Dunhuang grottoes art is a solid art
combining architecture, sculpture, and mural. Although Dunhuang murals only play
a role of decoration, and a supplementary role to the sculptures in the
Grottoes, but they feature the greatest number, the largest scale, the finest
art skills and the richest content, providing very valuable information and
material for research on ancient Chinese politics, economy, culture, military,
geography, communication, social life, national relationship, religious history,
art history, and exchanges with foreign countries and history of cultural
exchanges. It is indeed a classic art heritage of great value.
In the 577 grottoes with Mogao
grottoes as the principal one, there are more than 45,000 square meters of
colorful murals. It was called the biggest museum of fine arts in the world.
According research findings, Dunhuang murals can be divided into the following
Buddha Figures: They refer to all kinds of
gods and spirits, such as Buddha, Bodhisattva, and Buddha Guards, etc. worshiped
by Buddhists. Most of them are painted in the pictures of Teaching
Doctrine. In Mogao grottoes alone there are 12,208 figures of Buddha with
different expressions and postures in 933 pictures of Teaching
Jingbian Painting: They refer to an art form
that employs paintings and literature to make abstract Buddha sutra easy to
understand. A drawing that explains abstract sutra is called Bianxiang,
and the method of explaining sutra with words and singing is called
Legendary Mural: Its subject maters are
traditional Chinese legends, which refer to the contents or subjects of Taoist
thought appearing in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). Occurrence of Taoist
thoughts in Buddha grottoes reflects the combination of the Buddhist meditative
absorption and Taoist Xujing (quiet and calm). It is also the influence
of Buddhist thought and art on Chinese culture.
Almsgivers' Figures: Almsgivers refer to
those who believe in Buddhism and finance the building of grottoes. To show
their sincere belief in Buddhism and leave fame in the future, they painted
themselves, their family members and servants inside the grottoes when building
Decorative Painting: Rich and colorful
decorative paintings are mainly used to decorate the construction of grottoes,
and desk covers, clothes and containers. The pattern kept changing along with
time, revealing outstanding painting skills and rich imagination of the artists.
The patterns mainly include sunken panel, rafter, and edge decoration, etc.
Story Painting: To attract more and more
people and spread Buddhism with great efforts, it is necessary to transmit the
abstract and profound Buddhist sutra to ordinary people in simple words and
vivid form. Therefore plenty of story paintings were painted in grottoes, which
have exerted an imperceptible influence on people when they saw the murals. The
stories are full of rich content and moving plot with strong life atmosphere and
Except the above-mentioned murals, there are
also murals on buildings, containers, flowers and birds, animals, etc. Dunhuang
Murals systematically reflect changes and art exchange history between China and
western countries in respect of the art style of various periods in arrangement,
figure, outline, and color, etc.