Love stories depicted on Dunhuang murals

Mural on the south wall of Cave No 257 at the Mogao Grottoes.
PHOTO: Dunhuang Research Academy

We just celebrated Valentine's Day and may have read or watched some romantic love stories. Well, ancient people told love stories not only in books, but also on murals. Let's take a look at the Dunhuang murals which tell romantic love stories.

This mural on the south wall of Cave No 257 at the Mogao Grottoes depicts a scene of a young girl pulling on an acolyte's clothes, lowering her head in shyness to show her affection to the young acolyte. The acolyte was sent to a lay Buddhist's home to live and a young girl there fell in love with the handsome young man. However, due to his firm beliefs in Buddhism, the acolyte decidedly refused her love and ended up committing suicide for this.

Photo: Dunhuang Research Academy

The mural depicts Nanda's reluctant separation with his wife, who was forced to become a monk by his brother the Buddha and had to leave his beloved wife. His wife, holding back tears, was trying to hide her sadness by turning her head to the side. The mural is located on the north wall of Cave No 254.

Photo: Dunhuang Research Academy

Take a closer look and you can see that Nanda's wife puts one hand on Nanda's shoulder and another hand holds his arm. As hurt as she is, she can do nothing but watch her husband leave her.

Photo: Dunhuang Research Academy

The mural at Cave No 428 shows a young man picking flowers on a tree for his beloved sitting below. The two are a newly-wed couple and are enjoying the spring scenery in a beautiful garden in their big house. The young wife says she wants a flower and her husband climbs the tree without hesitation. After picking one flower, the husband wants to step on a branch to pick another, but the branch is too slender to bear him. The man falls down and dies. A romantic scene suddenly turns tragic. It shows it's important to always cherish our lives and lovers.

Photo: Dunhuang Research Academy

This mural at the south wall of Cave No 85 depicts a love story with a happier ending. Shan You, a prince in ancient India, was stabbed and blinded by his evil brother after they successfully found a treasure bead in the sea. Useless as he was, he wandered to another kingdom and became an orchard keeper for the king. He enjoyed playing the guzheng (a Chinese zither) while guarding the orchard. One day, the princess of the kingdom came to the orchard and heard his music. She then fell in love with the music and player. The princess decided to marry Shan You even though her father didn't agree. They are real soul mates who live a happy life together.

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