The Mogao Grottoes
- Cave 323

The Mogao Grottoes Cave 323 Early Tang Dynasty(A.D.618-712)

The date of construction is not clear and it is supposed that this cave was constructed in the Early Tang period. This cave consists of the front chamber with a gabled ceiling, which partly survives, and the main chamber which is square in plan with a truncated pyramidal ceiling. The themes of the murals are mainly Buddhist historical stories. The painted statues were renovated in the Five Dynasties, Western Xia and the Qing dynasty. The ceiling center depicts a large medallion surrounded by the draperies which extend to the four slopes, and the four slopes are covered with the thousand Buddha motifs. There is a niche with a flat ceiing in the west wall, which contains a five-stucco grouping, all renovated in the Qing dynasty. The central figure in the niche is The Buddha seated with legs pendent, flanked by two disciples, two bodhisattvas who stand on a lotus throne. On the ceiling of the niche is a parasol with Bodhi trees and two apsaras. The wall is covered with the mountains in bas relief (renovated in the Qing dynasty) which is connected with the landscape in the murals on the south and north sides out of the niche. Above the niche are Buddhas and clouds. A Buddha seated in meditation was painted below the niche in the Western Xia. Underliying this layer are remains of murals of the Early Tang and the Five dynasties.The upper section of the south wall is decorated with the Thousand-Buddha motif, and the middle section is covered with three stories of Buddhist history from the west side to the east side, 1. Two Stone Buddha\'s floating on the River in the Western Jin Dynasty, 2. a Golden Image Appearing from the River in Yangzhou in the Eastern Jin Dynasty, and 3. Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty Welcoming Master Tanyan. The lower section has images of seven Bodhisattvas. The upper part of the north wall is covered with the Thousand Buddha motif, and on the middle part are five stories of Buddhist history from west to east: 1. Emperor Wu of the Western Han obtaining two golden images from the Huns and sending Zhang Qian on a diplomatic mission to explore the western region; 2. The pond where Sakyamuni washed his kasaya and the stone he dried his Kasaya; 3. Fo Tucheng\'s miraculous events; 4. King Asoka worshiping the heritics\'pagoda; and 5. Kang Senghui\'s magic power. The lower part has images of seven bodhisattvas. The space above the entrance wall is filled with a Thousand-Buddha motif above eleven Buddhist figures including Bodhisattva Maitreya and Akasobhya painged in the Five Dyansties. The south side of the entrance has paintings about Buddhist disciplines in the upper part and four Buddha seated in meditation below. The north side of the entrance wall depicts Buddhist disciplines in the upper and three seated Buddhas below. These pictures painted in a group to show how Buddhist monks made various vows to obey Buddhist disciplines based on the Mahanirvana Sutra translated by Dharmaksema in the Northern Liang dynasty.The top of the corridor is decorated with medallions painted in the Western Xia, and each side wall has three attendant Bodhisattvas. The west slope of the front chamber is decorated with three pictures of the Western Xia medallions (damaged). The south side of the west wall depicts the illustration of Samantabhadra while the opposite part shows an illustration of Manjusri (blurred). Beneath the surface layer there are traces of Early Tang and Five Dynasties murals. A small cave is dug out of the upper section in both the north and south wall. The north one with the Western Xia murals is numbered cave 324, while the south one with a preaching scene of the Western Xia is numbered cave 325. The main space of both of the side walls and the entrance wall are respectively occupied with the historical stories of Buddhism and Buddhist sacred lands as well as Buddhist disciplines. There themes are rare in both the sculptures and murals in other grottoes in China and also very rare in the Mogao murals. The appearance of these murals marked the Sinicization of Buddhistm and so they are of high artistic and historical value.



The Mogao Grottoes Cave 323
Dunhuang Academy