This cave was constructed during the Datong era in the Western Wei (according to the inscriptions on the north wall which has the dates of the fourth year and fifth year of the Datong era of the Western Wei, (538-548) and it is the dated earliest cave among the Dunhuang caves.The main chamber is square in plan and has a truncated pyramidal ceiling. A square altar was made in the center in the Yuan dynasty, and there are four symmetircal cells on each side walls. Inside or at the entrance of some cells are the remnants of the pagoda of the Yuan dynasty. The ceiling center highlights a parasol design, while the four slopes are covered with the images from Chinese mythology such as the traditional Chinese gods, and protectors of Buddhist laws, Mani Pearl, Guardian warriors, apsaras, god of Thunder, auspicious beasts, Fuxi and Nüwa, and etc. The bottom circle of the four slopes contains thirty-six monks in meditation in huts or in the mountain forests where all kinds of animals and hunting scenes are painted. There is a big niche in the west wall which has two small side cells. The west niche contains a seated Buddha with legs pendent and preaching. The side cells in the niche each have a meditation monk with a cowl. The upper part of the space out of the niche is occupied with various images of all kinds of devas and heretic figures, such as the gods of the Sun and the Moon, the gods of the stars, Visnu, Mahesvara, Kumara, Vinayaka, and worshipping bodhisattvas, below them are four heavenly kings and Vasistha. The brim of the niche at the bottom is decorated with the honeysuckle motifs. The North wall consists of the upper, middle and lower parts. The upper part is devoted to eleven musician apsaras holding different music instruments. The middle part is covered with the narrative story of five hundred robbers, which ends with the scene of Sakyamuni and Prabhutaratna sitting side by side. The lower part contains four cells. The spaces between the cells on the side walls depict karma stories about Bhadrika and his sister, the salvation of a bad ox, a young samanera committing suicide in order to obey Buddhist precepts, and a Brahman sacrificing his body so as to hear the preaching. These all are neither represented in a long strip with successive scenes or in a single picture. Below the story paintings are guardian warriors. The north wall consists of the upper and lower sections. The upper section are occupied by seven preaching scenes, each containing a votive text and donor figures at the bottom. The second and the seventh counting from the west each has an inscription in which the date can be identified. The lower section also contain four cells, just like those in the south wall. Three seated Buddha are painted on the space above the entrance in the east wall. On both the south and north sides of the entrance is a preaching scene in large size. The top layer of the ceiling of the corridor show traces of the bodhisattva in diamond position painted in the Middle Tang dynasty. The south wall has a illustration of Amoghapasa and the north has an illustration of Cintamani-cakra, both date to the Middle Tang period. The front chamber is a rectangle in plan, and the ceiling is a slope with traces of the Song dynasty murals. The west wall in the front chamber has a small cell above the entrance (numbered as cave 286). The south side of the entrance has some traces of the Song dyansty donor figures and below them the Middle Tang paintings can be seen. The north of the entrance with the picture of the Song dynasty male donor figures is numbered as cave 287 .
On the space above the entrance is a preaching scene of three Buddhas. The north side of the entrance is a preaching scene of Amitayus, who sits on a diamond throne, wears a red kasaya that covers two shoulders. There are images of incarnated Buddhas in his halo and apsaras flying in the back halo. Over his head is a parasol with an inscription below. At the bottom of the preaching scene are thirteen male donor figures and fourteen female donor figures. On the south side of the entrance is also a preaching scene of Amitayus with an inscription. He has four attendant bodhisattvas, some holding lotuses, some holding honeysuckles. Judging from the visible inscriptions, the two on the right side of Amitayus are Aksayamatir bodhisattva and Avalokitesvara, while the two on the other side are Manjusri and Mahasthamaprapta. There are four disciples, namely Ananda, Sariputta, Mahakasyapa and Mahamaudgalyayana. Some hold scriptures, some hold lotus, and some clasp their hands. Below the preaching scenes are fourteen male donors and thirteen female donors. The bottom layer of the paintings on the east wall reveals the image of Yaksha of the Western Wei dynasty.
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Main Chamber South Wall
The paintings on the south wall are divided into three sections. The upper section contains twelve musician apsaras, each playing a musical instrument or flying. The middle section is covered with a narrative story of the Five Hundred Robbers, which consists of the following episodes such as the fighting between the army and the robbers, the capture of the robbers, the interrogation of the king, and the banishment of the robbers with their eyes being gouged. The whole story is used to express the Buddhist idea that the butcher who lays down his knife at once becomes a Buddha. The story ends with a scene of Sakyamuni and Prabhutaratna sitting side by side and preaching. Below the story painting are four cells whose niche beams are decorated with motifs of honeysuckles and birds. The space between the niche beam is filled with four karma stories, which are closely connected with the natural environment. The decorative border of honeysuckles is used to separate the stories from the five guardian warriors at the lower section, who wave their hands, or jumps, or concentrate on controlling their strength, or practice martial arts.
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Main Chamber West Wall
In the middle is a large arched niche with a small cell in each side walls. Out of the niche on the wall are images of the guardians of Buddhist laws. The upper part on the south side which connects the ceiling shows a while round disc and six white oblong discs. In these discs there are the god of the Sun (Surya) and his attendants. Surya has a halo, wears a high chignon, clasps his hands and sits on a two-wheeled chariot drawn by four horses, two on one side and two on the other, running in completely different directions. Below the Sun disc is a chariot drawn by three pheonixes, on which stand two guardians, and the one in the front holds a human-faced shield and the other hand raised up, while the other raises his two hands high up, as if he were holding something. The upper part on the north wall depicts the god of the Moon (Chandra), and his attendants. Due to the severe loss of the paint, only Chandra wearing a crown sitting in the chariot with two hands crossed in front of the breast, can be identified. There are parts of the two bird heads and wings on the south side of the chariot. Under the Moon disc, there is a chariot drawn by three lions, in which are two guardian warriors, one raising two hands high up as if holding something. The space on the wall among the cells are occupied with images of the devas as guardians of Buddhist laws, bodhisattvas, and heavenly kings. On the walls of the central large niche and the small cells on the north side wall are images of Brahma with three heads and Indra with three eyes in addition to Vasistha. The central niche and the small cells on the south side wall contain images of the three headed and six-armed Mahesvara riding a while ox sideways. Below it are Kumara riding a peacock and Vinayaka with an elephant\'s trunk. On the lower parts of each sidewall are two heavenly kings in armor with a spear in hands.
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Main Chamber North Wall
The whole surface of the north wall is devoted to seven preaching scenes. Among them, the first has two Buddhas who share two attendant bodhisattvas. The other six show a combination of one Buddha and two bodhisattvas. The first one counting from the west accounts for the largest size, basically equal to the size occupied by the other six scenes, and they are tightly connected visually. Each preaching scene has rows of donors and votive texts. The votive text in the fourth one is still identified. Among the male donors, some wear a crown like an overturned cup and robes with loose sleeves, some wear felt hats and pleated pants with a small plait hanging behind. Among the female donors, some wear a one-piece robe and knee covers, or long skirts of different colors. Counting from the west, the inscriptions of the second, fifth and seventh are relatively completely preserved. According to these inscriptions, the Buddhas in the second and third scenes are Kasyapa Buddha and Kanakamuni, two of the past seven Buddhas, and the one in the seventh scene is Amitayus Buddha. The male donors came from the Yin family and Hua family, while the female donors come from the Ding family, Shi family and He family. Below them are four cells, each has a decorative border of honey suckles and birds along the brim of the upper niche. Below are yakshas. The space among the cells is covered with the thousand Buddha motifs in the upper and guardian warriors at the bottom. From the entrance of the cell part of the pagoda of the Yuan dynasty can be seen.
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Main Chamber East Slope
The east slope has the images of Fuxi and Nüwa, Feilian, apsaras, an aupicious beast with 13 heads. Below them are eight monks who sit in meditation in mountain forests. The center of the picture is a Mani Pearl held high by two guardian warriors. Fuxi and Nuwa on either side of the Pearl are both human headed, human bodied, and snake tailed, each with a round wheel at the belly. They both are dressed in robes with loose sleeves and long scarves, holding a gauge, a square and an ink fountain in hands. Their two sides and the space below them are various images like Wuhuo. The space among these images are dotted with flowers and clouds.
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Main Chamber South Slope
The south slope exhibits the images of a Mani Pearl, apsaras, auspicious beasts with nine heads, and Feilian. There are eight monks in meditation in mountain forests. In the center of the picture are two gaurdian warriors holding the Lotus and a Mani Pearl high above their head, below them are a Feilian and a Wuhuo. The space among these images is dotted with clouds and flowers.
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Main Chamber West Slope
The paintings on the west slope include the images of large lotuses, apsaras, god of the Thunder, Feiliang (bird headed and deer bodied beast), incarnated children, and macaque monkeys. The two sides of the niche beam show images of six meditation monks in mountain forests. In the center of the picture is a large lotus guarded by a Feilaing on either side. Below Feilian is an image of a scarlet bird above a mountain, where two monkeys are depicted. Above the lotus are another two apsaras holding one lotus high in hands. A god of the thunder is stamping and playing a drum on either side of the apsaras. The lower corner on the south side is an auspicious beast, Wuhuo, who has a pair of blue wings growing out of his shoulders. The lower corner on the north side has an apsara. Among all these images are decorative patterns such as flowers and clouds.
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Main Chamber North Slope
The north slope has the picture of various images such as apsaras, scarlet birds, auspicious beasts with eleven heads, Feiliang and Wuhuo. Below them are scenes of mountain forests where ten monks sit in meditation. In the center of the picture is a large Lotus held by two apsaras. There are also images of other gods or mythological figures such as Wuhuo, the god of lightening, the person who has plume growing on his arms and holds a banner, scarlet birds, and Feilian. The space among these images is dotted with flowers and clouds.
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Main Chamber Ceiling Center
The ceiling center is a pattern of a parasol, with a lotus in the center and around it are motifs of the flames, honeysuckles and clouds. The outer part are decorative draperies and colorful bells.
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Corridor South Wall
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Corridor North Wall
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Corridor Ceiling
Mogao Grottoes Cave 285 Front Chamber West Wall
There is a small cave dug out of the west wall, numbered as cave 286 by the Dunhuang Academy. The south side of the entrance has traces of donor figures of the Song dynasty, beneath which Middle Tang paintings are visible. Beneath the Middle Tang paintings are murals of the Western Wei. The north of the entrance is numbered as cave 287, which has the traces of the donor figures of the Song dynasty.
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Dunhuang Grottoes is not only a brilliant art treasure of ancient Chinese civilization, but also an important witness to the dialogue and communication between different civilizations that had taken place on the ancient Silk Road. Guided by cultural relics protection philosophy, this Digital Dunhuang Project is pursuing overall digitization, including collection, processing and storage of the Dunhuang Grottoes and related cultural relics by using advanced science and technology. It integrates all kinds of data including the photos,videos,3D data and other literature data into a digital repository of cave cultural relics which is diversified and intellectual, and can be co-shared globally through Internet. A support system will also be constructed for digital asset management system and digital resource science.
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