Ceiling Mural


China Modern Contemporary Art Document

China Modern Contemporary Art Document

Cave 249 of Mogao Grottos is in the shape of an overturned rectangular bucket with a caisson ceiling featuring hanging lotus flowers and four walls depicting both the celestial and the earthly worlds filled with all kinds of species. Each of the four trapezoid-shaped walls is divided into the upper and lower sections. The upper sections illustrate the magic fairy world with one main character surrounded by apsaras and auspicious animals for each wall. On the western wall Asurindaka is painted with his two handing holding up the sun and the moon. Behind him is the open Heavenly Gate. Two muscle men were portrayed on the eastern wall holding up the precious pearl with the escort of apsaras. On the southern wall, the Queen Mother of the West (some other believe this is a concubine of Sakka) is on a trip in a chariot carried by phoenixes under the guidance of fairies and apsaras, while the northern wall reveals a similar scene: the King Father of the East (some others deem as Sakka) is on an outing in a carriage carried by dragons. Though not placed in a sequence of storytelling, these images on the four walls are full of dynamics with lively postures of characters and the cloud patterns filling in the blanks.

The lower sections of the walls depict humans, birds and animals in mountains and groves. These lifelike characters were drawn with lines or color blocks. Such a sketch-like style of the images implies the rule of these murals, which were intended, instead of fine artworks, as religious paintings to create a pure atmosphere for believers to be pious.

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  • Title: Ceiling Mural
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 556
  • Provenance: Cave 249 of Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, Gansu Province
  • Physical format: mural
  • Medium: mural
  • Dynastic period: Western Wei Dynasty
  • Artist's birth and death date: 535-556