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This is a statue of a person, with their hands clasped infront of them, kneeling on a circular platform on one knee.

This is a statue of a man kneeling on a circular platform. The man is wearing a yellow-brown vest, green pants with red detail, and a yellow necklace. His hands are pressed together infront of his chest. He is kneeling on one knee with his left knee raised. The platform he is kneeling on is hourglass shaped, with the upper section detailed with brown petal shapes, and the lower section decorated with alternating blue and brown petal shapes.

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
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Physical Descriptions

Unfired clay mixed with fibers and straw modeled over wooden armature; with polychromy and gilding
figure: H. 90.8 × W. 33 × D. 38.1 cm (35 3/4 × 13 × 15 in.)
lotus base: H. 28.6 × Diam. 67.3 cm (11 1/4 × 26 1/2 in.)
overall: H. 121.9 × W. 67.3 × D. 67.3 cm (48 × 26 1/2 × 26 1/2 in.), 195 lb


Recorded Ownership History
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
  • Sanchita Balachandran, Object Lessons: The Politics of Preservation and Museum Building in Western China in the Early Twentieth Century, International Journal of Cultural Property (2007), Vol. 14, No. 1, 1-32
  • 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, Harvard University Art Museums, 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

  • Collection Highlights
  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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