Tianshan Mountain Landscape
Between Kuqa and Kizil, in Xinjiang
Some spectacular landscape views can be seen from the new road which started being cut between Kuqa and Kizil in 2007. The outcrop to the right in this photo provides a real-life example of the “axe-cut texture stroke” used in Chinese painting. The scenery here reminds one of the Buddha’s True Land paradises, with its tall towers and elegant pavilions.
Below are some featured carvings and statues in Kuza-Kizil Grottoes:
Thousand-Buddha Caves, Kizil, Xinjiang
The Buddhist grottoes in Kizil date from approximately 300-700 AD. The caves display Indian/Gandharan and Iranian, rather than Chinese, styles in their artwork. Kizil’s 200+ grottoes form the second-largest collection of cave chapel art in the region, Dunhuang being the largest. Significant paint remains today, although all Kizil’s once-abundant clay images have by now been either destroyed or removed by a combination of erosion, flooding, and Muslim and European interference with the site.
A modern statue of Kumarajiva (344-414 AD) appears at photo right. The great translator/monk was born in Kuqa.
Garuda, Thousand-Buddha Caves, Cave 171 5th Century AD
The Hindu Garuda, Vishnu’s mount, is painted here on the ceiling of an early Buddhist cave, more as a cultural motif than for any religious significance. The snakes that he holds in his mouth form a decorative pattern around his head and torso. The figural design is Persian, in spite of the Indian origin of its subject.
Sky Motifs, Thousand-Buddha Caves, Cave 38, 4th Century AD
A sky scene runs along the spine of the ceiling of Cave #38. From the top of the photo down: (1) a sun disk with four flying white geese; (2) the wind god in a medallion; (3) a standing Buddha in monk’s robe, right hand in “fear-not,” decorated with two pairs of streamers; (4) a winged vase or headless bird with an abstract design of paired snake-like bodies, possibly Garuda drawn by an artist who did not understand the motif; (5) another medallion, with unidentified figure; (6) another standing Buddha; and (7) a crescent moon, ringed by 16 small dots (including losses in the count) and surrounded by four flying white geese. In mountains on either side are depicted ascetics with antelopes and other creatures from the natural world.
Listening To A Sermon, Thousand-Buddha Caves, Cave 84, 7th Century AD
The people in this picture, listening to a sermon, are typically Indian in dress and features, as is the composition and everything else about the painting. It does seem quite likely that it was painted by an artist from India.
Heavenly Musicians, Thousand-Buddha Caves, Cave 171, 5th Century
The figure on the left is playing the hand-harp (konghou). The instrument itself is not visible, but can be inferred from the position of the hands. The figure on the right is striking a small gong (held in the left hand, struck with a stick in the right)
Bodhisattva, Thousand-Buddha Caves, 7th Century AD
This charming Bodhisattva, of painted clay, was unearthed in 1989 (location unspecified) and is displayed in the small museum on site. The features of the Bodhisattva are typically Kuchean, as can be seen by comparing the statue to other statues and paintings of Kucheans of the same period.
Pottery, 9th Century AD
This clay sculpture, 21.5cm long. It was discovered in 1999 in the western area of the gorge.
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