Ruru Jataka(middle)


China Modern Contemporary Art Document

China Modern Contemporary Art Document

RuruJataka is a painting about the experiences of Sakyamuni, the founder of Buddhism, in a former life as a nine-colored deer. It is in a rectangular form, divided into four sections by mountains and groves set in-between. The left most section depicted a scene in which the deer saved a man from drowning, and the man, repeatedly kowtowing to the deer in thanks, promised not to reveal the deer’s whereabouts. But in the section of the right most, the man betrayed the deer by giving the king secret information about the deer. The king had posted an award for the arrest of the deer, as the queen, after dreaming about the deer, would like to make a jacket out of the fur of the deer and a jewel made of its antler. In the image to the left of the right most section, the king is setting off to catch the deer, while the informer, kneeling in front of the king’s chariot, got boils all over his skin for not honoring his promise. The section to the right of the left most illustrate the meeting of the king and the deer, awaken from its light sleep, told the king the entire story.

The mural is recognized as a classic in terms of both palette and design of characters. But the composition of this work is even more ingenious. While illustrating a story full of twists and turns, with the main characters appearing repetitiously in the same scene, the mural still looks concise and succinct.

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  • Title: Ruru Jataka(middle)
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date: 557
  • Provenance: Cave 257 of Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, Gansu Province
  • Original Source: Cave 257 of Mogao Grottoes, Dunhuang, Gansu Province 甘肅敦煌莫高窟257窟西壁
  • Physical format: mural
  • Medium: mural
  • Dynastic period: Northern Wei Dynasty
  • Artist's birth and death date: 386-557