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2002 articles 1998 articles

Four unpublished paintings from Dunhuang in the Oriental Collections of the British Library

Roderick Whitfield

Abstract

THE Stein collection in the British Library is essentially a manuscript collection numbering thousands of scrolls of Buddhist sutra texts and other documents, the great majority originating from Cave 17 at the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas at Mogao near Dunhuang in Gansu Province, built in the mid-ninth century as a memorial for the highranking monk Hongbian, and adopted in the early eleventh century as a safe restingplace for outdated scrolls and ex-votos. Although some of the manuscripts contain illustrations, the Buddhist paintings in the collection were assigned to the Sub- Department of Oriental Prints and Drawings of the British Museum and are now kept in the Department of Oriental Antiquities. Thus the recent rediscovery of four previously unpublished and unregistered Buddhist paintings on hemp cloth, unquestionably from Dunhuang, in the British Library adds an extra dimension to the collection, in terms of both material and iconography.

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