Dunhuang Cave Donors Part 2 敦煌石窟供养人第二部分

Donor and Portrait Types 供养人及其像类型

This article is a direct translation of the selected Chinese texts from the Dunhuang Academy website with permission from the Dunhuang Academy. To read the article in Chinese, please click here. Images Courtesy of Digital Dunhuang of the Dunhuang Academy. 此文章为敦煌研究院授权其网站原文节选翻译。阅读原文中文版请点击这里。图像均由敦煌研究院授权发表。

Except for portraits of Buddhist characters, there are a lot of colored paintings of sponsors of the cave (Cave owners), their family (donors), and their outing entourages in the Dunhuang Caves. 

Dunhuang Donors Types:

  1. Individual donors who contributed money collectively for the construction of caves: each monetary donor had a portrait, with their names inscribed next to them. Some caves had up to 10, or even 1000 donors, like Mogao Cave 428, which had over 1200 donor images. These collective donors were mostly low level governmental officials, Buddhist monks, nuns, practitioners, villagers, painters, sculptors, maids and slaves.
  2. Community organized collective cave donors: these were members of the local community, called “yishe” (邑社). These donors were mostly low level monasterial and governmental officials, city and country gentries, commoners, and low level laborers. The caves were called “community caves”. Each donor got one portrait with name inscribed next to it. For example, Cave 216 was commissioned by the local community “yishe” (邑社); the Maitreya transformation mural painting in Cave 205 was commissioned by Wang Tieshang and 23 other community members collectively during the middle Tang Dynasty; and Dunhuang Manuscript Pelliot No. 2991 has merit record of community member Ping Zhuozi and 18 other people building a cave in the Mogao Grottoes. Building caves as communities were relatively more popular during the middle and late Tang, Five Dynasties, and Song dynasties, so there were more donor portraits in caves from these periods.
  3. Individual or single family sponsored caves: the main sponsor or sponsoring family of these caves would include every family member or relative in the painting, from grandparents, to siblings, in-laws, grandchildren, slaves, and maids. The main donors were usually the same or larger in height and size than the real person.and painted with inscriptions next to them. The slaves and maids following were all smaller than their owners in size, and holding offering goods, dressing cases, and clothes, without inscriptions. These donor portraits were mostly created after the high Tang period, of Tibetan, Uyghur, Tangut, Mongolian princes and nobles, and ethnic Han military generals, government officials, and local riches and nobles. Their inscriptions would completely describe their official titles and prominent statuses. For example, 
    • High Tang Dynasty Mogao Cave 130 inscriptions: 
      • …Jinchang County Military General Jinchang County Chief…Yue Tinghuan” (朝议大夫使持节都督晋昌郡诸军事守晋昌郡太守墨离军使赐紫金鱼袋上柱国乐庭環),
      • Wife of the General Taiyuan Madame Wang Offer with Whole Heart” (都督夫人太原王氏一心供养).
    • High Tang Dynasty Mogao Cave 148 inscription: 
      • Disciple…Longxi Li Mingzhen Offer with Whole Heart” (弟子银青光禄大夫检校国子祭酒守凉州左司马兼御史大夫上柱国陇西李明振一心供养).
    • Late Tang Dynasty Mogao Cave 156 inscriptions: 
      • Nephew…General…Huaishen Offer with Whole Heart” (侄男银青光禄大夫检校太子宾客上柱……大将军使持节诸……赐紫金鱼袋淮深一心供养像),
      • Appointed Song Country Henei County Guangping Madame Song Offer with Whole Heart“ (敕宋国河内郡太夫人广平宋氏一心供养).
    • Five Dynasties Mogao Cave 98 inscriptions: 
      • Late Other King Father Former Hexi Eleven States General…Nanyang Zhang Yichao Offer with Whole Heart” (故外王父前河西一十一州节度管内观察处置押蕃落支度营田等使金紫光禄大夫检校司图食邑口口户实口伍伯户……节授右神武将军太保河西万户侯赐紫金鱼袋上柱国南阳郡张议潮一心供养), 
      • Great Dynasty Great Treasure Khotanese…Heavenly Son…“ (大朝大宝于闻国大圣大明天子……”,
      • …Princess was Northern Uyghur Khan…“ (敕受开国公主是北方大回鹘国圣天可汗……). 
      • This cave has more than 167 portraits with inscriptions.
    • Five Dynasty Cave 61 inscriptions: 
      • Late Mother Northern Uyghur…Princess Longxi Li…“ (故母北方大回鹘国圣天的子敕授秦国天公主陇西李……). 
      • This cave has up to 62 portraits with inscriptions. 
    • Mogao Cave 409 Uyghur King donor portrait
    • Yulin Cave 3 Tangut government official donor portraits, 
    • Yulin Cave 6 Mongolian nobles and wives donor portraits, and etc.

Among these various donor portraits, those from early periods were mostly for worshipping, offering, meriting, and praying, but later on, especially after late Tang, most portraits used inscriptions to boast about their family and official status. From these portraits and inscriptions, one could detect the ups and downs of the ancient Dunhuang political movements, family prosperities, and the surrounding ethnic group changes and relationship developments. From their dresses, one could trace the fashion and social changes in ancient times.

Outing Entourage Paintings:

  1. Paintings to showcase the victorious military campaigns and political achievements of the cave owners. For example, 
    • Late Tang Dynasty Mogao Cave 156 “Hexi General Zhang Yichao Military Marching Image” (张议潮统军出行图)
    • Five Dynasties Mogao Cave 100 “Guiyijun General Cao Yijin Military Military Marching Image“ (归义军节度使曹议金统军出行图)
    • Five Dynasties Yulin Cave 12 “Guazhou Investigator Murong Outing Image” (瓜州刺史慕容氏出行图) and etc.
  2. Paintings of noble women pleasure outings. For example, 
    • Cave 156 “Wife of Zhang Yichao Song Country Henei County Madame Song Outing Image” (张议潮夫人宋国河内郡夫人宋氏出行图)
    • Cave 100 Wife of Cao Yijin “Uyghur Princess Outing Image” (回鹘公主出行图)
    • Five Dynasties Yulin Cave 12 “Madame Murong Outing Image” (慕容氏夫人出行图)and etc.

Back to Part 1 – Dynastic Features 回第一部分 – 时代特征

Continue to Part 3 – Donors on Silk, Hemp, and Paper 继续阅读第三部分 – 绢、麻、纸供养人像