A Gift to Professor Bille: The Story of a Scroll from Dunhuang
/ Foster Foundation Curator of Chinese Art
The pandemic offers an unexpected upside: time to research an ancient Buddhist sutra manuscript in our collection. A little perseverance—and some Google good luck—unlocked this scroll’s forgotten story as one of the first pieces taken out of the secret "Library Cave" at Mogao, Dunhuang, passing into the hands of a prominent local official who left it to his descendants. We follow SAM’s fragment, evading war and mothballs, as it migrated from Dunhuang to Beijing and eventually from Honolulu to Seattle.
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Image: Manuscript of the Sutra on Solemn Attainment of Buddhahood (Datong Fangguang Chanhui Miezui) (detail), 7th–8th century, Chinese, attributed to Dunhuang, Mogao, ink on mulberry fiber paper, Clara Ching, Provenance: Jao Yü Ai (unknown), to Anne Matilda Bille (d. 1942), 1920s–ca. 1937, to Fook-Tan Ching (b. Honolulu, 1987), late 1930s, to his son, Yi-Chuan Ching, 2017.21, Photo: Elizabeth Mann.