front; after treatment Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

This clay bodhisattva was one of eight attendant figures — six bodhisattvas and two disciples — surrounding a central sculpture of a seated, preaching Shakyamuni Buddha in an early Tang dynasty cave in the Mogao complex at Dunhuang. With his companions, this figure, captured in a pose of quiet reverence, would have served to direct the worshipper’s attention to the exalted Buddha at center. Unlike the figures from Tianlongshan on display in the first-floor Buddhist gallery, this sculpture was not carved into the stone walls of a cave; rather, it was formed by applying clay mixed with fibers and straw to a wooden armature and allowing it to harden naturally. Damage to the ends of the ribbon-like scarf dangling from the bodhisattva’s arms reveals the cores of bamboo twigs around which the clay mixture was packed. A thin layer of white was used to unify and brighten the clay surface, and select areas were embellished with polychromy and gilding.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Kneeling Attendant Bodhisattva (from Mogao Cave 328, Dunhuang, Gansu province)
Work Type
sculpture, figure
late 7th century
Creation Place: East Asia, China, Gansu province, Dunhuang
Tang dynasty, 618-907
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2740, Buddhist Art, The Efflorescence of East Asian and Buddhist Art
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Unfired clay mixed with fibers and straw modeled over wooden armature; with polychromy and gilding
sight: H. 122 x Diam. approx. 71.1 cm (48 1/16 x 28 in.)
From Mogao Cave 328, Dunhuang, Gansu province; acquired during the First Fogg Expedition to China (1923-24) led by Langdon Warner (1881-1955)
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, First Fogg Expedition to China (1923-1924)
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Kristin A. Mortimer and William G. Klingelhofer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums and Abbeville Press (Cambridge and New York, 1986), no. 26, p. 31

James Cuno, Alvin L. Clark, Jr., Ivan Gaskell, and William W. Robinson, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, ed. James Cuno, Harvard University Art Museums and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), pp. 56-57

Masterpieces of world art : Fogg Art Museum, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1997

Sanchita Balachandran, "Research into the Collecting and Conservation History of Chinese Wall Paintings from Dunhuang in the Harvard University Art Museums" (thesis (certificate in conservation), Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, 2004), Unpublished, passim

Jacqueline M. Moore and Rebecca Woodward Wendelken, ed., Teaching the Silk Road, State University of New York Press (Albany, NY, 2010), p. 94, fig. 6.5.

Karl E. Meyer and Shareen Blair Brysac, The China Collectors: America's Century-Long Hunt for Asian Art Treasures, Palgrave Macmillan Ltd (New York, 2015), p. 73, ill.

Exhibition History

S426a: Dunhuang Sculpture and Murals, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 10/20/1985 - 04/30/2008

Re-View: S228-230 Arts of Asia, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 05/31/2008 - 06/01/2013

32Q: 2740 Buddhist II, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Collection Highlights

Related Works

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at