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Donor portrait of King of Khotan

(Please click for enlarged image)


The object image

Figure 1


The object image

Figure 2

The object image


Figure 3




East wall of Mogao Cave 98
Five Dynasties period
Copy by Feng Zhongnian

This is a portrait of Li Shengtian (? – 966), King of Khotan. The original mural is 2.9 metres tall, notably the tallest donor portrait among all Dunhuang murals. Khotan was a large ancient kingdom in the Western Regions, presently Hetian county of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

According to research, Li Shengtian is the Han Chinese name of the Khotanese King Vijaya Sambhava. Since his ancestors had provided meritorious service to the Tang court, they were conferred the surname Li and became namesake of the Tang emperors. According to the donor's inscription, this cave was constructed by Cao Yijin, Military Commissioner of the Guiyijun Army at Shazhou during the Tongguang reign (923 – 925) of the Later Tang regime. The identity of the figure is written in ink in a cartouche on the left side of the portrait, reading: "The King of great holiness and great wisdom of the Kingdom of Khotan of a great dynasty and great preciousness; that is, Master of this cave". To maintain an amicable relationship with the ethnic groups in the surrounding regions, Cao Yijin married his daughter to the King of Khotan. The cartouche inscription has indicated that the Cao family has honoured their in-law, the Khotanese King, as ‘Master of the cave'.

The Khotanese King Li Shengtian is wearing a crown with jewelled tassels (mianliu), a ceremonial robe with royal insignia and a pair of shoes with upturned toes, all originated in the Central Plains.

Selected Images

Gemstone earring. (Figure 1)

The robe is decorated with the Twelve Symbols, motifs exclusively used on the emperor's robes in the Central Plains. Among these Symbols are the Dragon and the Axe. (Figure 2)

The fist-shaped pommel of the dress sword attached to his waist is carved from jade. (Figure 3)