Dunhuang Murals Research


Cheng Yang


Dunhuang Murals Research



Northern Wei ( from 386 to 534 AD ), mural, Dunhuang Cave 254, Prince Sattva Bensheng

Bensheng – It refers to the various deeds of Buddha Shakyamuni when he was a bodhisattva in his previous life. Those who use this kind of story as the subject of painting are called Bensheng.

Buddhism, as we now think of it, tends generally to be a meditative, quiet, contemplative state of mind; However, the original Buddhist stories and the stories of the Bensheng changes are full of the very tragic and intense description of life. Some parts are very similar to the Hebrew Old Testament, which uses irrational humiliation and sacrifice to achieve the sense of religious nobility. And this kind of suffering for the absolute belief to the inhuman level of emphasis, is indeed the original Chinese mainland did not have.

From the frescoes of Northern Wei Dynasty, the theme focuses on the story of Shakyamuni Buddha. For example, in Cave 275, “Travels Four Men”, and in Cave 254, “Prince Sattva Bensheng”.




Prince Sattattva traveling with his two brothers, standing on the edge of a cliff, and below him is hungry animals dying. The tiger and seven born tiger cubs to feed. Prince Sattattva felt the desire to give up his life.

On the picture, crown prince Sattattva moves three times in succession, from vowing to give up his body, throwing himself into the cliff, and crossing the cliff bottom. Boldly repeat the same figure on the same picture, causing a thrilling tragedy of pressure.

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