Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Dunhuang: Mogao Cave 249 (敦煌: 莫高窟 249)

The ancient man-made Mogao Caves along China's silk road contain over 1,000 years' worth of invaluable buddhist painting and sculpture. Not only does this cave (#249) stand out because the murals contain some of the earliest depictions of Ashura, Fujin and Raijin, but in #249 they are all depicted together for perhaps the first time in history (for example, there are two very similar Raijin depictions in Cave #285, but no images of Ashura or Fujin are found in those murals). Doubtless, the sculptural inspiration for the physiology and attributes of some of Japan's most well known Buddhist dieties (found at the Kofukuji and the Sanjusangendo) can be traced back to these very caves, thousands of miles and centuries away from Kyoto and Nara.

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