Buddha Tejaprabha and Gods of Astronomy
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South wall of passageway of Mogao Cave 61
Copy by Li Yuebo and Huo Xiufeng
According to Buddhist canons, this Buddha has brilliant light issued from every pore on his body, hence the epithet Buddha Tejaprabha or Buddha of the Blazing Lights. His chief role is to eliminate disasters. Although the images of Buddha Tejaprabha at Mogao Caves are painted primarily for religious purpose, they are often complemented by images of stars and star gods. The murals of Buddha Tejaprabha on the south and north walls of the passageway of Cave 61 offer vivid visual representations of the Twenty-Eight Mansions in Chinese astronomy and the Zodiac in Western astronomy. The blending of Chinese and Western astronomic themes attests to the specific value of the Dunhuang murals as an epitome of cultural integration between the East and the West.
Buddha Tejaprabha is depicted as sitting on a bullock cart with high wheels and moving forward escorted by the Gods of the Nine Luminous Stars (Nine Planets). Six of these gods are identifiable as Venus, Mars, Saturn, the Moon, the Sun and Rahu. Since the bottom left of the original mural is damaged, the front of the bullock cart is invisible. Those figures dressed in the costumes of civil officials, standing amid clouds across the top of the painting, represent the Twenty-Eight Mansions. The signs of the Zodiac are floating in the sky in the form of circular images. All the star gods are drifting across the blue sky with auspicious clouds under their feet, indicating that Buddha Tejaprabha is ready to eliminate disasters for sentient beings and give them blessings at all times.
These figures dressed in the attire of civil officials, standing amid clouds across the top of the painting, represent the Twenty-Eight Mansions.
The twelve signs of the Zodiac are indicated in circular images. Nine are identifiable in the painting.
From left to right: Taurus, Virgo, Aries, Capricorn (Figure 1)
Libra (Figure 2)
From left to right: Gemini, Cancer, Scorpio and Pisces (Figure3)