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Buddhist art communication between Dunhuang and Japan : a study of a silk painting of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva found in Dunhuang


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Zhang, Xiaoyang




Master of Arts in Religious Studies


Capitanio, Joshua
Iwamura, Jane N.
Shakya, Miroj


In this thesis, I investigate the time and origin of a given silk painting of Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva found in Mogao Cave, Dunhuang, China. This given painting presents feminized features in the portrait of the masculine hell ruler, Kṣitigarbha Bodhisattva, which implies a unique Buddhist culture embedded in this painting. Through a discussion of the social conditions, sketch techniques, application of color, and detailed features of the painting, this paper narrows down the possible production time to the late ninth century. Based on the painting’s style and comparison with comparable paintings in Dunhuang, I hypothesize a possible Japanese influence. By analyzing the Japanese Buddhist culture during the Heian Period, in which the bodhisattva's compassion is reflected and emphasized through feminized features, I discuss this possible influence. Previous studies also suggest the transmission of visual forms from Japan to China in the ninth century, which suggest that Japanese works were brought to the Dunhuang region. While definitive historical evidence of communication between Japan and Dunhuang or identified Japanese works at Mogao Cave cannot be found, the possibility of such an exchange is established through art historical analysis and other indirect evidence, which may be carried forward in future studies.

Degree Granter

University of the West



Library Holding