Doctoral Program Buddhist Studies

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Fang Wang, M.A.

PhD student at the Doctoral Program in Buddhist Studies


“The mural paintings of the Buddha legend in the Treppenhöhle”

The Treppenhöhle (Cave.110 in the Chinese Numbering System) that is located in an innermost and high position on the canyon rock in the Kizil Grottoes, was discovered by Albert Grünwedel in the 3rd Preußischen Turfan-Expedition. The murals on Buddha’s life story in Kizil’s Treppen-Höhle form a complete sequence of the Buddha legend in early Buddhist art, while also providing important information about belief in the historical Buddha in Kucha Buddhism. This research aims to study the iconography of the murals, including 60 square scenes and two lunette scenes. The work includes three aspects. First, a re-interpretation of insufficient or doubtful identifications and new identifications of some themes by identifying parallel narratives in literary and visual traditions. Second, analysis of pictorial representations in terms of layout, figural depictions and architectural settings, etc., with an attempt to identify their specified textual resources, foreign narrative “patterns” and original creativity. Third, an attempt to explain the whole design of the cave’s iconographical program, its role among Kizil caves, and possible affiliations to the Sarvāstivāda or Mūlasarvāstivāda school.