Art, Religion and Politics in Medieval China: The Dunhuang by Qiang Ning

By Qiang Ning

The cave-temple advanced popularly referred to as the Dunhuang caves is the world's biggest extant repository of Tang Buddhist paintings. among the finest preserved of the Dunhuang caves is the Zhai relations Cave, in-built 642. it truly is this extraordinary cave-temple that varieties 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 came upon there, the writer combines the ancient research of images with the pictorial examine of background. by means of using this two-fold method, he's capable of seek advice from textual proof in reading the formal positive aspects of the cave-temple work and to hire visible info to fill within the ancient gaps unavoidably left via text-oriented students. the result's a complete research of the visible tradition of the interval and a shiny description of social existence in medieval China. the unique Zhai kin Cave photographs have been painted over within the 10th century and remained hidden until eventually the early Nineteen Forties. as soon as uncovered, the early paintings seemed clean and colourful compared to different Tang work at Dunhuang.

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Extra info for Art, Religion and Politics in Medieval China: The Dunhuang Cave of the Zhai Family

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All these new features emerging in the Zhai family cave had strong influences on the later Dunhuang caves, particularly on the Tang caves. The Zhai family cave, therefore, provides an excellent foundation to analyze the Buddhist cave-temples of the Tang dynasty and may shed light on knowledge about medieval Chinese Buddhist art and culture in general. In order to have a full understanding of the Zhai family cave, a thorough identification of the contents of its paintings and sculptures is required.

The left group focuses on the Bodhisattva Puxian (Samantabhadra) (Fig. 2), and the right group concentrates on the Bodhisattva Wenshu (Mañjuùrî) (Fig. 3). These two bodhisattvas became very popular in China during the early Tang dynasty, and continued to attract believers’ attention in later periods. Seven images of the early Tang patrons are depicted below the niche. The three striking ink characters “Zhai Jia Ku” (Zhai family cave) are written at the lower center (Fig. 4). Theoretically, the sculptures in the western niche should be viewed as the main deities for religious devotion.

On the whole, the visual details of the north wall painting do not match the scriptural descriptions of the Eastern Paradise of Bhai∂ajya-guru. Instead, they can be better connected with the Healing Ritual described in the Bhai∂ajya-guru Sûtra. Creating seven images of the Healing Buddha, making the five-colored banners, lighting the lamps, performing music and singing praise—all are included in the process of the Healing Ritual. Thus this splendid 25 A RT, R E L I G I O N , A N D P O L I T I C S I N M E D I E VA L C H I N A murals were made before the Dharmagupta translation, their scriptural basis must have been the Dunhuang-Huijian version of the sutra, the only version available by the end of the Sui.

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