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Dunhuang Painted Sculpture


Dunhuang painted sculpture is an important part of Dunhuang grotto art. It is the painted sculpture with Chinese characteristics that was founded on the hundreds of years of the sculpture art of China plus the absorption and integration of the essence of foreign art.

The main images of Dunhuang painted sculpture are various Buddha statues such as Sakyamuni, Maitreya and so on. Next comes the statues of Bodhisattva, for example the Goddess of Mercy and the Alimentation Bodhisattvas. There are also some statues that use Hercules and flying fairies as their subjects. Since the grottoes are cut in conglomerate which cannot be carved, the ancient craftsmen turned to the traditional method of using earth to mold statues. The main molded statues include round sculptures and relief sculptures. Round sculpture indicates the completely three-dimensional statues that are independent of any background and can be appreciated from all directions. This is used to make the statues of Buddha, Bodhisattva, Heavenly Kings and so on. Relief sculpture refers to the protruded statues that are made on a plane surface. This way of sculpture can be used to make the clothes, streamers and the back of the shaped ceilings and brims. The distribution of statues in the grottoes is varied according to their statuses. Mainly, there are independently designed and made single statues, the centripetal statues with Buddha sit in the center and the two sides of the statue are arranged with His follower Bodhisattva, Heavenly Kings and Hercules in symmetry and the multi-center type with several groups of statues arranged in a grotto. At present, there are more than 3000 painted sculptures, including more than 2000 round sculptures and more than 1000 relief sculptures.

Depend on their rich imagination and superb sculpture and drawing techniques, the skilful craftsman molded a few main figures into several thousands of vividly shaped painted sculptures that are also colorful and lifelike. They are of very high artistic values. Dunhuang painted sculpture also provides very important objective materials for the research on the sculpture art and folk customs of China.

Editor: Liu Xiongfei