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Dunhuang Color Sculptures

Dunhuang Color Sculptures, totaling more than 3,000 in 577 grottoes, are the major part of extant Buddhist art articles in Dunhuang area with Mogao Grottoes as the principal part. Some are more than 30 meters high and some are only several centimeters high. They are still well preserved after more than 1,000 years.

The main objects of Dunhuang color sculptures are mainly images of all types of Buddhas, such as Sakyamuni, Maitreya Buddha, and Bhaisajyaguru Buddha, etc., Bodhisattvas such as Kwan-yin, Vajrapani Bodhisattva and other bodhisattvas, as well as disciples, heavenly kings, Hercules and Flying Apsaras, etc. As the grottoes were cut on hard gravels, the traditional clay sculpture was adopted to make Buddhist images.

Major Forms

Round Sculptures: The three-dimensional statues can be appreciated in every direction. The method is mainly employed to mold Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and heavenly kings, etc.

Relief Sculptures: They are figures and objects such as plane clothes, ribbons, background and eave, etc, that are molded on a plane.

Shadow Sculptures: They are mostly molded first, then adhered to the walls, and finally painted with colors. Shadow sculptures mainly include Thousand Buddhas and Flying Apsaras, etc.

Arrangement of Statues in Grottoes

Detached: Individual statues are separately designed and manufactured, without any connection with each other.

Centripetal: The most common combination of color statues is with Buddha sitting in the core, and Bodhisattva, heavenly kings, Hercules sitting at the both sides of Buddha symmetrically.

Multi-centre: More than one statue groups are arranged in the grottoes.

Parallel: The method of arrangement is mainly employed to make shadow statues of Thousand Buddhas, which are laid in an order of equal distance in length and width.

The most prominent artistic feature of Dunhuang color statues lies in the combination of all the statues in one grotto with murals to form an integral part, being supplemental to each other. Color statues on Buddhist altars and niches, accompanied by murals, are so arranged that they are in the dominant positions without damaging the uniformity of the entire grotto art. Therefore the whole grottoes feature uniformity and harmony. Another characteristic is the rich content and colo. With rich imagination, craftsmen carved all the figures of Buddha in a thousand different postures, expressions and looks.

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