.

The nimbus and circular halo are ornamented with elaborate ray and floral patterns in red and green and edged with flames. A broad band of white surrounds the whole figure and lifts it out of the green background. In the corners of this are seen floating sprays with red flowers.


Below in the left corner there remains the upper portion of the kneeling donor, recognizable as a boy by his features and the way in which his hair is dressed. In his joined hands he holds a lotus flower. His loose-sleeved red coat is sprinkled with a circular flower pattern in yellow and black. Red flowers on tall stems rise on either side of him. The cartouche to the right is left blank, and so, too, the remainder of the space probably intended for a dedicatory inscription.



The three pictures which this Plate shows, reduced to one-half of the original in the case of the two on the sides and to three-eighths in that of the middle one, are characteristic specimens of those Bodhisattva banners on silk which are very frequent among our Tun-huang paintings.88

The banner in the middle (Ch. i. 0013) is completely preserved with its head-piece, streamers, and other accessories, and its painted portion, which alone is reproduced here, retains its colours in excellent condition. Its subject is easily recognized as Avalokiteśvara by the flask and the red lotus bud which he carries in his right and left hand respectively. The Bodhisattva’s figure is shown sweeping to the left with trailing draperies and the head slightly bent, gazing down at the lotus.

In features, dress, and general style of work it shares the characteristics of the ‘Chinese’ Bodhisattva type repeatedly referred to before; but the hollowed back gives a particularly graceful curve to the whole figure. Its special slimness and the wide semicircular line showing the setting of the eyes also deserve notice. The modelling of the flesh by pink shading is well marked. The parted mouth, showing white teeth, is unusual. The colours are very bright, and as the paint is applied very thickly, the opaque white of the girdle and streamers contrasts rather harshly with the strong blue of the stole.

The silk banner on the left (Ch. xxiv. 006) is also in excellent preservation, except for the lost accessories. The Bodhisattva who stands on a bluish-green lotus with hands in adoration remains in the absence of any particular indications unidentified. Figure, attire, and adornment conform to the ‘Chinese’ type of Bodhisattvas; but the skirt gathered up in front and showing bare legs is not usual. The colour scheme is rich but harmonious and the workmanship in general faultless, though confined to the familiar conventions of the type.

It is different with the fine Bodhisattva of the banner (Ch. i. 002) seen on the right. His figure is one of the most striking represented in the banners, remarkable for the skilful pose combining dignity with rapid movement, for the graceful sinuous lines of body and garments, and the pronounced and distinctly non-Chinese features of the Bodhisattva’s face. In view of a figure so distinctive and well defined, it is a matter of regret that there is no clue at present to its iconographic identity.

The Bodhisattva is seen walking away to the left, presenting a three-fourths back-view, with the head in profile over the left shoulder. With the left hand he gathers up the folds of the gracefully coiling stole, while the right, bent back at shoulder level, carries a pink lotus bud on the palm. The erect carriage of the body and its movement with the weight thrown forward on the right foot are admirably expressed. The canopy overhead, with its freely swinging tassels and bells, emphasizes the rapid movement which is suggested also by the feet being placed on two separate lotuses. The nimbus shown merely in outline as an elliptical black ring allows the back of the head and coiffure to be seen through.

The falling loops of the stole and the drapery tied in a knot at the neck hide details of the upper portion of the dress. But below it the waving folds of the glowing scarlet skirt are very skilfully rendered. A close-fitting cap of red, set with gold ornaments,{57} covers the head, and from it projects at the back a large richly decorated gold ring apparently holding a tress of hair.

Special interest attaches to the Bodhisattva’s face. Distinctly non-Chinese features are the long and prominent nose, the marked depression below the low sloping forehead, the long and straight eye. The head is equally far removed from the classical type which Gandhāra art propagated. A curious scornful expression is imparted to the face by the eyelid drawn in a straight line across the half-closed eye and by the pouting mouth. Its strangely foreign look remains doubly puzzling where everything else bears so clearly the impress of Chinese workmanship.



The large silk painting (Ch. xxviii. 006) reproduced in this Plate on the much-reduced scale of one-sixth is a fine illustration of that intermingling of art influences for which Tun-huang provided a classical meeting-place. It shows Avalokiteśvara with a thousand arms seated within a central disc, and outside this some attendant divinities symmetrically grouped. The scheme is thus closely akin to that of the Avalokiteśvara ‘Maṇḍala’ seen in Plate xvii and fully discussed above. But the number of divinities is much smaller and the composition in general less elaborate, though there is abundance of ornament in the details. The painting is complete except along its bottom, and its colours are remarkably fresh. The rich painted border of flower sprays which encloses the whole suggests the effect of naturalistic embroidery such as is found among the textile relics from the Thousand Buddhas.89

Avalokiteśvara’s figure single-headed appears here too, seated within a large circular halo formed by his ‘thousand arms’, each showing the symbolic open eye on the palm. Against this background are numerous inner arms, all except four in the centre line of the figure carrying a multiplicity of sacred emblems well known to Buddhist iconography, such as the discs of the Sun and Moon, trident, Vajra, &c. Owing to the excellent finish, the details of all these, as well as of the rich ornaments which deck the Bodhisattva’s body and head, can be made out clearly. In front of the high tiara appears the figure of Amitābha, his Dhyāni-buddha. The Bodhisattva’s flesh is shown dull yellow shaded with pink.

The nimbus is made up of a superimposed series of pointed rays brilliantly coloured. It is flame-edged like the border of the circular halo behind. The variegated petals of the lotus seat have also brilliant colours; gilding is used for their outlines as well as for all jewellery, the vessels on the altar in front, and the folds of Avalokiteśvara’s robes.

The background is divided into an upper and lower half. The upper, painted a thin light blue (now almost gone) and representing the sky, is sprinkled with small gilded stars and falling blossoms. In its top corners, to the right and left respectively, are shown the Bodhisattvas of the Sun and the Moon seated on their respective ‘Vāhanas’ of horses and geese, within red and white discs which piled-up clouds carry.

Against the lower half of the background, painted a deep blue and representing a tiled floor, are the haloed figures of the ‘Sage’ and the ‘Nymph of Virtue’, kneeling on lotuses to the right and left respectively. The former, an emaciated old man of ascetic type, yet wearing rich apparel, raises his right hand in salutation, and the ‘Nymph’ carries her dish of flowers, as also in Plate xvii. In the tank below we see again two armour-clad Nāgas holding up Avalokiteśvara’s disc. In front of the tank is an altar decked with draperies of exquisitely rendered floral designs and carrying gilt sacrificial vessels.


In the bottom corners stride in violent movement many-armed demonic Vajrapāṇis in red and blue against a vividly painted background of flames. With their fiery hair and grotesque features, and by the Tantric emblems they brandish in their hands, they show closest kinship to the monstrous divinities of Tantric origin in which the imagery of Tibetan Buddhism delights. Below them there kneel in adoration two small figures, one with an elephant’s head on the left and another with that of a rat on the right. In these we may, perhaps, recognize Gaṇeśa, familiar to Hindu mythology, and the ‘king of the sacred rats famous in Khotan local worship.90

In these figures and in a variety of other details to which Mr. Binyon has very justly called attention,91 we have striking indications of that mixed style of painting to which Indian prototypes, Iranian and Central-Asian influences, and Tibetan taste have all contributed elements, albeit in very disparate proportions. Yet it does not need the Chinese inscriptions, found in a few of the cartouches and containing epithets of the respective divinities, to convince us that we owe this highly finished painting to Chinese workmanship. This has left its marks clearly in a mass of exquisite detail and in that perfectly mastered technique which accounts for the strong decorative effect of the whole.



The silk painting reproduced here with a reduction to one-third of the original (Ch. 00121) is a particularly fine example of Indian tradition preserved in Chinese Buddhist painting. The picture, damaged at the top and still more at its bottom, shows us Avalokiteśvara seated on a flat Padmāsana in the pose of ‘royal ease’. The shapely right hand hangs open over the raised right knee, while the left hand, now lost, evidently rested on the other knee and held the long spray of purple lotus which rises beside the head.

The figure of the Bodhisattva is presented in accordance with Indian iconographic canons. But the ease and distinction of the drawing, which the simplicity of the figure and the scarcity of colour make all the more noticeable, betoken the Chinese artist’s brush. The slender-waisted body leans towards the left shoulder; the limbs are long and slim; the head erect. The face is young and clean-shaven with an expression of serenity in the downcast slightly oblique eyes and the finely curved lips. The hair rises in a high cone above the three-leaved tiara, the front of which shows Avalokiteśvara’s Dhyāni-buddha, Amitābha. The flesh is left uncoloured.

The dress is confined to a short crimson laṅgōṭī wrapped about the loins, a thin transparent skirt hanging about the legs, and a narrow scarf entwined on the breast. The jewellery is of the type usual in ‘Indian’ Bodhisattvas, but plain. The elliptical nimbus and circular halo behind the figure are painted in pale blue and green. In the background are shown feathery floral sprays of a type common in printed silk fabrics from the Ch‘ien-fo-tung hoard.

In the top corners appear the small figures of two Lokapālas in mail armour, Vaiśravaṇa on the right and Virūpākṣa on the left, both seated on rocks. Corresponding figures of the other two Guardians of the Regions, no doubt, occupied the lost bottom corners.




This Plate shows the remaining upper portion of a large silk painting (Ch. 00451, scale one-third) which represented Avalokiteśvara standing without attendants. Considerably broken as the painting is and injured in its surface, we recognize in it a fine pendant to the Avalokiteśvara picture reproduced in Plate xxi. Here, too, we see a figure of the conventional ‘Indian’ Bodhisattva type imbued with that grace and refined quality which Chinese mastery of fluid line and reposeful design is specially able to impart.

The physical type and the pose of the body, with its inclination to the left shoulder, closely correspond to those seen in Plate xxi. But here this line is counterbalanced by the pose of the head, which leans gently over the right shoulder. The eyes are turned back to the left proper and look down with an expression of mildness and compassion. They are almost straight, and the recurving line added to the eyelids is here absent. Of the willow spray in the right hand only a few faint indications remain.

The dress, jewellery, and colouring agree closely with those displayed by the figure in Plate xxi. But more remains here of the white shaded with pink which is used for the colouring of the body. The nimbus is made up of plain circular rings of dark olive, red, and white. The Chinese inscription of the cartouche to the right still awaits interpretation.



The small Kakemono-shaped picture on silk (Ch. 0018) which this Plate shows with a reduction to two-thirds of its size is one of the most finished of our Tun-huang paintings. It presents Vaiśravaṇa, the Guardian-king of the North, as he advances on a cloud across the heaving sea, with an imposing suite of attendants, some human, some demonic, but all of them in striking attires. The painting was found in excellent preservation, still retaining its border of purple silk (omitted in the reproduction), and thus it is fortunately possible to appreciate in all details the high artistic merit of a work which clearly is from the brush of a master.

When dealing above with another presentation of Vaiśravaṇa’s Progress, the painting shown by Plate xxvi, we have already had occasion to refer to the special importance which the Protector of the Northern Region claims as chief among Lokapālas, and also to the reasons accounting for the popularity of his worship in Central Asia and the Far East. Hence we may turn here at once to the varied points of iconographic interest presented by our picture. The main figure of Vaiśravaṇa, disproportionately large in accordance with a convention familiar already to Graeco-Buddhist as well as to late Hellenistic art, strides ahead to the right, carrying the halberd, his characteristic emblem, in the right hand, and on a cloud rising from his left a small pagoda-shaped shrine, a secondary attribute, also otherwise attested. His face is heavy but not grotesque, with large oblique eyes and heavy eyebrows. The middle of the body is thrown out, giving to the pose an air of ponderous dignity.

His dress is that of a warrior king, as proper to all Lokapālas, but of a particularly elaborate type. His coat of mail reaches down almost to the knees. The arrangement of the scales, shown by a diaper of three-armed crosses, is the same peculiar one already noted{60} in Plate xxvi. It appears also on the corslet, which is edged by bands of lacquered plate, while the forearm guards and what is visible of the greaves show oblong scales secured by transverse bands. The whole armour is gilded. Decorated flaps, probably of shaped leather, descend over the hips and are joined in front by a stomacher in the shape of a hawk or eagle mask. The shoulder-pieces end in a lion head, through the jaws of which the arm passes. Gilded shoes cover the feet.

The high three-leaved crown on Vaiśravaṇa’s head, with the wing-shaped ornament at the top and the white streamers flying up at the sides, unmistakably recalls the royal head-dress of Sassanian times.92 The flames rising from his shoulders are an emblem also likely to have an Iranian origin.93 Their flickering tongues, like the fluttering streamers and the freely floating stole, emphasize the Guardian-king’s rapid movement.

The same curling maroon cloud on which Vaiśravaṇa advances carries also his retinue of varied aspects. Before him to the right we see the graceful figure of a nymph bowing and presenting a dish of flowers. Her identity is uncertain; in form and attire she resembles the ‘Nymph of Virtue’ we have already met in the paintings of the Thousand-armed Avalokiteśvara.94 Of her rich attire may be specially noted the wide sleeves which almost sweep the ground, the acanthus-like leaves covering her shoulders, and the wreaths thrown over her arms.

The cortège behind the Lokapāla consists partly of demons, evidently representing the Yakṣas over whom he rules, and partly of figures purely human, which are clearly individualized but still await definite identification. Of the former, two in the background have the heads of monsters, with fiery hair and tusked jaws. One of them carries Vaiśravaṇa’s flag of the same elaborate design we have noted in Plate xxvi. Another demon in front of the pair, with brown skin, hairy arms, and animal-like head wrapped in a scarlet hood, carries a large round jar covered at its mouth. A fourth in the foreground, with ferocious animal head and long upstanding hair, carries a club and wears a Lokapāla’s armour over a richly embroidered scarlet coat.

Among the human attendants the most striking figure is that of a finely drawn aged man. He is clad only in a white skirt, with a scarf across the breast. His hair is tied in a topknot and is white, like his eyebrows and beard, all painted with minute care. His sunken features and the sidelong glance of his eyes are expressively rendered. In his right hand he carries a gilded cup (or Vajra?). Behind him we see a portly male figure with placid clean-shaven face and a high mitre-like head-dress from which drapery falls behind on the neck. He wears a green robe over what looks like a coat brocaded in a ‘Sassanian’ pattern and carries a flaming jewel on a gilded stand.

In the rear is a bearded muscular archer, preparing to shoot at a bat-like demon in the sky high up to the right. In the latter we can safely recognize a Garuḍa, the hunting of whom is a frequent motif in Turkestān frescoes, and whose winged figure is well known to Graeco-Buddhist sculpture also.95 The drawing of the archer’s figure as he bends down to fit the arrow to the bow, while his gaze follows the flying Garuḍa, is remarkably firm and vigorous. On his head he carries a high conical cap of white, with metal boss at the top and wide upstanding brim. His dress comprises a blue tunic which leaves the right arm and breast bare, white breeches, and black top-boots. His purposeful figure in movement is cleverly set off by the serene appearance of a man standing in front with hands folded in adoration. He wears a full-sleeved maroon jacket over a flowing white under-robe and over his smooth black hair a gilded tiara of peculiar shape.

The special powers of Chinese pictorial art pervading the whole picture manifest themselves with particular clearness in the masterly spacing of the background. This shows the greenish-brown sea heaving in majestically rolling ridges of white-crested waves. Far away in admirably conveyed distance rises a range of blue and green mountains,{61} probably meant to represent the fabulous Mount Meru where Buddhist mythology locates the Guardian-kings of the Regions.

Wherever the eye falls in this small but exquisite picture we may appreciate the sure drawing with its cleanness of touch, the harmonious colouring, and the highly finished workmanship. But it is in this background that we can realize best to what extent the artist shared that understanding of the Chinese genius for the control of ordered fluent line and the power of suggestion in spacing.



The fragment of a large paper painting (Ch. 00373) reproduced here on the scale of three-fourths is of interest as it represents somewhat rare details in skilful execution, and also on account of its unusual technique. The picture, of which another fragment survives, has been drawn upon a fine ground laid over smooth buff paper. The colours delicately painted over this are bright and particularly pleasing by their softness, and I regret that their reproduction had to be forgone. The execution is more finished than that of any of the other paper paintings from Ch‘ien-fo-tung. Of the subject of the whole painting it is impossible to say more than that it probably represented the ‘Maṇḍala’ of a Buddha or Bodhisattva.

Our fragment shows on the left, against a background of large-leaved flowering trees, a demon of dark blue body and limbs holding up with his hands a naked infant who leans towards him smiling and with arms stretched out. The infant’s form and features are exquisitely drawn with fluent lines expressive of baby-like plumpness and shaded in pink and white. He has black hair and a red trefoil mark on his forehead. The reddish-pink face of the demon bears a cleverly conveyed tender expression, which contrasts with his fierce features and shock of red and green hair. We have already met with the figure of a similar demon holding an infant in the group attending the Bodhisattvas on the right in Bhaiṣajyaguru’s Paradise as shown by Plate i, and another is found among Vaiśravaṇa’s attendants in a woodcut from Ch‘ien-fo-tung.96

On the right is seen a many-tiered umbrella hung with streamers and tasselled chains, as found often over the chief Bodhisattvas in large Paradise paintings (see Plate i). In the middle of the bottom portion of the fragment appears the upper part of the halo, topknot, and tiara of a Bodhisattva. Above the central ornament of the tiara is seen the head of a white stag with antlers painted in silver.



The three silk banners which this Plate reproduces on the scale of one-third all depict Virūpākṣa, the Guardian-king of the West and, after Vaiśravaṇa, the most popular of the Lokapālas. When describing above his fine picture as seen in Plate xxvii, I have already had occasion briefly to indicate the iconographic features which are common to all our Lokapāla representations, and to touch also upon those minor characteristics which allow us to distinguish certain groups among our numerous banners of these divinities.97 Hence{62} my account of those shown in our Plate may be restricted to individual points deserving of notice.

In the banner on the left (Ch. lv. 0020), which is well preserved except at the top where the painting has broken and been attached to the head-piece (not shown) by a patch of purple silk, we see a good example of the Lokapāla type designated above as ‘Chinese’. Virūpākṣa stands with his feet planted on the back and head of his crouching demon cognizance and holding the drawn sword upright in his left hand.98 His face is middle-aged and serious, the oblique eyes slightly enlarged, and the iris painted a dark yellow. His coat of mail shows oblong scales all through from the shoulders to the skirt portion. The flesh is shaded light pink over the brownish white of the silk. The corslet is secured by broad shoulder-straps, probably of lacquer, here clearly marked. Beneath the hip-belt appear an apron and hip-flaps of shaped leather, providing additional protection. Round the lower edge of the belt hang loose rings, probably meant for the attachment of the scabbard and other equipment. The breeches are tucked into greaves, and the feet shod with plain sandals. The general colour effect is subdued owing to the prevalence of light brown and pale red tints.

The painting in the middle (Ch. lv. 0046) is broken at the top and has lost its banner accessories, but retains its colours in remarkable freshness. Virūpākṣa, turning slightly to the left, stands with his feet on the shoulder and knee of a squatting demon. He holds before him with both hands a long sword in a lacquered scabbard, whose point rests on the demon’s head. His face, large-cheeked and with strong chin, bears a pleasant expression. The oblique eyes with light iris gaze upwards.

The coat of mail painted yellow and red shows round-edged scales overlapping downwards as far as the hip-belt, while the skirt portion has oblong scales apparently overlapping upwards. Trefoil-shaped flaps of green leather give additional protection to the hips and abdomen. A sausage-shaped collar is fastened round the neck and over a brown mantle. Solid guards of lacquered leather protect both upper and fore arms. The legs are clad only in breeches tied below the knees and hanging loose to the ankles. The shoes of woven string are of some interest, as their make exactly corresponds to that of shoes brought to light by me from ruins of Han and later times.99 The elaborately jewelled head-dress is fitted with a red ‘cock’s crest’ at the back, and the halo behind is flame-edged.

The Chinese inscription describes the Lokapāla correctly as Virūpākṣa, ‘celestial king of the Western Region’. The work is carefully finished throughout, and the colours harmonious, though more opaque than usual in these banners.

The banner (Ch. 0010), of which the painted portion is reproduced on the right, is complete and excellently preserved. Virūpākṣa’s figure combines here characteristics of that Lokapāla type which may conveniently be called ‘Central-Asian’ with a treatment and certain details not unlike those in the ‘Chinese’ type.

The Lokapāla stands facing the spectator on the head and knee of a contorted demon. His right foot is placed on a higher level than the other, and the weight of the body thrown on the left hip. The right hand holds the naked sword aslant across the body and the left supports it at the breast. The face is heavy and with the frowning forehead, the snarling mouth, and glaring eyes bears a fiercer expression than usual. The large round eyes are level and the iris green. The hair, shown light blue, is bunched back behind the ears. The flesh is painted a pinkish red with but little shading.

The coat of mail from shoulders to skirt is uniformly made up of round-edged scales overlapping downwards; but their colouring varies in different parts. A jerkin of blue leather elaborately ornamented with metal-work appears above and below the mail corslet. The forearms are swathed in red draperies, which also show above the knees. The white leg-coverings are tucked into greaves which display elaborately scrolled metal-work, manifestly painted in with an eye mainly to decorative effect. Similar metal-work is shown{63} on the black shoes. The yellowish-brown colour of this metal-work, suggestive of bronze, is applied also to the solid metal tiara, with wing ornaments and high crown, which forms the head-dress.

Though the drawing is careful and the colours clear and fresh, much is lost in general effect through excessive concentration on detail and ornament. In the want of space and free line and in the resulting lack of spontaneity we are made to feel, as it were, the influence of non-Chinese models.



This fine fragment of a large silk painting (Ch. 0098), reduced here to three-fourths of the original, shows the head and upper part of the body of a figure demonic in look and of violent pose. No definite identification seems at present possible. If the trident-like weapon lifted up in the left hand might suggest a Lokapāla, there are to be noted against this the flames streaming back from the head and the total absence of armour. Again, if the ferocious look and pose would make us think of a Vajrapāṇi Dharmapāla, other difficulties arise from the unusual weapon, the fiery hair, and the want of exaggerated muscles. So it will be best to leave this fine figure unnamed and to rest content with an appreciation of its artistic merit.

The head, well preserved on the whole, shows a face demonic in features and convulsed with rage. It is painted dark grey with red lips and black hair. The eyes are distended and glaring in fury, the eyebrows contracted, and the forehead bowed with wrinkles. The widely grinning mouth shows the tongue and both rows of teeth. Excessively high cheekbones and nose, bushy eyebrows, a moustache sweeping fiercely upwards, and stiff spreading beard and whiskers add their quota to the terrifying appearance of the head. The hair on the forehead passes black under a jewelled tiara; but what streams up from the whole head is a cone of red flame.

From the rest of the fragment all paint is lost. The outline drawing, however, remains of a body vigorous and muscular. But for jewelled chains, necklace, &c., it is nude to the hip-belt, over which appears pulled the edge of a skirt-like garment. A stole is gathered over the right upper arm, and the right hand is held before the breast, with fingers stiffly upturned and palm downwards. The left arm is lost, but the hand appears above grasping the staff of a weapon with barbed points.

The whole figure is drawn with admirable verve and freedom. Fragmentary as it is, it allows us to surmise what we have lost here of a work of true Chinese genius—and at the same time to realize what we owe to the safe hiding-place the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas have provided for so many other relics of art.




1 Cf. Serindia, p. 1420. For a distinctively ‘Indian’ representation of Mañjuśrī, see below, Plate xxvii.
2 Cf. Serindia, Appendix E, p. 1410.
3 See Serindia, Appendix A, pp. 1434 sqq.
4 See particularly the painting, Ch. lv. 0023, of a.d. 864 reproduced in Plate xvi.
5 Cf. Serindia, pp. 850, 885, 888.
6 See Serindia, p. 1410.
7 For an interpretation of the symbolic meaning of this representation, cf. M. Petrucci’s ‘Essai’ (Les Maṇḍalas), Serindia, Appendix E, p. 1411.
8 See Serindia, p. 835.
9 Cf. Serindia, p. 850 sq.
10 See Serindia, pp. 899 sq., 984 sq., Pls. cix, cx.
11 See Serindia pp. 890, 1082 sq., Pl. lviii, and M. Petrucci’s notes in Appendix E ibid., p. 1408 sq.
12 Cf. Serindia, pp. 835, 890, note 38.
13 See above, p. 17.
14 See, e.g., Plate xxii.
15 Cf. Stein, Ancient Khotan, ii. Pl. lix.
16 For details of the antiquarian evidence concerning the date of these pictures, cf. Serindia, pp. 885, 896.
17 See above, p. 9. Of my other pictorial ‘finds’ from Central Asia only the mural paintings of Mīrān, approximately dating from the third to fourth century a.d., show this use of ‘high lights’; cf. Serindia, pp. 504, 508, Pls. xl-xlv.
18 These two-lobed tufts of hair recall those shown on the heads of the angels and putti in the wall-paintings of the shrines excavated by me at Mīrān; see Serindia, Figs. 134, 138, 140; Plates xl, xli.
19 Cf. Serindia, p. 850 sq.; also below, p. 23.
20 See above, p. 21.
21 For details on these points and on the question of style, cf. Serindia, p. 847 sq.
22 Cf. Serindia, p. 848.
23 Cf. Serindia, p. 850; Chavannes, Mission archéologique en Chine, i. Planches 207–10.
24 Cf. Serindia, p. 849, note 18.
25 This is against the fixed iconographic convention of Indian tradition which shows the right hand raised and the right shoulder uncovered by the under-robe. The explanation may be sought for in the fact that in the case of banners both sides of the silk gauze had to be painted. Here and in the Buddha of the banner in the middle of the Plate we have obviously cases of a mistake made by the artist as to which side was to be treated as the one intended for contemplation and properly finished.
26 Cf. Serindia, p. 858, and the reproduction of the banner, Ch. lv. 0012, Pl. lxxv.
27 Cf. Serindia, p. 947 (sub Ch. 0039).
28 Cf. Serindia, p. 880.
29 See Petrucci, Annales du Musée Guimet, xli, pp. 121 sqq.
30 Plate lxx of Serindia shows the left half of the painting as originally opened out and mounted at the British Museum. As regards certain slight modifications of the arrangement effected in the course of the final mounting and now seen in our Plate, the detailed description of the painting in Serindia, pp. 1024 sqq., may be referred to.
31 Cf. Petrucci, Annales du Musée Guimet, xli. p. 122. The figure at the first opening of the picture at the British Museum was found as a detached fragment. To its left upper edge there adhered the inscribed cartouche subsequently, on mounting, inserted in the blank space between the two standing figures at the bottom; cf. Serindia, p. 1025 sq.
32 See Ancient Khotan, i. 493, Figs. 62–4.
33 Cf. Foucher, Beginnings of Buddhist Art, p. 172.
34 Cf. Iconographie bouddhique, i. 40 sqq.
35 For the willow-spray symbol cf. below, Plate xxiv.
36 See Plates xix, xxix, xli.
37 For a reproduction in colours, but on a much smaller scale, see Desert Cathay, ii. Plate viii.
38 For such Bodhisattva banners of the type conveniently designated as ‘Chinese’ see Plates xix, xxix, xli.
39 Cf. M. Petrucci’s readings, Serindia, p. 1416 sq.
40 For specimens of this ‘Indian’ type of Bodhisattvas see Plates xxi, xxii; for detailed references concerning banners of this type, particularly numerous among those on linen, cf. Serindia, p. 862.
41 Cf. M. Petrucci’s notes, Serindia, p. 1398.
42 See above, p. 16.
43 Cf. M. Petrucci, on ‘Maṇḍalas de Kouan-yin’, Serindia, Appendix E, pp. 1411 sqq.; and for a full description of our painting, ibid., pp. 1077 sqq.
44 See M. Foucher’s brilliant essay on ‘La Madone bouddhique’ in The Beginnings of Buddhist Art, pp. 285 sqq.
45 See M. Petrucci’s explanations in Serindia, p. 1397. The other two inscriptions seem to contain metrical invocations of the all-merciful Kuan-yin.
46 For scenes somewhat similar, see the side of Bhaiṣajyaguru’s Paradise in Plate i.
47 Cf. Mr. Binyon’s note in Guide to an Exhibition Paintings, Manuscripts, and other Archaeological Objects collected by Sir Aurel Stein in Chinese Turkestān, British Museum, 1914, p. 12.
48 Cf. Chavannes, Dix inscriptions chinoises de l’Asie centrale, pp. 80 sqq.; Serindia, p. 1338 sq.
49 See Serindia, p. 864, with note 16.
50 Cf. Mr. Binyon’s remarks in Guide to an Exhibition of Paintings, MSS., &c., collected by Sir Aurel Stein (British Museum, London, 1914), p. 7 sq.; also M. Petrucci’s account of Kṣitigarbha’s ‘Maṇḍalas’, Serindia p. 1422 sq.

The history of Kṣitigarbha’s cult in China and Japan forms the subject of a full and very instructive monograph, The Bodhisattva Ti-tsang (Jizō) in China and Japan, by Professor M. W. de Visser, with numerous illustrations (Oesterheld & Co., Berlin, 1915), to which reference may be made for all details.
51 For a brief summary of the facts bearing on the iconographic history of the Lokapāla figures in their transition from India and Central Asia to China, cf. e.g. Serindia, pp. 870 sqq., where the principal authorities are indicated.
52 See Ancient Khotan, i. pp. 158, 252 sq.
53 The treatment of the scales, apparently represented by three-armed crosses, is peculiar and differs from the several methods of scale armour which other Lokapāla figures (see e.g. Plate xlvii) usually display. But it is found again on Vaiśravaṇa’s armour in Plate xlv and may possibly be meant for a special kind of mail.
54 For some of such indications, see Serindia, pp. 871 sq., 874.
55 Cf. Herzfeld, Am Tor von Asien, p. 87. To the examples there quoted in note 141 may be added the painted panel from Dandān-oilik, D. vii. 5, shown in Ancient Khotan, ii. Pl. lix.
56 For more detailed observations on the two groups among Lokapāla pictures, cf. Serindia, pp. 872 sqq.
57 See Serindia, pp. 873 sq., 939 sqq., &c. Questions closely bearing upon armour and costume such as our Lokapālas exhibit have been discussed with much critical learning by Dr. B. Laufer in his Chinese Clay Figures, Pt. 1: Prolegomena on the History of Defensive Armour (Chicago, 1914).
58 See Ancient Khotan, i. pp. xvi, 374, 411; Serindia, pp. 246, 463 sqq.
59 See above, pp 12, 14 sq., 29.
59 For detailed references, cf. Serindia, p. 873; see also Ancient Khotan, i. pp. xvi, 252.
61 For reference to works of MM. Chavannes, Foucher, Grünwedel-Burgess, see Serindia, p. 875, note 45.
62 Cf. Serindia, pp. 904 sqq., and the embroidery specimens reproduced there in Plates cvi-cviii, cx, cxi.
63 Cf. F. H. Andrews, Ancient Chinese Figured Silks excavated by Sir Aurel Stein (B. Quaritch, London, 1920), pp. 4 sqq., Figs. 1–3.
64 See above, Plates i, ii.
65 We meet with exactly corresponding examples of the combination of Chinese and ‘Sassanian’ textile motifs in certain printed silks from the ‘Thousand Buddhas’; see Serindia, p. 911, Plates cxiii, cxiv.
66 See above, p. 9.
67 Owing to these causes the reproduction of the painting has presented considerable technical difficulties. Hence some of the details mentioned cannot be made out in it quite as clearly as in the original.
68 See his Appendix K, Serindia p. 1473.
69 Cf. Mayers, The Chinese Reader’s Manual, p. 48.
70 See above, pp. 25, 27.
71 For full details of the iconographic evidence I may refer to Serindia, pp. 878 sqq.
72 Some idea of the labour implied by the execution of the embroidery may be formed from the fact that the careful remounting of the hanging on a fresh canvas backing, which became necessary at the British Museum for its preservation, kept the expert employed on this task, Miss E. A. Winter, of the Royal School of Needlework, occupied for over three months.
73 Some connexion might perhaps be sought with an early legend relating to Śākyamuni’s stay on Gṛdhrakūṭa. While engaged in meditation within a grotto, he was believed to have pushed his right arm through its rock-wall in order to reassure his disciple Ānanda, whom Māra, in the shape of a vulture, had frightened; cf. Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, i. p. 497.
74 See above, pp. 20 sqq.
75 Cf. Serindia, p. 885.
76 See above, p. 21.
77 See above, p. 13.
78 See above, p. 23.
79 For the reasons which account for the banners with scenes from the Life usually forming small groups or at least pairs, cf. Serindia, p. 852.
80 This is in complete accord with the original Buddhist tradition which presents the descent of the white elephant not as a real event, but as a dream of Māyā; cf. Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, i. p. 292.
81 For a textual reference supporting this interpretation, cf. Serindia. p. xxiii, add. to p. 855, note 50a.
82 See above, p. 8.
83 See Serindia, pp. 933 sq., Figs. 215, 226.
84 For a full description of this instrument, cf. Miss K. Schlesinger’s note in Appendix H, Serindia, p. 1468.
85 Cf. Serindia, Appendix E, p. 1429.
86 See above, p. 37 sq.
87 See above, p. 8.
88 Cf. Serindia, pp. 861 sqq.
89 For specimens cf. Serindia. pp. 904 sq.; Plates cvi-viii, &c.
90 See Ancient Khotan, i. pp. 120 sq., 264 sq.; ii. Pl. lxiii; Serindia, iii. p. 1277.
91 See above, p. 9.
92 Cf. also above, p. 39.
93 Cf. Serindia, p. 874.
94 See Plates xvii, xlii.
95 Cf. Grünwedel, Altbuddhistische Kultstätten, pp. 282, 351, Fig. 583; Foucher, L’art gréco-bouddhique du Gandhâra, ii. pp. 32 sqq.
96 See Serindia, Plate c (Ch. 00158).
97 See above, p. 40 sq.
98 For a likely explanation of this unusual attitude, see above, p. 24, note 25.
99 See Serindia, ii. p. 874; Pls. xxxvii, liv.

Additional Transcriber’s Notes

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Printed Image Plate Dimensions (width x height in centimeters)

Plate Dimension Plate Dimension
1 38.3 x 49.3 25 54.3 x 34.9
2 33.7 x 49.3 26 40.7 x 45.1
3 32.5 x 49.6 27 38.0 x 49.5
4 25.4 x 49.4 28 37.9 x 39.8
5 19.7 x 39.6 29 42.1 x 50.3
6 32.7 x 49.3 30 45.7 x 39.7
7 37.3 x 49.3 31 30.2 x 49.8
8 35.9 x 49.1 32 50.3 x 26.2
9 49.5 x 41.9 33 52.5 x 32.5
10 36.5 x 49.6 34 17.0 x 25.2
11 41.7 x 39.5 35 21.5 x 20.0
12 54.9 x 35.5 36 20.4 x 21.5
13 42.7 x 49.5 37 20.9 x 22.8
14 36.1 x 49.4 38 12.8 x 36.0
15 35.8 x 49.9 39 20.2 x 22.0
16 32.9 x 49.5 40 20.2 x 28.3
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21 18.6 x 49.4 45 17.2 x 24.7
22 47.7 x 33.5 46 27.0 x 32.8
23 33.3 x 49.2 47 21.7 x 20.8
24 40.1 x 49.5 48 23.4 x 32.5
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