Mogao Cave 45
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Buddha the principal statue
Ānanda, the disciple of the Buddha and the painted image of bodhisattva behind him
Acolyte bodhisattva on the right side of the Buddha
Acolyte bodhisattva on the left side of the Buddha
Virūḍhaka, the Heavenly King of the South
Vaiśravaṇa, the Heavenly King of the North
Stucco statues on the west wall
High Tang dynasty
Copy by Zhang Lijun and Li Lin
Cave 45 was constructed in the heydays of Mogao Caves. This group of figures are replicas of the stucco statues enshrined in the niche of its principal wall. The superb artistry demonstrated by these works has rendered them the most representative group of high Tang statues found at Mogao Caves.
These well-preserved stucco statues demonstrate the classic grouping of one buddha, two disciples, two bodhisattvas and two heavenly kings.
This group of statues with well-captured forms and expressions epitomises the varied images of different people of the high Tang dynasty. The varying status and personality of the Buddha and each of his acolytes are vividly represented. The solemnity of the Buddha, the modesty of his disciples, the feminine charm of the bodhisattvas and the formidableness of the heavenly kings are appropriately demonstrated.
This seven-figure grouping has been thoughtfully composed and arrayed to attend to the visual perspective of the worshippers. The seven statues are horizontally and more or less symmetrically arrayed on both sides of the Buddha statue, and all with eyes looking downward. When a worshiper kneeling in front of the niche raises his head to gaze at the statues, he would feel that every statue is gazing at him with compassion.
Another characteristic of this grouping is the ingenious blending of sculptural and painted art. For instance, six painted images of bodhisattva are inserted between seven statues to form an integral whole.
Furthermore, a gemmed canopy is painted on the top of the wall behind the statues of the Buddha. The ceiling of the niche is decorated with a mural illustrating an episode in the chapter Visualising Prabhūtaratna (Abundant Treasures) Stūpa contained in the Saddharma puṇḍarīka Sūtra (Lotus Sūtra). It shows Buddha Śākyamuni and Buddha Prabhūtaratna (Buddha of Abundant Treasures) sitting across each other inside the Prabhūtaratna Stūpa. The stūpa is flanked by an audience of bodhisattvas. The rest of the spaces on the ceiling and the walls behind the statues are painted with the images of the other eight principle disciples of the Buddha, other bodhisattvas, the Eight Classes of Celestial Beings (Buddhist guardian deities) and apsaras to create a complete preaching scene of the Buddha in the Pure Land. The niche, the statues and the painting complement each other to result in a three-dimensional preaching scene.