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Yulin Grottoes, the Sister of Mogao Grottoes

Located some 68 km south of the Anxi County, Xinjiang province, Yulin Grotto is caved during the Northern Wei dynasty (386-557) in a mountain valley, with its name deriving from the numerous elm-trees grow there. Successive dynasties include the Tang (618-907), Five Dynasties, Song (960-1279), Western Xia and Yuan (1206-1368) have witnessed its continuous expansion.
yulin grottoes map

Yulin Grottoes site is famed as the sister of Mogao Grottoes, for it was in the charge of Dunhuang County in ancient times, and this site share great similarity with Mogao Grottoes concerning the shape of grottoes, the content of murals and their artistic styles.

A total of 41 caves (with 30 along the eastern cliff and 11 along the west), 5650 square meters of frescoes, 272 statues, 10826 Buddha, Bodhisattvas and gods’ pictures remain intact here.

Among all the grottoes, No.25, No.3 and No.29 are the representative ones. According to Dunhang expert Jiang Liangfu, Grotto 25’s murals depicted during the Tang dynasty, is preserved so well that will put Mogao Grotoes into shame. Imbued with the plump feature typical of the Tang dynasty, and with the most bolding lines, Grotto 25’s murals are the most wonderful and unparalleled treasure among all murals in China.

In 1961, it was listed as national key cultural protection site in China.

 Shuiyue Guanyin Buddha (literally means Guanyin Buddha bathing in the moonlight near water edge)

Highlight of Yulin Grottoes: Murals

Yunlin Grottoes’ murals boast a profusion of themes include Buddha, Bodhisattvas (such as Guanyin), Buddhism stories, various animals, exotic flowers, scientific illustrations on various fields and the most stunning decoration patterns.

The murals falls into six categories: Jingbian murals( illustrating Buddhism doctrine by painting is call Jingbian), Bodhisattvas statue murals, decoration murals, donors murals, Buddhism history stories, esoteric image (such as Guanyin with one thousand hands) murals.

Grotto 25’ murals stand out from the crowd for its most rare seen and most eye-dazzling murals depicted during Tang dynasty. Tang dynasty’s art style, distinguished by the stately and elegant air, finds full expression on the two grand Jingbian murals (illustrate the Buddhism doctrine by painting is called jingbian ) inside of Grotto 25. From the layout to the lines, from the coloring technique to the shaping of figures, these two murals are the outstanding representative works and essence of Dunhuang art.

The buildings, terraces, arbors and pavilions in the heavenly world as depicted in the “Western Pure Land Episodes” and the “Amitayus Episodes” represented the highest attainment in the artistic technique of the Tang Dynasty. As representative works of the Dunhuang Murals, the two copies of the murals are now on display in the Gansu Hall of the Great Hall of the People in Beijing.

the Entertaining Musicians on the Fresco in Yulin Grottoes

 Two Mural Masterpieces:

Mile Buddha on the Purity Land Murals《弥勒净土变》

A number of 12 murals consist of Mile Buddha (Amitabha Buddha) on the Purity Land Grand Mural (also called Amitayus Episodes). In this mural, Mile sits in the middle and gives the Buddhism lectures. He is surrounded by countless Buddha and attendants with various postures and expressions. The Buddha boasts the tranquil beauty, while Bodhisattvas assume a stately air, Vajrapani looks very strong. A serial of tiny illustrations themed with secular life are added, which brings much diversity and interest.

 Mile Buddha on the Purity Land Murals: the Entertaining Scene

Mile Buddha on the Purity Land Murals: Guanyin Buddha

 Mile Buddha on the Purity Land Murals: Secular Scene 

 Mile Buddha on the Purity Land Murals: Buddha

the “Western Pure Land Episodes” Murals《西方净土变》  

This mural visualizes the scene of heaven blessed with eternal happiness in the imagination of Buddha. In this mural, lotus is in full blossom, the wind sweeps the crystal lakes and brings ripples, beautiful dancers are dancing merrily accompanied by the music, and Mile Buddha is giving lecture on Buddha and his attendants.

Yulin Grottoes’ murals are intermittent with secular life scenes include cultivation, harvest, marriage, feast, chess game, brewery, metallurgy, music and dances, thus embrace the daily life at specific time comprehensively. The mural depicting one female donor during Xixia period is especially breathtaking, shedding light on the attire and customs at that time.

In Cave 29, the mural about “Pilgrimage of Xuanzang” with its high historical and artistic value is regarded as a rare piece of treasure of the world. Besides, excavated here are also some ivory Buddha carvings rarely seen elsewhere in the world. 

the Angriculture Scene Depicted in Murals


Guanyin Buddha

Author: Sophia  Posted on May 9,2012
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