敦煌引路菩萨图 bodhisattva as guide of souls
Many portraits of the Soul-guiding Bodhisattva, who leads the deceased to the Western Pure Land were unearthed in the sutra cave in Dunhuang. The styles are more or less the sameThis one holds a long-handled incense burner from which smoke rises in his left hand. His right hand carries a long pole with a hook at the end to which a long banner is attached. The triangular portion at the head and the streamers extending from the main body are similar to the banners unearthed in the Mogao Grottoes. The roundedness of the face of the Bodhisattva and the lines of the brows, eyes and lips display a tender feminine quality. With the feet on lotuses, the Bodhisattva rides a cloud and guides the following deceased with the banner. The deceased appears to be an elite lady with delicate features, wearing a luxuriant long robe with loose sleeves and circular floral patterns and a shawl. Peacefully she follows the Bodhisattva with hands in prayer inside her The buildings amidst the regular lines at the top symbolize the Pure Land where the Bodhisattva is taking the deceased. Among the Buddhist treasures , the buildings, half-hidden behind clouds in the Soul-guiding Bodhisattva are a more natural presentation. In this one they are slightly decorative. (The original is in the collection of the British Museum.