Part iv] THE ART OF THE TUN-HUANG PAINTINGS 1429
The art of Eastern Turkestan, founded on the style matured in Gandhara and containing both Hellenistic and Indian elements, is now familiar to us through the discoveries of Sir Aurel Stein at Khotan and other sites, of Grünwedel and Von le Coq at Turfan, and of other explorers in these regions. The Tun-huang pictures are a further illustration of the mixed influences prevailing there. The large painting reproduced (Pl. LXIV) is an example. Within a vast orb of fire a vision is disclosed of Avalokite§Vara seated on the lotus, with an infinite number of eyes and hands, symbolizing the infinity of his compassion. Above are the deities of Sun and Moon ; below, two Demon Kings wreathed in flame. Around the picture is a border on which are painted blossoms of flowers. Flowers also are dropping through the air ; a favourite motive in Buddhist art. The colours are glowing, and the whole design has a half-barbaric grandeur.
Place this beside the Avalokite§vara conducting a soul (Pl. LXXI), and a difference of mood, style, genius, is at once apparent. In place of a rather heavy symmetry in the composition and a kind of solid hardness in the drawing, we have a sense of suavity and flexile movement. Flowers seem really to be floating down the air, and the cloud on which the votaress follows the Bodhisattva coils up with a wavering motion. We feel the presence of the Chinese genius, with its instinct for living movement, and its love of sinuous line, and its reticent spacing. Nothing could be less Chinese than the disposition of the flowers on the border of the Turkestan picture (Pl. LXIV) ; there is something static in the design of them that reminds us rather of western art. And yet there is a Chinese element in the painting too ; and this mixture of more or less of one ingredient or another is characteristic of most of the Tun-huang paintings. Some of the large paintings seem to be repetitions on silk of the broad style which is seen in the frescoes found at Tun-huang and other sites. We note in these, as in the picture just discussed, a system of modelling in two tones of colour to suggest relief and roundness in the figures. This surely denotes a western influence, for Indian, Chinese, and Japanese artists all instinctively eschew this emphasis. Yet so strong is the power of hieratic tradition, that this feature is found occasionally, not always, in Buddhist paintings both of China and Japan, and in the Indian frescoes at Ajantâ. We have to realize that during the Tang period there was a great general curiosity in China about the lands lying to the west, which had newly been again brought under the effective dominion of the Empire ; there was also a great enthusiasm for Buddhism, and therefore anything which came from India brought with it a high prestige, and Indian models of Buddhist art were closely followed.
A most interesting testimony to this feeling is supplied by one of the Tun-huang silks (PI. LXX ; Thousand Buddhas, Pl. XIV). It is very large, though it is mutilated and was once still larger. On it are drawn with a brush a whole series of Indian statues of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This unique and precious document makes us think of the great Chinese pilgrims like Hsüan-tsang, who doubtless brought back from their pilgrimages to the holy places all that could serve for models to Chinese painters and sculptors of Buddhist faith. Indian imagery and symbolism, Indian ideals of form, were taken over by the Chinese masters ; and therefore their Buddhist pictures show a striking contrast with their secular pictures : but, as the Tun-huang examples show, the Indian material was fused in the Chinese style, and a really new phase of Buddhist art was the result. Little, indeed, remains of Chinese painting which can be ascribed with any certainty to the Tang period : but the Tang masters were closely followed by the early painters of Japan, and the treasures preserved in Japanese temples give us a clue to the glories of Tang religious art. Tun-huang has now given us another clue : and every one familiar with the Japanese Buddhist paintings must be struck with the closeness of resemblance in the style of these to the style of a group of the Tun-huang pictures, a resemblance so close as to prove that this group of pictures belongs to the central tradition of Chinese Buddhist art which passed over to Japan. It is true that in the Japanese Butsu yd of early times we recognize the presence or influence of individual masters, who give the general style a certain impress of their own : and were an equally large number of Chinese Buddhist paintings extant, we should doubtless feel at once the power that masters of great genius like Wu Tao-tzû had exerted on the Buddhist tradition of art, especially in the manner of conceiving and designing certain typical subjects. Wu Tao-tzti's ' Death of Buddha ', for instance, set the model for later painters in Japan as in China, who undertook to paint the same theme. All this makes for an elasticity and variety, very different from the hieratic stiffness and monotony characterizing the provincial schools of Turkestan.
It is of interest to note that, as M. Petrucci was the first to point out, certain motives which were thought to have originated with the Japanese appear in the Tun-huang pictures. For instance, the representation of Ksitigarbha (Ti-tsang or Jizo) in the guise of a pilgrim with a shaven head and with a ringed staff in his hand is, we see from these pictures, already traditional in China. In Japanese Butsu yd of quite modern times we