Donors on Silk, Hemp, and Paper 绢、麻、纸上的供养人像
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。
It was excavated from the Dunhuang Library Cave thousands of paintings on silk, hemp, and paper, ranging from the Tang to the Northern Song dynasty, with the majority of them from the Five Dynasties. Compared with paintings in the caves, paintings on silk, hemp, and paper were less costly merit-building activities. It also facilitated worshipping and offering activities for Buddhist practitioners at home, shrines, and temples. Therefore, these were commonly used by people from high ranking officers, to middle and lower officials, and to ordinary citizens. Together with paintings in the caves, these silk and paper paintings were part of the organic components of Dunhuang Buddhist arts.
British Museum Ch. xviii.002 “Prajnaparamita-hridaya Sutra and Four Heavenly Kings Image” (般若心经与四大天王像) inscription: “Currently Longji Second Year February 18, Disciple…Zhang Yan’e, piously write and paint this sutra one volume” (时当龙纪二载二月十八日,弟子将仕郎守左神武军长史兼御史中丞上柱国赐绯鱼袋张延锷,敬心写画此经一册), indicating this illustrated Buddhist sutra was created by Zhang Yan’e, the fourth son of the Late Tang Dynasty Zhang Family Guiyijun second general Zhang Huaishen.
British Museum Ch.xxx.002 & CH.4514(6) woodblock print painting “Vaisravana Image” (大圣毗沙门天王像) and “The Greatly Merciful Greatly Compassionate Rescuer from Suffering Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara” (大慈大悲救苦观世音菩萨): both have images on the top and writings underneath. The first one has inscription “Disciple Guiyijun General…Cao Yuanzhong commissioned artisans to carve this block” (弟子归义军节度使特进检校太傅谯郡曹元忠请匠人雕此印板); the latter has inscription “Disciple Guiyijun General Guazhou..Cao Yuanzhong carved this printing block” (弟子归义军节度瓜沙等州观察处置管内营田押蕃落等使特进检校太傅谯郡开国侯曹元忠雕此印板). The inscription years for both were July 15th, 947 A.D. (大晋开运四年丁未岁七月十五日). Refer to P.4514 which also held the Cao Yuanzhong version of these two paintings made from the same original woodblock, demonstrating woodblock printing activities practiced by high local officers during the Five Dynasties.
Many paintings excavated from the Library Cave were commissioned by middle to lower government officials and their families. For example, Ch.lv0023 864 A.D. “Official official…Tang Anjian” (衙前虞侯唐安谏), Ch. xxi002 972 A.D.”Donor Elder Brother Dunhuang Military Head Zhang □Qiao” (施主兄敦煌步军队头张□桥”, and MG.17659 981 A.D. “Donor General…Fan Jishou” (施主节度都头银青光禄大夫检校国子祭酒兼御史中丞樊继寿), each commissioned Avalokiteshvara paintings on silk.
MG.22799 “Donor Elder Brother Wang □□, Younger Brother Horse Deputy Wang Chuanzi” (施主兄王□□、弟正兵马使王传子”) and EO.3583 “Dunhuang County Right □ Head Xu Nuzi“ (敦煌乡右□将队头徐奴子) , each commissioned Avalokiteshvara images on hemp.
EO.3566 “Pure Believer Disciple Government Officer…Fan Yanding“ (清信弟子生衙前正十将氾延定) commissioned Marici painting on paper.
Ordinary Buddhist monks and believers also painted large amounts of silk, hemp, and paper images. For example,MG. 25486 959 A.D. “Pure Believer Disciple Zhang Baozhi Greatly Devote Heart Respectfully Paint” (清信弟子张宝之大发心敬画) painting on hemp “Twelve Faces of Avalokiteshvara” (十二面观音菩萨); and Ch.lviii003 963 A.D. “Pure Believer Disciple Kang Qingnu” (清信弟子康清奴) and family together paint on silk “Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva” (地藏菩萨).
It is worth noting that, the British and French collected paintings contained two paintings on paper offered by shoe and boot maker Suo Zhangsan, Ch.liv0011 “Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva Image” (观音菩萨像) inscribed “Pure Believer Disciple Shoe and Boot Maker Suo Zhangsan Offer with Whole Heart” (清信士佛弟子缝鞋靴匠索章三一心供养); E.O.1398 “Prabhutaratna Image” (多宝佛像) inscribed “Donor Pure Believer Disciple Leather Artisan Shoe and Boot Maker Suo Zhangsan Offer with Whole Heart” (施主清信佛弟子皮匠缝鞋靴录事索章三一心供养). Shoe maker Suo Zhangsan was low in social class and had little money, therefore he couldn’t afford silk paintings, nor paint self donor images, but could only pay for two paintings on paper with his name inscribed, however, these were valuable materials evidencing a poor donor from more than a thousand years ago.