The Mogao Grottoes
- Cave 220

The Mogao Grottoes Cave 220 Early Tang Dynasty(A.D.618-712)

Located on the middle section of the Southern Area at Mogao and constructed in the Early Tang dynasty (renovated in the Middle Tang, Later Tang, Five Dynasties, Song and Qing dynasties), this cave has a truncated pyramidal ceiling and a niche in the west wall. It is one of the representative Tang dynasty caves. It was perhaps in the Song or Western Xia period that the paintings in this cave were all covered with the thousand Buddha motifs. In 1944, the Dunhuang Art Research Institute removed the upper layer murals on the four walls, revealing the original Early Tang paintings. The west niche contains a central Buddha flanked by two disciples and two bodhisattvas (renovated in the Qing dynasty). The donor figures of the Early Tang below the niche are vague. The illustrations of the Vimalakirti and Manjusri are respectively rendered on the two sides out of the niche. The south wall is occupied by the Amitayus sutra illustration, and the north wall by the Medicine Buddha illustration. There are two scenes of dancers in the north wall (called as the whirling dance by some scholars). A preaching scene is painted on the space above the cave entrance. There are also two figures, a male and a female. There is also an inscription dating to the 16th year of Zhengguan era (642 CE). The two sides of the entrance wall are devoted to the Vimalakirti sutra illustration. In 1975, the Dunhuang Art Research Institute has removed the surface layer of the paintings as a whole, thus revealing the intact bottom paintings: a new styled illustration of Manjusri in the Tongguang third year (925) of the Five Dynasties, seven donor figures including that of Zhai Fengda, an inscription (on the north wall), a niche painted in the Middle Tang, a Buddha, a monk and seven donors painted in the Later Tang, an inscription about the Examination of the Family Tree written by Zhai Fengda (on the south wall). Each picture in this cave is a masterpiece, and the image of Vimalakirti in particular is of the highest level. The emperor and ministers can be compared with the Emperors of the Past Dynasties painted by Yan Liben. The dancing scene and the music band in the Medicine Buddha illustration are precious material for studying the music and dance.



The Mogao Grottoes Cave 220
Dunhuang Academy