Skip To Content

Caisson ceiling design with three rabbits and apsara figures

(Please click for enlarged image)

Ceiling of Mogao Cave 407
Sui dynasty
Copy by Duan Wenjie and Li Fu

This caisson pattern is painted onto the centre of the truncated pyramid ceiling of the cave. The centre of the caisson is painted with a large eight-petalled multi-layered lotus flower. Three rabbits are chasing each other in anticlockwise direction in the core of the flower. Each rabbit shows one ear, and the three ears conjoin to form a triangle. This clever design has not only accentuated the rotating movement of the rabbits, but also created the illusion that each rabbit is showing two ears.

Painted around the lotus are figures of apsaras, monks and boys flying in anticlockwise direction encircling the central motif. The direction of their movement echoes with that of the three rabbits. The multi-layered borders of the square well are meticulously painted with compact structured patterns of various designs. This is a fine example of caisson design of the Sui dynasty.