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DUNHUANG ART


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Introduction...

 


Life of Duan Wenjie

Born in 1917 at Mianyang county, Sichuan province, Duan Wenjie spent his youth studying in Chongqing, the war-time capital of China. In 1940 he joined the National Art College headed by the famous artist and friend of India, Xu Beihong (better known in India as Ju Peon). When Zhang Daqian held his Exhibition of Dunhuang Paintings in 1944 in Chongqing, Duan Wenjie walked 15 kilometres to see it. The Dunhuang depictions of the Bodhisattvas, celestial musicians, and flying figures gave his eyes entirely new vista which was strikingly different from the works of the classical Chinese masters he had been familiar with. He was particularly struck by the daring imaginations of the ancient Dunhuang artists. In the war years every patriotic Chinese youth was stirred by the call to do something for the nation. Duan thought that he could best utilize his talent in the service of the nation by going to Dunhuang to copy the wonderful murals there.

Duan set off with three classmates from Chongqing for Dunhuang in the summer of 1945 with borrowed money for his travelling expenses. Meanwhile with the surrender of the Japanese troops, the war in China was over. When Duan and his companions reached Lanzhou the entire country seemed keen to move back to the once Japanese-occupied eastern China. The government had wound up the Dunhuang Institute and there was no point in Duan to proceed further west. His three companions were disillusioned and turned back. But Duan Wenjie stayed on in Lanzhou waiting patiently. A year later, the government revived the Dunhuang Institute, and its Director, Chang Shuhong, was in Lanzhou recruiting young artists for the Institute. Duan jumped at this opportunity and reached Dunhuang as one of the devotees of the first batch to the cause to which he has committed himself for the rest of his life.

Duan Wenjie remembers that the contingent of new recruits arrived at Mogao Grottoes on the eve of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Even before he settled down, he burrowed into the caves to feast his eyes on its treasures, "like a hungry bull in a vegetable garden".30 This was the beginning of a life-long marriage of a young career to China's age-old heritage. Dunhuang became Duan's home, while Duan's own village including his own son missed him. His son was separated from him for 13 years until their reunion in 1956. In 1984, his wife died and was buried in the sand dunes even as he continued with his work as he had done earlier. For Duan Wenjie it has indeed been a long marriage with Dunhuang for 25,000 days and nights (upto the time of writing).

Duan started his career well in the Dunhuang Institute. After the Institute was renamed Dunhuang Wenwu Yanjiusuo in 1949, he became the head of one of the two sections, i.e., the Art Section (the other was the Administrative Section). In 1954, he was promoted to the rank of Associate Researcher (equivalent to Associate Professor). Before the Liberation (1949), he had copied 283 mural paintings with a total footage of 52.72 square metres, while from 1949 to 1989, he copied another 397 paintings (including 56 paintings in collaboration with others), adding to a total footage of 145.9 square metres.

The Chinese say that the journey of life is never a smooth passage, so it has been with the life of Duan Wenjie. In 1957, he became a target of the "Anti-Rightist" campaign, and was subjected to mental torture. He was stripped of his position in the Art Section, while his wage was adjusted downwards by 12 grades, which meant that he was given only 45 yuan (about Rs. 225) as monthly salary. However, as the charges against him could not be substantiated, he managed to retain his foothold in the Dunhuang Institute. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-69) he shared the misfortune of many Chinese intellectuals: he was sent to the villages to "reform" for two years (1970-72). Only in 1979 were all the charges removed from his dossier. Again, it was like the Chinese proverb which says that good fortune smiles on Master Saiweng only after his favourite horse is lost: Duan Wenjie, at the end of all his travails, began to be trusted by the authorities as a dedicated custodian of the historical monuments and a man of tested capability. He was appointed the Vice-Director of the Dunhuang Institute in 1980. Meanwhile, Director Chang was very ill, and Vice-Director Duan was virtually in charge. In 1982 Chang was appointed as an Advisor in the State Bureau of Cultural Relics and Duan stepped into his shoes as the Director.

Under Duan Wenjie's leadership, the Dunhuang Institute has made great advances in various fields, particularly in academic work. In 1981, the Institute brought out a research journal called Dunhuang Yanjiu (The Dunhuang Research) as a trial volume. In his "Foreword" Duan Wenjie wrote that though this was an experimental venture it was the need of the hour to open up a garden for Dunhuang studies and to promote national culture as a part of the "Four Modernizations". He appealed to the Dunhuang experts to care for this new sapling and help it to grow. This trial has since proved its worth and Dunhuang Yanjiu has established itself as one of the main research journals of Dunhuang studies in the world. The Institute has also hosted two international symposia at Mogao in 1987 and 1990. This writer has participated in both these symposia "representing" India; but it was only in the 1990 Symposium that there was the participation of a real Indian scholar, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan. Although she did not present a paper, she was invited to speak in the closing ceremony and intervene in the discussions. In his summary of the Symposium, Professor Duan wrote:

"During the sessions, an Indian artist and the head of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, was delighted to know from the discussions that the murals, music and dance connected with Dunhuang art were the fruits of intercourses with Indian culture. In her brief intervention she said: 'Buddhist art originated in India, but spread abroad. Whenever it went to a country it got synthesized with the domestic culture, resulting in new styles and in the embodiment of various national characteristics.' Her refreshing views were warmly received by Chinese and foreign scholars alike."31

Perhaps, Duan Wenjie stands as a model of an art-custodian whose obsession and love lie in the well-keeping, preservation, documentation, and research of the historical art treasures. Those who have met Director Duan sometimes found him quiet and indifferent to many earthly subjects. But, once the subject of conversation comes to Dunhuang art he is at once a changed man, talking endlessly and spiritedly about what has been done and what has not been, about his future plans, and his interactions with scholars and institutions abroad in the pursuit of Dunhuangology. Sometimes, he even created a mistaken impression that he was a kind of Dunhuang chauvinist which he is not. But it would not be an exaggeration to say that for him Dunhuang is his first and last love. A more hardworking, more dedicated director involving himself physically and emotionally in his duty is rarely to be seen these days. This writer is witness to the extent of his personal concern about the Dunhuang Exhibition in New Delhi; the slightest problem would instantly draw him away from his sightseeing programmes in India, which was such a rare opportunity for him. There is something very distinctive in him which may be called the "Duan Wenjie spirit" which epitomizes dedication, responsibility, diligence, self-sacrifice and quest for new directions and higher achievements. He remembered how in the hardest days of working at Mogao, the caves made him feel as if he was in "Sukh¡vat¢" paradise. "Amidst the enjoyment of aesthetic marvels of national heritage, I suddenly felt my soul being purified."32 Duan is a devout Buddhist, who does not worship Buddha, but worships the God of National Heritage --- a Sino-Indian intercultural synthesis.

Today Professor Duan is on the wrong side of seventy which, according to Chinese tradition, is the age of "Guxi" (rarity since ancient times). While we wish him a very long active life and career, the question of his successor is bound to be raised sooner or later. The Dunhuang Academy is in need of fresh talent to shoulder responsibilities of leadership and also to face the new challenges of the ever-changing times. I am happy to learn that Professor Duan has already had plans to groom his successors. It is for this purpose that two young researchers from the Dunhuang Academy have been trained in India under the care of IGNCA. Similar training must have been going on in other countries. When Professor Duan retires one day, history will remember him for his contributions to Dunhuang Studies and the Dunhuang Academy will cherish sweet memories of a long innings which may be called "Duan Wenjie Era".

 


Duan Wenjie's Studies of Dunhuang Painting

After this "Introduction", readers will turn to the English translations of some of the important articles written by Professor Duan Wenjie on Dunhuang art. As the chief custodian of the Dunhuang treasure, Professor Duan is, without exaggeration, the most knowledgeable person about Dunhuang art today. It is therefore important for us to read what he has to say if we want to delve into the study of Dunhuang art.

Professor Duan has written not merely a Director's report or a custodian's account book, he has tried his best to look at the treasures of Dunhuang art with the honest eyes of a Chinese artist. More importantly, from his expertise on the painting tradition of China, he has shared with his readers his insights into Dunhuang art. The five major articles and the two seminar papers included in this volume therefore constitute an authoritative source of information and expert opinion on Dunhuang art. This is not to underestimate the value of studies published in western languages. But certainly it is profitable for us to have an "authentic Chinese version" to compare or contrast with the other excellent works done outside China, or outside the Chinese academic system, as it were. I must add here that Professor Duan's basic ideology is identical with the ruling doctrine of the People's Republic of China, and he is rightly held in high esteem among the leaders of the People's Republic of China.

While largely conforming to what may be regarded as the official view on Dunhuang art, it is clear that Professor Duan's personal insights have also shaped in a large measure this official view. In brief, this central thesis is a justifiable celebration of Dunhuang art as one of the most outstanding achievements of mankind in the sphere of art. Professor Duan's basic Marxist concept about religion in general and Buddhism in particular has beaten a retreat in the face of such overwhelming artistic achievement. When we listen to Professor Duan's strong praise for the artistic descriptions of Sukh¡vat¢ on the Dunhuang walls, we find that even a Marxist artist or art historian can be dumbfounded by a religious culture which is otherwise regarded as opium by the ideological authority, Karl Marx.

Here is a paradox which can be explained only from a holistic perspective. Mankind has travelled down a long river of civilization and culture. While ideologies are powerful currents, they do not define the entire course of the river. Any honest scholar or art lover, whatever his ideology, will inevitably bow before the achievements of humanity in art and culture. Professor Duan's writings open up an invitation for scholars of diverse cultural backgrounds and ideologies to come together to discuss the Buddhist art at Dunhuang. For, this is an art treasure which belongs to China, India, Afghanistan, and all peoples of the world, and is not exclusive to the Buddhists alone but belongs also to the Confucian, Taoist, Hindu, Muslim and to all religious believers.

Professor Duan's discourse has brought out the international, interracial and intercultural dimensions of Dunhuang art. Any shrewd observer can see that Professor Duan's perspective in dealing with interracial conflicts in the history of Dunhuang is in favour of interracial understanding and amity, whatever may be the historical struggles and conflicts. His discussions on the Tibetan period of Dunhuang are not coloured by any chauvinist bias. He has many good words for the artistic achievements of Dunhuang during the Tibetan period and he has taken cognizance of the Tibetan contribution to the development of art in Dunhuang.

Historically, Tibet is a great civilization. The Tibetan language is the second most important repository (after Chinese) of information about the development of Buddhism into a great Asian religion. Geographically and ecologically, the trans-Himalayan area was one of the most important cradles of world civilization which provided the base for India and China to develop to greater heights. Tibet also played the role of a bridge between the civilizations of India and China; and Tantrism which has been such an important manifestation of intercultural synergism has certainly developed into an intra-Asian universal cult from the shores of Indian Ocean across the Himalayas up to the shores of Asia-Pacific (including Mongolia, North China, Korea and Japan) with a large measure of input from Tibet, Nepal and neighbouring areas. An even more open-minded holistic approach in the examination of Dunhuang art will reveal new dimensions of various cultural components in the intercultural crystallization which is Dunhuang art.

The uniqueness of Dunhuang art is to a large extent the uniqueness of Chinese civilization. It is also the uniqueness of what I would like to call Sino-Indian intercultural synergism. Certainly, it represents the contributions of the civilizations of many ancient races, Kucans, Tibetans, Persians, Uighurs, and a host of peoples in Central Asia which the ancient Europeans so vividly called "Serindia", i.e., Sino-India.

One of China's contributions to interculturalism is the huge repository of information concerning not only China's ancient contacts with foreign cultures, but also about the foreign cultures themselves. For instance, it is now virtually impossible to penetrate deep into Mah¡yan¡ Buddhism  --- a brilliant intellectual contribution of ancient India --- without a thorough investigation into the "scholarly forests" of Chinese literature. In this respect, Professor Duan and his colleagues in the Dunhuang Academy, and a large number of Chinese scholars who have worked on Dunhuang studies, have made important contributions in identifying a lot of details painted on the Dunhuang walls by wading through tons of Chinese written materials. The contents of this volume have been greatly enriched by their work, as all of Professor Duan's references are exclusively from Chinese literature, including many which have been rarely tapped by scholars outside China.

Professor Duan is a painter by training and an art historian by preference. It is this background which determines the style and perspective of his writings. It is refreshing to read history as depicted by an artist, although the professional historian may have a different point of view. What has been included in this volume may be regarded as primary material to be worked upon for historians and scholars of other disciplines. It should not be treated as the version, but as one of the versions of the history of Dunhuang art.

Four out of five of Professor Duan's articles translated in this book are from a recent Chinese publication by him entitled Dunhuang shiku yishu lunji (A Collection of Essays on Dunhuang Cave Art), published by the Xinhua Bookshop of Gansu province at Lanzhou in 1988. This book was brought out in commemoration of Professor Duan's forty-year- long career as a custodian of Dunhuang art (1946-86). It is considered to be a milestone in the study of Dunhuang art not only in China, but all over the world. Due to constraints of space and to avoid repetition, we have not translated all the fourteen articles of this seminal work. Only those who can read Chinese (including Classical Chinese) can make up the loss of not having access to the remaining nine articles that are not included in this book.

To make partial amends, I shall briefly sum up the contents of the nine articles missing in this collection. There is an article on "Dunhuang bihua gaishu" (A General Survey of the Dunhuang Mural Paintings) the main features of which are more or less covered in the articles presented in this volume. Another short article on Professor Duan's experience in copying the murals is not substantially different from the second paper delivered by him at the New Delhi Seminar and which is included at the end of our book. Two similar articles, one entitled "Dunhuang zaoqi bihuade fengge tedian he yishu chengjiu" (Style and Artistic Achievements of Dunhung Murals in the Early Periods), and another entitled "Zaoqide mogaoku yishu" (Mogao Cave Art in the Early Period) share a lot of common points with the first two articles of this volume.

Professor Duan's "Xinxiangde lishi" (History of Symbolism) has offered an attractive title; on closer examination, this turns out to be one of his earliest articles written in 1979 for the Journal of Lanzhou University, to introduce the historical significance of the Dunhuang murals. As it is a general survey, a substantial part of this article has been incorporated in our selections.

The other five articles that our readers will miss are of particular interest to the specialists concerned and not equally so to the general reader. The first of these is "Dunhuang caisuo yishu" (Art of Coloured Stucco at Dunhuang) which has many interesting discussions and useful information about one of the twin branches of Dunhuang art. Here again, many details from this essay find a place in the contents of this volume. A point worth noting is Professor Duan's observation that the creation of deities in such large numbers in Dunhuang could easily lead to stereotypes and monotony. However, the outstanding achievement in the creation of the Mogao stucco images/dunhuang is that they show hardly any stereotype. Every stucco image has its own distinctive nature, mood, posture and smile, says Professor Duan.

The second missing article is entitled "Shilun Dunhuang bihuade chuanshen yishu" (A Tentative Study of the Art of Delineating the Lively Mood in the Dunhuang Murals). This is indeed an aspect of Dunhuang art about which Professor Duan has accumulated unique experiences and penetrating insight --- a topic he will inevitably touch upon in any discourse, as the readers will find out for themselves in this volume. The Chinese word is "chuanshen", which literally means the "transmission of the spirit, the mood, character etc." of the figure by the painter. According to Professor Duan, "chuanshen" has been the highest aesthetic ideal in Chinese art. An ancient philosopher Xunze observed that whenever a figure is painted or created by any other means, his/her spirit, mood and character should come to life.

According to Professor Duan delineating the mood in Dunhuang art made a breakthrough during the Tang dynasty. While earlier the spiritual outlook was uniformly expressed among the figures of an identical category (the Buddhas have a uniformly characteristic mood and Bodhisattvas theirs), the Tang artists began to create the specific mood of every individual. Professor Duan feels that characterization is a combination of the subjective sentiments of the artist and his intellectual assessment of the character he is creating. The Tang technique combined both the realistic and the romantic approach.

The third article entitled "Daojiao ticai shi ruhe jinru fojiao shikude" (How did Taoist Themes get into a Buddhist Cave) is a specific study of the paintings on the ceiling of Cave No. 249. As mentioned earlier, this is one of the most controversial caves at Mogao. Professor Duan is one of the first scholars to take a firm view that the controversial ceiling is dominated by Taoist themes and this article is intended to put the controversy at rest. The arguments are supported by literary sources. However, there are more questions raised than answered by this article.

There are two more articles discussing the costumes depicted in the Dunhuang paintings: one, a general survey and the other specifically on costumes reflected from the paintings of Tang dynasty. Both these articles would be of great interest to those studying the historical evolution of costume in China. However, this writer often feels that Chinese scholars who are engaged in the study of Dunhuang art must familiarize themselves with Indian costumes both of the past and the present. In the absence of this familiarity many mistaken descriptions may have occurred among the Chinese commentaries on Dunhuang paintings. For instance, no Chinese commentator so far has a detailed knowledge of a sari or a dhoti and how they are worn. Without such elementary knowledge it is hardly possible to describe the attire of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas at Dunhuang with accuracy. Even more disturbing is the fact that Chinese scholars have every facility to come to India to make detailed observations. One instance of a glaring historical mistake is the ancients' depiction of Buddha wearing the "baizhequn" (skirt with a hundred folds) in Chinese literature. I remember a seminar at Mogao when I could not convince a Chinese participant during the discussions that what was worn by all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas was a dhoti, not a skirt. In our translation of Professor Duan's articles, we have taken the liberty of translating his word "qun" (skirt) into "dhoti".

Now, I shall briefly comment on the essays of Professor Duan which we have included in this volume. The vastness, richness and the complicated diversity of Dunhuang murals can bewilder any first-time visitor, be he/she an expert or a novice. I remember once I was inside a Mogao cave discussing things with a Dunhuang researcher, there trooped in a big group of Australian elders mostly women. The leader and guide of the group was the first secretary in the cultural section of the Australian Embassy in Beijing. He was obviously an "Old China Hand" who could read and speak Chinese well. First, he thought it was a Tang cave. On reading the Chinese language introductions inside the cave he quickly corrected himself, and reminded his audience that it was a Sui cave, earlier than Tang. He definitely commanded respect of his flock who exclaimed: "Marvellous", "Marvellous", "Gorgeous", "Gorgeous", whenever he paused to allow such appreciations. I cannot recall the details of his speech, but certainly remember that he reiterated the influence of Taoism on the paintings, repeating: "naturalism", "naturalism", "a lot of space" etc. What struck me most as a bystander of his eloquent performance was that throughout he did not mention "Buddhism" even once. And he concluded his lecture and guided tour by recommending a Penguin booklet on China for further reading --- a book which probably has no reference to Dunhuang. After this interlude, I resumed my conversation with the Dunhuang scholar, and both of us wondered what understanding the elderly Australian tourists could have gained about Dunhuang art.

That was many, many years back before metal gates were fitted to every Mogao cave, and there certainly was a lot of light inside the caves, particularly before noon. Today, anyone who visits Dunhuang caves, is unable to see anything without torch light. And the torch light can cover very limited spot. I mention all this to emphasize that one must first do some homework before entering the Mogao caves, if one wishes to gain knowledge and insight from the tour. Particularly the motivated and the scholarly must first have a short course of orientation before making a trip to Dunhuang. I think the articles of Duan Wenjie in this book provide an excellent pre-trip course about Dunhuang art. What he tells is authoritative and authentic, is information and understanding from the reservoir. Even a trickle can benefit the uninitiated a good deal. This aspect alone, I think, determines that it is very worthwhile to give wide publicity to what Professor Duan has written about Dunhuang art, and to recommend to all those who are interested in Dunhuang art to read his writings as a primer.

The great strength of Professor Duan's article, which is also the great strength of the entire work of the Dunhuang Academy under the leadership of Professor Duan, lies in the enormous studies of the Chinese translations of the Buddhist scriptures according to the details of the Dunhuang paintings. Almost every important painting has been related to one or more than one Chinese texts to identify the figures and understand the details. Naturally, not every detail can be satisfactorily interpreted by the Buddhist scriptures. Professor Duan and his colleagues in Dunhuang Academy then retreat to the second line to consult Chinese written records of native or Taoist legends to find a solution. This appears to be a perfect academic exercise. However, from the Indian cultural viewpoint there are obviously elements in Dunhuang art which are drawn from non-Buddhist traditions. Though I am far from an expert in this field, I seem to have seen Hindu gods in many places. Obviously, the weak link in the study of the Dunhuang Academy lies in this aspect. An input by Indian experts will be greatly helpful. We must realize that what is in Dunhuang art is a wealth of Indian and Chinese traditions interwoven into an intricate tapestry. Professor Duan and his colleagues have already done the spadework, but have not exhausted all the fields. A true edifice of studies of Dunhuang art has to depend upon a giant endeavour of experts of the two countries, and even with a helping hand from the experts of cultures other than India and China.

Here, I should not fail to mention that due to the massive translation of Indian Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and the originals being lost in India, and due to ancient India's want of a strong written tradition (everything was passed down by oral teaching) China has preserved more Indian Mah¡y¡na teachings than India --- the motherland of these teachings. So also, many ancient Indian legends and stories which can be found in Chinese literature are little known to modern India. We know that the original aim of the Dunhuang frescoes was known as "bianxiang", i.e., to transform the teachings of the scriptures into pictures. Thus in the Mogao paintings there is a rich reservoir of ancient Indian legends and stories which may have escaped the memory of modern India. Professor Duan's immense efforts in interpreting the details of the Dunhuang paintings at Mogao, Yulin and other sites through the translated literature are a great contribution to the restoration of the ancient Buddhist Indian mythology. The only question remaining is whether Professor Duan and his colleagues would need the help of the Indian experts in this endeavour. I think the modern Indian intellectuals should feel grateful for what Professor Duan has done, and would be ready to assist him in further exploring the upper stream of Indian culture which looks rather distant with a blurred impression from 20th century India.

I have a moment ago recaptured the scene of some Australian tourists' visit to the Mogao caves. I think it is a universal problem, not only for foreigners, but also for Chinese today to receive the true message so painstakingly and colourfully presented by the Dunhuang artists of yore. The message is of a vast dimension and intricate contents which is quite beyond the comprehension of the uninitiated, let alone those who have not gotten prepared to receive it as personified by the example of the Australian diplomat. It is interesting to note that though Professor Duan has no real intention to get to the depth of the message per se, he has brought his readers a step nearer to it. I feel that his writings carried by this volume have revealed before us the ancients' desire of creating a celestial paradise of compassion and tranquillity in the terrestrial cavity, to turn the dark corner of earth into a bright new world. This, indeed, is the fundamental truth about the cave art. What I am saying is to complement Professor Duan for bringing out the noble mission of cave art. Art is never for art's sake. It caters to the urgent need and strong aspiration of social life. It is based on this logic so powerfully conveyed by Duan Wenjie's writings that we salute the creators of Ajanta, Dunhuang and other monuments of cave art in the world for a very noble cause, for kindling the light of wisdom, love, peace and selflessness in the serene locations of mankind.

Among the Mogao caves, those created before Tang constitute a very difficult area for modern scholarly investigation. Professor Duan's article dealing with the period and his interventions in the Delhi seminar have shown that enormous research has been done by him and his colleagues about this early phase of Dunhuang art. But, it was only after we got down to translate the article that we realized the dimensions and depth of his research. In the section about the Dunhuang depiction of the Buddhist stories, Duan vividly narrated twelve examples with such details that have even escaped the knowledge of many Indian experts. Although the details are depicted on the walls, but the identity of the heroes involved in the stories has to be dug up from a pile of written sources  --- that is precisely what Professor Duan has done. We sometimes feel a little ashamed that not all the names of Indian places and personages in Duan's article can be rendered in their original Sanskrit forms with absolute certainty. In this article, Professor Duan has also furnished a good introduction of the early Chinese political, social, cultural and art development to provide a clear understanding of the birth of Dunhuang art. This will be of great help for foreign scholars to delve into the new subject of Dunhuang art. I think Professor Duan has made an impeccable point which all the scholars interested in Dunhuang art should bear in mind, viz., Dunhuang was from the very beginning the confluence of cultures, art, traditions and influences of foreign lands and also interior China --- the political and cultural centres of the country.

The two articles on Dunhuang during the Tang dynasty are complemented by many other articles and references written by Professor Duan and published elsewhere which we cannot include in this volume. It seems to me that the Tang period is Duan's pet subject and he is a thorough master of the Tang culture and art. I think the writings of Professor Duan on Dunhuang art during the Tang period are among the best modern Chinese studies of Tang culture and art. This compliment is due to Prof. Duan's immense scholarship. It also reflects the importance of Dunhuang in the entire gamut of Tang culture and art. Duan has made an important point that because of fierce strife for imperial patronage between Buddhism and Taoism that an all-out effort on the part of the Buddhists to make their presence felt contributed to the prosperity of Dunhuang art during the Tang Dynasty. Equally valid is his point about the contribution of Empress Wu. I submit humbly that because of the prolonged prejudice against this female statesman by China's male chauvinist tradition Empress Wu's great contribution to Tang art and culture has remained underestimated. I sincerely wish that more scholarly efforts will be devoted to the making of amends in this regard. I suspect that many puzzles in Chinese Buddhist art, such as the changing of sex of the image of Avalokite¿vara from that of a male (in India) into that of a female (in China), cannot be solved without a full appreciation and true understanding of Empress Wu's great contributions.

The article on the last phase of Dunhuang art is equally authoritative supported by elaborate research although the period marked the decline of Dunhuang art treasure. Prof. Duan has done well to highlight the Tantric influence on the art of this period which was a contribution from Tibetan culture. Equally highlighted in the article is the fruitful interaction between the cultures of various nationalities.

There is a little overlapping between the first article "Style and Artistry of Dunhuang Art" and the first article in the Appendix "Salient Features of Dunhuang Art". Thus we have included the latter in the volume because it is an excellent overview of Dunhuang art. Our readers should know that all the articles written by Prof. Duan are solicited. He wrote them on different dates as the authority and custodian of Dunhuang art eager to give a comprehensive picture of Dunhuang. This gives rise to the possibility of repetitions which are unavoidable. I think a little of this can help our readers to gain a deeper impression about the aspects being repeated while I ask for pardon from them as we do not have the author's permission to edit his articles.

I have had the privilege to know and interact with Professor Duan for the past ten years and I find him refreshingly open to new ideas and views. At the end of his first-ever month-long visit to India in 1991, Professor Duan went back to China with a strong sense that he had known too little of the great civilization and art tradition of India, and that he would have to make up this deficiency in future as India formed such an integral component in the study of Dunhuang art. Indeed, in the articles included in this volume India has been repeatedly referred to. It is likely that Professor Duan has already acquired a lot of new information and fresh perspectives to look at the problems concerning India's influence on Dunhuang art.

Bringing out this volume, as I have said earlier, is part of a larger design or movement, to bring the two great civilizations of India and China face to face, and initiate direct interaction without the mediation of a third cultural bias. As we are just at the beginning of this venture, and as the articles of Professor Duan which we have selected were written much before this beginning, we anticipate a long series of discussions and debates to bring about a greater mutual understanding between the proponents of the culture of the two countries. I am sure that the English language readers, particularly the Indian academia and intellectual community to whom this volume is dedicated, will find the following pages worth reading and thought-provoking.

 

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