Freer Gallery of Art Arthur M Sackler Gallery Gallery Guide Cave as Canvas: Hidden Images of Worship along the ancient Silk Routes


Indian figures
China, Kucha, Qizil, 4th–6th century c.e., Gypsum plaster with pigment, Long-term loan from the Smithsonian American Art Museum; gift of John Gellatly, LTS 1985.1.325.10
The religious community of Central Asia in the fourth to seventh century c.e. was truly multicultural because Buddhist monks traveled among India, Central Asia, and China to study and preach. The cultural mix is evident in these figures, who belong to a worshiping assembly. Their costumes and dark skin suggest they are Indian, while the wide-mouthed container with a lotus design on the right closely resembles contemporaneous Iranian metalwork. Figures in profile are not common in Central Asian Buddhist paintings.