Mogao Grottoes
- Cave 321

Mogao Grottoes Cave 321

Constructed in the reign time of Empress Wu Zetian in the Tang dynasty, this is a hall cave with a truncated pyramidal ceiling. The ceiling center features a large medallion surrounded by the draperies of twisted vines and half medallions that extend to the four slopes covered with the thousand Buddha motifs (a part of the south slope is damaged). The central Buddha is the original Early Tang work, the other statues including disciples, bodhisattvas and guardian warriors were all renovated or repainted in the Qing dyansty. The arch ceiling of the niche is decorated with double-layered railing against which is a row of bodhisattvas looking downwards. Behind them is the vast sky with apsaras, clouds, flowers, palaces, and fairy ladies. The sutra illustration on the south wall was first identified as that of the Lotus Sutra and finally as that of the Ten Wheel Sutra, which this text adopts. This sutra is mainly about the belief in Ksitigabha bodhisattva and it consists of four parts respectively on Ksitigabha, on the Ten Wheels, on the Period of Termination, and on the Six Perfections. In composition, the sutra illutration is largely divided into four areas: 1. the center for the preaching scene; 2. the middle of the west side for the salvations of Ksitigabha; 3. The upper part of the west side for the manifestations of Ksitigabha (some scenes are rendered on the upper of the east side), according to the sutras, Ksitigabha has fouty-four manifestations; 4. The east side for the Candala of the Kshatriya class (The Jataka of King Elephant is on the west side in this area). The north wall was completely occupied by the Amitabha sutra illustration. In the center is the preaching scene of the Buddha and on two sides are bodhisattvas listening to Buddha\'s preaching. The architecture in this illustration is very special. Above the water are platforms and two side corridors, the pavillion with an east Asian hip and gable roof consists of two storeys, three jian in depth and three jian in width. There is no eave under the flat base of the upper storey. This kind of depiction is only seen among the Early Tang paintings.There is no window or wall between the pillars of the upper and lower storeys, which is replaced by the hanging curtains. The ground of the platform is paved with flowered tiles, similar to the customs of the Tang dynasty. On the space above the east entrance is a preaching scene, and on either side of it is a preaching scene of a seated Buddha. The south side of the entrance contains a standing Buddha and two bodhisattva in the center and a row of male donors of the Five Dynasties below (obscured). The north side contains a eleven-headed Avalokitesvara illustration in the center, and a row of male donors painted in the Five Dynasties (obscured). On the lower parts of the north and east walls in the main chamber are male donor figures, most of them have been obscured. Judged from the numbers in the surviving inscriptions, people who sponsored the construction of this cave were mainly from the Zhang, Lihu,and Cao families. On the tent-like ceiling of the corridor are part of a parasol and a desk painted in the Five dynasties. The north and south slopes are decorated with hanging draperies.On the tent-like ceiling of the corridor are part of a parasol and a desk painted in the Five dynasties. The north and south slopes are decorated with hanging draperies. A hell illustration was rendered on the south side of the entrance in the west wall of the front chamber (which was revealed in 1965 by removing the surface layer of paintings), and on the north side beneath the Five Dynasties paitnings are traces of the Early Tang murals. The south wall is covered with a Samantabhadra illustration (imcomplete) and the north wall with the Manjusri illustration (incomplete).



Mogao Grottoes Cave 321
Ttruncated Pyramidal Ceiling
Mogao Grottoes
Dunhuang Academy