The Mogao Grottoes
- Cave 217

The Mogao Grottoes Cave 217 High Tang Dynasty(A.D.713-766)

Constructed in the Jinglong era (707-710), namely the end of the Early Tang and the beginning of the High Tang, this cave was constructed as the family temple by the Yin Family at Dunhuang. Part of the paintings was renovated in the Later Tang and the Five Dyansties, and the statues were renovated in the Qing dynasty. The main chamber has a truncated pyramidal ceiling which features a medallion pattern in the center enclosed by the twisted vines and draperies that extend to the four slopes covered with the thousand Buddha motifs (partly damaged). There is a niche with a flat entrance in the west wall housing a seated Buddha renovated in the Qing dynasty, and painted images of four bodhisattvas and eight disciples. A bodhisattva is painted on each side of the niche. The south side of the adobe platform on the north side of the niche has an inscription with the portraits and titles of the Yin Family members, Yin Ciqiong and Yin Ciwang. Inside the central frame on the south wall is a preaching scene, in which Mt. Sumeru is painted in the upper with eight temple halls stand on it. The two sides and below the preaching scene are covered with more than 30 scenes of figures and buildings in the landscape context, and each scene has one or several cartouches with unidentified words. The middle part below the preaching scene is a cartouche with some words identified. The lower parts show severe flaking and loss of paint. There is an alien-styled figure on the lower right side. Opinions about the contents of the murals differ: some consider it was executed according to the Lotus Sutra, while some think it is based on the Usnisa Vijaya Dharani Sutra. We accept that the content is according to the USnisa Vijaya Dharani Sutra. The whole north wall is covered with the Amitayus sutra illustration, which consists of three parts: the pure land of Amitabha in the center, the story between Binbisara and Ajatsatru on the west side and the Sixteen Meditations on the east side. The whole east wall is devoted to the illustration of the Universal Gate of the Lotus Sutra. Right above the entrance is a preaching scene of Sakyamuni on the Vulture Peak. The upper parts of the both sides of the entrance are used for scenes of Avalokitesvara saving people from disasters while the lower parts have images of the thirty-three manifestations of Avalokitesvara. Along the entrance on the north side is an image of bhiksu Hong Ren painted in the Five Dynasties. The tent-like ceiling of the corridor has two slopes containing the images of Ksitigabha and Ten Kings painted in the Later Tang. The front chamber was repainted in later dynasties and it is severely damaged.



The Mogao Grottoes Cave 217
Dunhuang Academy