Cave 285, Western Wei (535-556)
...The programme of the west wall (pl. 42) is perhaps the most complex and diverse of all the Dunhuang caves. The central niche is fully 1 metre deep, 2 metres wide, and 2.6 metres high, but its apparent height and width are greatly increased by the lintel above, which extends on to the west slope of the ceiling, where monkeys play among the hills (pls 282, 283). This lintel is filled with scrolling half-palmettes and lotus blooms, alternately red and blue, inverted and right way up, each with a small figure representing a Bodhisattva newly reborn by transformation (pl. 211). Within this niche, the main image is seated with legs pendent (pl. 43). The Buddha's robe gives a glimpse of the fastening of his inner garment, and hangs over the throne and his legs in raised spiral folds which are consummately modelled. It ends in elegant points at the Buddha's left shoulder. The halo and aureole are wholly composed of up to six different kinds of flame borders, perhaps the most elaborate from the entire site. Similarly, the rows of adoring Bodhisattvas, slim and beautiful, with haloes all of different colours, show the highest level of skill (pl. 242). At the top of the niche, four apsarasas or heavenly beings exemplify this artistry; they are drawn with fine ink lines, colour shading of the contours, and fine white highlights, their graceful antics neatly filling the curved surface and directing attention back to the Buddha (see detail below)...
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