By Qiang Ning
The cave-temple complicated popularly often called the Dunhuang caves is the world's biggest extant repository of Tang Buddhist artwork. among the finest preserved of the Dunhuang caves is the Zhai relations Cave, in-built 642. it's this impressive cave-temple that kinds the point of interest of Ning Qiang's cross-disciplinary exploration of the interrelationship of artwork, faith, and politics in the course of the Tang. In his cautious exam of the work and sculptures discovered there, the writer combines the old learn of images with the pictorial examine of historical past. by way of applying this two-fold technique, he's in a position to discuss with textual facts in analyzing the formal beneficial properties of the cave-temple work and to hire visible info to fill within the historic gaps unavoidably left by way of text-oriented students. the result's a complete research of the visible tradition of the interval and a brilliant description of social lifestyles in medieval China. the unique Zhai family members Cave photographs have been painted over within the 10th century and remained hidden until eventually the early Forties. as soon as uncovered, the early art seemed clean and colourful compared to different Tang work at Dunhuang.
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Additional info for Art, Religion and Politics in Medieval China: The Dunhuang Cave of the Zhai Family
Wenshu has a great reputation for his unlimited wisdom (dazhi Wenshu) and is recognized by the blue lion (qingshi) he rides all the time. Puxian is famous for his theoretical understanding of Buddhist philosophy (li) and his great morality (de). 12 The patron family of Cave 220 was an educated oﬃcial clan and had a reason to favor Bodhisattvas Puxian and Wenshu. The two pictures of Puxian and Wenshu on the west wall of Cave 220, in fact, are the earliest examples of these two bodhisattvas in the Dunhuang caves.
E. 45 It is possible that the artist intended to place the seven images of Bhai∂ajya-guru on a platform that is close to the land of his own paradise. A poem composed by Emperor Yang of the Sui dynasty (r. 46 The emperor wrote: Trees of lamps shine with one thousand beams, Flames of ﬂowers open on the seven branches. Moon image freezes in ﬂowing water, Spring breeze embraces nighttime plums. 47 Wheel of Dharma [Law] turns up in the sky, Indian music comes up to the sky. 28 I c o n o g r a p h y o f t h e O r i g i n a l E a r l y Ta n g P a i n t i n g s The emperor’s description of the event is very close to the scriptural record of the Healing Ritual in the Dharmagupta version of the Bhai∂ajya-guru Sûtra, which was translated toward the end of the Sui dynasty.
The two bodhisattvas who ﬂank the central Buddha diﬀer slightly from the other eight bodhisattvas in terms of location and posture. They may be considered to be the two chief assistants to the Healing Master (Plate 5). According to the sutra, their names are Sunlight and Moonlight. The other eight bodhisattvas are described as having the responsibility of guiding the deceased believers of the Bhai∂ajya-guru cult to the Western Paradise of Amitâbha. According to the Dharmagupta version of the sutra: If one wants to be reborn into the Western Paradise of Amitâbha, for the cause of hearing the name of the Lapis Lazuli Radiance Tathâgata, there would be eight bodhisattvas ﬂying in the sky to show him the correct path when the person is dying.