GENEROUS KING MOONLIGHT
King Moonlight, who is so generous that he gives away his own head, appears on the right wall. The countless virtuous acts of King Moonlight, the Buddha in a past life, contribute to his eventual awakening. Images of the cave's donors appear in a row below the story.
BUDDHA OF THE FUTURE
Dominating the cave temple, against the far wall, is an impressive sculpture of Maitreya, Buddha of the future, flanked by two lions. The beaded jewelry, string-like folds in his garment, and textile pattern on the triangular backrest reflect contact with Central Asia.
Cave 275 dates to the 5th century. On the upper part of the left and right walls are architectural niches carved to resemble Chinese gateways with tiled roofs and adjacent watchtowers.
Cave 285 is the earliest dated cave at Mogao. On the right wall are two inscriptions dating its creation to 538–539 CE. On either side of the inscriptions are rows of donors who, as a group, funded the cave and its decoration.
CHINESE AND INDIAN DEITIES
One of the cave's themes is meditation. On either side of the central Buddha is a sculpture of a monk meditating in a niche. The Hindu god Shiva, a black figure holding the sun and moon, is to the right of the central Buddha. Chinese mythological beings race across the pyramidal ceiling.
CONVERSION OF THE ROBBERS
A tale of Buddhist redemption known as the "500 Robbers" appears on the left wall. After defeating the robbers, the king orders that they be blinded and left in the forest. The robbers then call out to the Buddha, who restores their sight.
Cave 320 exemplifies the artistic brilliance of the High Tang period (705–781 CE). The left and right walls depict Pure Lands, blissful paradises where devotees sought to be reborn.
The pyramidal ceiling is exquisitely painted. Its central peony design is surrounded by colorful tent hangings and, on the four slopes, a multitude of buddhas.
MODIFICATIONS AND LOSSES
The losses to the left wall occurred in 1924, when American explorer Langdon Warner removed portions of the central preaching scene. Other losses and modifications took place over the centuries.