Exhibition featuring copies of Buddha statues and murals along the ancient Silk Road

By Huang Lanlan Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/11 18:33:39

Into the blissful land

In the dim orange light, vividly carved Buddha statues and elaborately painted murals with gorgeous colors are orderly displayed in the exhibition hall, bringing visitors back to the ancient Silk Road, where 2,000 years ago Buddhism was reportedly introduced to China. Titled Blissful Land: Into the Depth of Statues & Murals, an exhibition featuring 80 copies of statues and murals from Qiuci Grottoes and Maiji Mountain Grottoes will be held at Shanghai Himalayas Museum until late May.

Time-honored treasures

Located in today's Northwest China's ­Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, Qiuci was an important hub of the Silk Road where the Chinese, Indian, Greek, Persian and Arabian civilizations converged.

As a fruit of cultural communication between the East and West, Qiuci Grottoes demonstrates the outstanding creation and high achievements of Buddhist art from 3rd century to 13th century.

The Qiuci Grottoes contains more than 20 Buddhist grotto relics across this area, covering more than 700 caves with nearly 10,000 square meters of preserved frescos.

Maiji Mountain Grottoes, located in the south of today's Northwest China's Gansu Province, has long enjoyed a reputation as one of China's top-four Buddhist grottoes (the other three are: Mogao, Longmen and Yungang grottoes respectively in Gansu, Henan and Shanxi provinces).

It was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site as a part of the "Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang'an-Tianshan Corridor."

Originally founded in the Sixteen Kingdoms period (304-439), despite being damaged several times by earthquakes, fires and wars across the centuries, it contains 221 grottoes, 10,632 clay and stone sculptures and nearly 1,000 square meters of murals preserved, being honored as the "Oriental Sculpture Exhibition Hall."

Why copies?

Some visitors may be disappointed by these exhibits, which are copies instead of original pieces. Curator and the museum director Dai Zhikang said that the copies on display are also valuable works of art.

"Original statues and murals of Qiuci and Maiji Mountain grottoes are too fragile to be moved or transported," Dai told the Global Times, adding that they're better be protected on-site according to various reasons including temperature and humidity.

Nonetheless, their copies created by senior researchers and artists show as much as possible the delicacy and vividness of the Buddhist artworks along the ancient Silk Road.

Must-see exhibits

For those who would like to visit the exhibition, don't miss the following objects that the organizer and the Global Times recommended to watch.

Mural: Gandharva-king Supriya and His Followers

(6th century, Qiuci Grottoes)

In the Buddhist legend, Gandharvas are very skilled at music. They are usually shown in Buddhist cave ­mural drawings as the image of instrumental-playing musicians.

In this painting, wearing exquisite clothes decorated with jewelries and ribbons, the King of the Gandharvas and his wife are playing music for the Buddha's passing.

Mural: Portrait of Donors in Qiuci Grottoes

(6th century, Qiuci Grottoes)

Wealthy people who believed in Buddhism and donated money to the grotto were quite common along the Silk Road. Sometimes, painters added portraits of the donors to their murals as a way of expressing their thanks.

This painting depicts the image of Qiuci donors wearing local-style costumes with large collars.

Statue: Standing Bodhisattva

(Northern Wei Dynasty 386-534, Maiji Mountain Grottoes)

A representative early work of the Maiji Mountain Grottoes, this statue has typical Gandharan style with beautiful, soft curves.

It depicts a bodhisattva, wearing a crown with taotie (a mythical beast) and flower patterns, standing barefoot on a pedestal. His neck is wrapped in a walnut-shaped necklace, and his left chest and waist are covered by a long loop of fabric.

Statue: Standing Bodhisattva

(Western Wei Dynasty 535-556, Maiji Mountain Grottoes)

This is a representative artwork from the Western Wei period, featuring the feminine gentleness and tranquility of bodhisattvas.

In this statue, the bodhisattva has a supple face with thin, curved eyebrows, narrow eyes, a straight nose and thin lips.

His arms hang naturally, with his hand slightly on his stomach. The high crown decorated with flowers as well as the extravagant, layered clothes embody the bodhisattva's nobility and elegance.

Date: Until May 28, 10 am to 6 pm (closed on February 15 and 16)

Venue: 3/F, Shanghai Himalayas Museum 上海喜玛拉雅美术馆3楼

Address: 869 Yinghua Road, Pudong New Area 浦东新区樱花路869号

Call 5033-9801 for details

Gandharva-king Supriya and His Followers

Portrait of Donors in Qiuci Grottoes


Standing Bodhisattva (Northern Wei Dynasty 386-534)


Standing Bodhisattva (Western Wei Dynasty 535-556) Photos: Courtesy of Shanghai Himalayas Museum



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