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Water Moon Avalokiteśvara

(Please click for enlarged image)

South side of west wall of Yulin Cave 2
Western Xia period
Copy by Li Chengxian

This painting of the Water Moon Avalokiteśvara forms a pair with another equally fine painting of the same theme on the north and south side of the west wall in the same cave. This painting is set in a tranquil and profound background featuring a ‘blue and green landscape' in the foreground and the vast South Sea in the distance. Avalokiteśvara is enveloped in a large circle of transparent light and wearing a gold crown with hair draping over the shoulders. The body adorned with garland-necklaces, bracelets and armlets; the lower body covered with a long skirt tied around the waist. Avalokiteśvara is sitting leisurely on a boulder; the right knee raised and left knee pointing to the left (a posture known as rajalilāsana). The left hand is placed on the ground to support the body while a string of prayer beads dangles from the slender fingers of the right hand. The upper body turns slightly sideway and the expression suggests that Avalokiteśvara is contemplating.

The spiky rocky peaks behind Avalokiteśvara look like towering pine tree rising above the clouds. Slender bamboos peek out from rocky crevices. A pair of parrots is flying in the sky. The scenery bespeaks beauty and tranquillity reminiscent of a fairyland.

Depicting on the lower left is a figure riding on clouds. The figure is approaching Avalokiteśvara and joining palms to pay homage to the latter. The painting is furnished with both dynamic and static elements. The blue and green palette is superbly rendered. This is not only a masterpiece of figure painting, but also a distinguished landscape painting.