Sec. iv] THE GROTTOES OF THE MYRIAD BUDDHAS 1113
The remaining shrines of the series call for but few remarks. They are mostly small, and Remaining
several very poorly lit, particularly )(Ix, where the side-walls of the cella are decorated with scenes shrines on
from Buddhist Heavens and the back wall is occupied by a large representation of the ` wind scene '. A sgraffato of nine characters in Cursive Brâhmi, scribbled by the side of a donor figure on the right of the cella entrance, is of interest as affording evidence that these shrines were constructed before knowledge of the language of Buddhist Khotan had ceased. Shrines xx-xxii show in their antechapels or porches Chinese sgraffi' li with dates which correspond to A. D. 1332, 1353, 1357, 1367. In xxiii, the last cave, Chinese sçraffiti are particularly numerous, all belonging to the Chih-chêng period (A. D. 1341-68), which closes the rule of the Mongol dynasty. It is of interest to note that cartouches painted over the donor figures in the porch here show what. I took to be Uigur writing of the later type resembling Mongolian in ductus. • There are also sgraffili in the same script.
The grottoes on the left bank, ten in all, are disposed in several groups, on levels varying from Temple
about Go to 8o feet above the bottom of the gorge (Fig. 242). The architectural disposition is grottoes on
more or less the same as in the shrines of the right bank, but the porches are less deep, which may be due partly to the falling of portions of the rock face. The mural paintings are executed in a distinctly coarser fashion and, as it seemed, mainly with the use of stencils. This and the irregular arrangement of the caves may be taken as an indication of their comparatively later origin. In the first group of grottoes to the south-east, 1-vi, the subjects of the frescoes were throughout of the type already noticed in the description of the caves on the right bank. Fig. 245 shows the south side-wall of shrine n with a representation of the ` wind scene ', and a comparison of it with Figs. 233-4, 236, which reproduce the same theme in Ch. xvi, may illustrate the inferior character of the pictorial work here. At the same time we see here that central portion of the composition which at Ch. xvi is hidden by the screen at the back of the image platform. The cutting through the cella wall ff 11 seen in Fig. 245 was necessitated by the falling of the rock face, which destroyed the porch and made communication with the adjoining cave through the ante-chapel unsafe.
It is worth noting that, later as the decoration of the walls in this group of caves appears to Sgrajjiti
hdabe, yet a series of Chinese sgraffili found in them with dates from the close of the Mongol dynasty's ins grottoes
rule proves that the time of construction here, too, was before the second quarter of the fourteenth on left bank.
century.13 After grotto vii, an isolated shrine which seemed either distinctly later or completely renovated, there follows higher up on the cliff the group viii-x, in which the frescoes also appeared to me late, or else had been replaced by modern Taoist paintings. In x, however, by the side of some original donor figures left in the antechapel, there is found a sgraffito with a nien-hao which Chiang Ssû-yeh seems to have read as Tai-ting (A. D. 1324-8).
A few general remarks may conclude this account of the site. From Chiang Ssû-yeh's state- Time limits
ments I conclude that the Chinese inscriptions painted by the side of frescoes do not furnish the for con-
date of construction for any of the shrines of the Myriad Buddhas '. That most of those on shrines. the right bank appear to me, from the character of their artistic decoration, approximately coeval with the tenth-century cave-temples of Chien-fo-tung has already been stated.' The absence of inscriptions in Hsi-hsia writing is probably significant, while the presence of Uigur cartouches besides Uigur sgraffiti, in xxiii, can be easily reconciled with the conjectural dating just indicated. The large number of dated Chinese sgraffiti, left behind on the frescoed walls by pilgrims who