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Bodhisattvas attending sermon

(Please click for enlarged image)

South part of west wall outside the niche of Mogao Cave 272
Northern Liang period
Copy by Li Zhenfu

The mural depicts 20 small images of seated bodhisattvas arranged in four rows. Their facial expressions differ. The dance-like postures of their arms, hands, waists and legs suggest that they rejoice in the sermon given by the Buddha. Every bodhisattva is elegantly and uniquely postured. The floating and meandering streamers serve to link up the images to create a sense of harmony and rhythm. It is worth noting that the postures such as twisting the waist, glancing sideway, manoeuvring the fingers and crossing the legs indicate strong influence of Indian dances.

Earth-red forms the single background colour of the mural while the figures are mainly painted in malachite green, azurite blue and white. The body contours and facial features are drawn in brown. The noses and eyes are lightly washed with colour and then highlighted with white to accentuate the effect of three-dimensionality. This treatment of light and shade called chiaroscuro is a typical feature of the paintings of the Western Regions. The crisp and vibrant colour scheme is a feature of early Dunhuang grotto art.