The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education: Philosophical, Spiritual, Scientific, and Aesthetic Insights 9783030133559

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The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education Philosophical, Spiritual, Scientific, and Aesthetic Insights

Edited by Xu Di

Spirituality, Religion, and Education Series Editors Jing Lin 3214 Benjamin Building University of Maryland College Park, MD, USA Rebecca Oxford Huntsville, AL, USA Sachi Edwards University of Hawaii at Manoa Honolulu, HI, USA Edward J. Brantmeier Penn Laird, VA, USA

This series publishes books that examine fundamental questions of life, touching on the meaning, purpose, and mission of education from a variety of spiritual and religious perspectives. The series provides a forum for ­scholars to explore how to engage learners spiritually and holistically. It studies how spirituality, religion, and education intertwine with the learning of wisdom, peacebuilding, cultural and interfaith dialogues, and the integration of learners’ body, mind, emotions, and spirit. Commonalities and differences among spiritual and religious traditions are explored alongside new developments from science that bridge the spirit and the mind. The series especially pays attention to the educational initiatives, outcomes, and programs that simultaneously engage the cognitive, affective, and spiritual dimensions of both students and educators. The world we live in focuses mostly on education for the intellect, thus restricting our ability to explore and understand deeply the nature of the cosmos and the meaning of our life. Although education is accessible to more people than ever before in human history, the dominant paradigm focuses solely on knowledge, skill, and material acquisition that neglects the meaning and purpose of life. This creates a huge void in learners and produces a huge number of people who are unhappy, unfulfilled, restless, lost, or desperate. An education that distills and recovers wisdom from spiritual and religious traditions can fill the void and help cultivate citizens who have love, compassion, knowledge, and the capacities for enlightened action. Books in the series address these age-old pursuits of inquiry, meaning, purpose, growth, transformation, and change. To submit proposals to the series for consideration please contact Jing Lin at [email protected]. More information about this series at

Xu Di Editor

The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education Philosophical, Spiritual, Scientific, and Aesthetic Insights

Editor Xu Di Department of Educational Foundations College of Education University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Honolulu, HI, USA

Spirituality, Religion, and Education ISBN 978-3-030-13355-9    ISBN 978-3-030-13356-6 (eBook) Library of Congress Control Number: 2019935185 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the ­publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, express or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and ­institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: © Dunhuang Academy This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland


The completion of this book is the result of years of labor and collaboration among many scholars and souls. First and foremost, I would like to honor our ancestors who, mostly nameless, created the Dunhuang Mogao grottoes through their earnest and persistent search for enlightenment and self-cultivation for over a thousand years. They are our true inspiration and role models. My thanks go to contributing authors and my colleagues Chia-Ling Wang, Kang Li, Jing Lin, Rui Kang, Joseph, Peters, Su Xiaojia, Zhou Hongtao, Leng Lu, Yu Dan Hong, Zhang Jianhui, and Song Baoru, whose serious work and thoughtful scholarship have generated a profound discourse on Dunhuang and its meaning for global education today. Each author has examined Dunhuang’s artifacts through a unique lens in a particular scholarly field. Together the authors illustrate both the depth and breadth of Dunhuang and expand its meaning and application for education today and beyond. I would like to express my heart-felt thanks to Ye Lin (叶琳) from the Dunhuang Academy, who guided Leng Lu and me when we visited Dunhuang in 2015 and kindly provided special support in our literature research especially for Chap. 11; and to Dr. Frances Griffin, who copy-edited the entire book carefully and thoughtfully while maintaining the style and scholarly voice of each author faithfully. I would like to thank the series editors Jing Lin, Sachi Edwards, and Rebecca Oxford for their scholarly input and support, and to Palgrave Macmillan for offering such an important venue for us to share this work globally. Gratitude goes to Dunhuang Academy, who provides copyright permission for their fresco pictures for this book; and to Springer, who provides the permission for the reprint of Chap. 2, which was previously v



published in the International Communication of Chinese Culture. Finally, my sincere thanks go to my parents, Xu Zhengyuan and Zhang Xingshi, who have made it possible for me to pursue a learning path forever; and to my sister, Zhang Ruo, who continuously teaches me the value and meaning of life with her persevering human spirit.


1 Introduction: Dunhuang and Education—The Missing Piece  1 Xu Di (许笛) Part I Dunhuang and Educational Philosophy  17 2 Dunhuang’s Infinite Connections with Education 19 Xu Di (许笛) and Leng Lu (冷璐) 3 Educational Philosophy and Dunhuang: Diversity, Synergy, and Transformation 39 Xu Di (许笛) 4 Moral Education from the Dunhuang Murals 57 Chia-Ling Wang (王嘉陵) 5 The Philosophy of Aesthetic Education in Ch‘an Buddhism: A New Interpretation of the Mandala Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch from Dunhuang 69 Kang Lee (李崗)




6 West Meets East: The Interplay of Unity and Diversity— The Relevance of Dunhuang for Education and Life Today 89 Xu Di (许笛) 7 Enlightenment from Body–Spirit Integration: Dunhuang’s Buddhist Cultivation Pathways and Educational Applications113 Jing Lin (林静) Part II Dunhuang and Contemporary Educational Practices 133 8 Dunhuang as a Model for EthnoSTEM Education135 Rui Kang (康锐) and Joseph Peters 9 The Significance of the Dunhuang Mogao Frescoes for Universal Education Today161 Su Xiaojia (苏晓佳) and Zhou Hongtao (周洪涛) 10 A Psychological Perspective of Dunhuang Education: Heart, Soul, and Our Lives187 Leng Lu (冷璐) 11 Dunhuang and Contemporary Music Education209 Yu Danhong (余丹红) 12 The Textbooks of Basic Dunhuang Education: Implications for Teaching and Learning227 Leng Lu (冷璐) 13 Dunhuang and Lifelong Learning in the Global Context253 Zhang Jianhui (张建慧) 14 Harmonious Coexistence with Nature: Naturalistic Education in the Dunhuang Frescoes269 Song Baoru (宋宝茹) Index


Map of Dunhuang


Chinese Dynasties and History Chart

Chinese dynasty

Western calendar

Xia (夏)

Approx. twenty-first century to sixteenth century BC Approx. sixteenth century BC – 1066 BC

Shang (商)

Zhou (周) Xizhou (西周West Zhou) Approx. 1066–771 BC Dongzhou (东周) 770–256 BC Zhunqiu (春秋, Spring 770–476 BC & Autumn) Zhanguo (战国, Warring 475–221 BC States1) Qin (秦) 221–206 BC Han (汉) Xihan (西汉West Han)2 206 BC–AD 23 Donghan (东汉, East AD 25–220 Han)


1. The primary kingdoms were Qin (秦), Wei (魏), Han (韩), Zhao (赵), Chu (楚), and Qi (齐)

2. This included the “new” Dynasty established by Wang Meng (王莽) from AD 9 to AD 23. During that time, Wang Mang led a large-scale peasant uprising and established his rule. Wang Mang’s Dynasty ended in AD 23. East Han was established in AD 25 (continued)




(continued) Chinese dynasty Three Kingdom (三国) Wei (魏) Shu (蜀) Wu (吴) Xijin (西晋, West Jin) Dongji (东晋, East Jin) & Sixteen Kingdoms Dongji (东晋, West Jin) Sixteen Kingdoms3

South and North Dynasties South Dynasty: Song (宋) Qi (齐) Liang (梁) Chen (陈) North Dynasty: Bei Wei (北魏) Dongwei (东魏) Bei Qi (北齐) Xi Wei (西魏) Bei Zhou (北周) Sui (隋) Tang (唐)

Western calendar


AD 220–265 AD221–263 AD 221–280 AD 265–316

AD 317–420 AD 304–439

3. There were various kingdoms in Northern China during this time including Han (Qian Zhao, 前赵, Former Zhao), Cheng (Cheng Han, 成汉), Qian Liang (前凉, Former Liang), Hou Zhao (后赵, Later Zhao, also known as Wei -魏), Qian Yan (前燕, Former Yan), Qian Qin (前秦, Former Qin), Hou Yan (后燕, Late Yan), Hou Qin (后秦, Late Qin), Xi Qin (西秦, West Qin), Hou Liang (后凉, Late Liang), Nan Liang (南凉, South Liang), Bei Liang (北凉, North Liang), Nan Yan (南燕, South Yan), Xi Liang (西凉, West Liang), Bei Yan (北燕, North Yan), Xia (夏) etc. Historically they are called the Sixteen Kingdoms

AD 420–479 AD 479–502 AD 502–557 AD 557–589 AD 386–534 AD 534–550 AD 550–577 AD 535–557 AD 557–581 AD 581–618 AD 618–907 (continued)



(continued) Chinese dynasty Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (五代十国) Hou Liang (后梁) Hou Tang (后唐) Hou Jin (后晋) Hou Han (后汉) Hou Zhou (后周) Ten Kingdoms (十国)4 Song (宋) Bei Song (北宋) Nan Song (南宋) Liao (辽) Xi Xia (西夏) Jin (金) Yuan (元) Ming (明) Qing (清) The Republic of China (中华民国)5

The People’s Republic of China (中华人民 共和国)

Western calendar

AD 907–923 AD 923–936 AD 936–946 AD 947–950 AD951–960 AD 902–979

AD 960–1127 AD 1127–1279 AD 907–1125 AD 1032–1227 AD 1115–1234 AD 1279–1368 AD 1368–1644 AD 1644–1911 AD 1912–1949

Notes 4. During this time, in addition to the five dynasties, there are other feudal rulers, such as Wu (吴), Qian Shu (前蜀), Wu Yue (吴越), Chu (楚), Min (闽), Nan Han (南汉), Ji Nan (荆南, also called Nan Ping 南平), Hou Shu (后蜀), Nan Tang (南唐), Bei Han (北汉), etc. Historically they are called the Ten Kingdoms

5. The Nationalists went to Taiwan to continue their administration on the island while the Chinese Communist Party established a new government on mainland China on October 1, 1949

AD 1949–present

From Xinhua Zidian (新华字典, Xinhua Dictionary) (1986). Beijing: Shang Wu Press, pp.  617–619, with translator’s additions

Major Events of Dunhuang



111 BC

Xihan (西 汉, West Han)

Before AD 290

AD 353

AD 366

AD 376 Before AD 385

AD 386



The sixth year of Yuanding (元鼎) under Hanwu Emperor (汉武帝), Weiwu (威武) and Jiuquan (酒泉) regions and Zhangye (张掖) and Dunhuang (敦煌) counties were established West Ji (西 The Record of the Mogao Grottoes indicates that 晋司空 晋) the famed Dunhuang scholar Suo Jing (索靖) named the Maogao Grottoes “Xianyansi (仙岩寺)” – the Temple of Fairy’s Rock Sixteen The Dunhuang Record of Shazhou Tujing (沙洲土 Kingdom 镜) states that the Mogao Grottoes were established (十六国) in the eighth year of Yonghe (永和) and Kuichousui The Buddhist traveling monk Le Zun (乐僔) built the first grottoes. Afterwards the Buddhist priest Faliang (法良) continued to construct grottoes Early Qin After Early Qin conquered Early Liang (前凉), it (前秦) took over the control of Dunhuang Early Qin Over ten thousands of Han families moved to (前秦) Dunhuang from FujianTujiang (苻坚徒江). An additional seven thousand families moved to Dunhuang from Zhongzhou (中州) Late Liang In the first year of Taichu (太初) of Early Qin, Lu (后凉) Guang (吕光) occupied Liangzhou (凉州) and formed Late Liang. Dunhuang went under its jurisdiction. Kumarajiva (鸠摩罗什) arrived in Liangzhou (continued)




(continued) Time




AD 400

West Liang The well-known Buddhist priest Faxian (法显) and (西凉) his group traveled to India in search of Buddhist scriptures and stayed in Dunhuang for several months along their way. They were supported and provided by Dunhuang Prefecture Chief Li Hao (李暠), who titled himself “Liang Gong” and claimed Dunhuang as his capital and established West Liang (西凉) AD 439 North Wei North Wei established its rule in Dunhuang and (北魏) made it a township Before AD North Wei The North Wei imperial descendant Yuan Rong 525 (北魏) (元荣) served as Cishi (刺史, Imperial Inspector) of Guazhou (瓜洲), in which Dunhuang belonged AD 538–539 West Wei Mogao Cave #285 was constructed. (西魏) AD 563 North Dunhuang changed its name to Mingsha (鸣沙) Zhou County (北周) Before AD North Yu Yi (于义), Cishi (刺史, Imperial Inspector) of 571 Zhou Guazhou (瓜洲), built and opened a Buddhist (北周) grotto at Mogao AD 574 North Emperor Wu (武帝) made an imperial edict to ban Zhou Buddhism and forced the monks and nuns to return (北周) to secular life. The two Temples in Guazhou, for Ashoka (阿育王) and Mahayana, were destroyed AD581–600 Sui (隋) Buddhist Priest Shan Xi (善喜) built a lecture grotto for Buddhist teaching. AD 590 Sui (隋) Emperor Wen (文帝) Yang Jian (杨坚) ordered Guazhou imperial officials to officially welcome Buddhist monk Dharmagupta (达摩笈多) from Nandou (南豆贤国), who was traveling to the imperial temple in the capital to translate Buddhist scriptures into Chinese AD 607 Sui (隋) Guazhou (瓜州) was changed to Dunhuang Prefecture AD 619 Tang (唐) Guazhou was reestablished with the merger of five prefectures including Dunhuang. Dunhuang became the Guazhou capital AD 642 Tang (唐) Mogao Cave #220 was built by Dao Hong (道弘), Qu Xuanmai (瞿玄迈), etc. who were lawyers (continued)



(continued) Time


AD 644

Tang (唐)



Xuan Zang (玄奘) returned from India with valuable Buddhist scriptures and passed Shazhou (沙州). Emperor Taizong ordered Dunhuang officials to welcome and receive him at Liusha (流沙) AD 690 Zhou (周), Empress Wuze (武则天) started her imperial rule and (AD changed the Tang Dynasty briefly to Zhou (周). The 684–705) Temple of Dayun (大云寺) was built in Guazhou AD 695 Zhou (周) Mogao Cave #96 was constructed with the famed Beidaxiang (北大像) – “The Great Buddha Statue of the North” AD 698 Zhou (周) Li’s family built Cave #322 and erected a “Stone Tablet in memory of the Construction of Buddhist shrine by Li’s Family.” It indicated Mogao had over a thousand grottoes and shrines at the time already AD 713–741 Seng Chiyan (僧处谚) and Ma Cizhong (马思忠) etc. constructed Cave #130, which holds the Nadaxiang (南大像) – “The Great Buddha Statue of the South” AD 738 Shazhou Kaiyuan Temple (沙洲开元寺) was established AD 742 Shazhou was changed to Dunhuang Prefecture AD 758 Dunhuang Prefecture was changed back to Shazhou AD 776 Li Dabao (李大宝) built the Mogao Cave #148 and erected the “Virtue Stone Tablet of Mr. Li from Longxi (陇西) of Tang Dynasty” inside the grotto AD 781 Tubo The Tubo occupied Shazhou and ruled for 67 years (土番) AD 832–834 Under the Tubo rule, Shazhou’s highest Buddhist )a priest and supervisor (Hedusengtong, Hong Bian ( ) built Medicine Buddha’s Seven-Buddha Hall, which is Mogao Cave #365 AD 848 Tang Zhang Yichao (张议潮) led an uprising in Shazhou and overthrew and terminated Tubo Rule AD 851 Shazhou established an official military army (guiyijun, 归义军), which governed and ruled the region.b Zhang Yichao served as its military chief and general (Jiedushi, 节度史) AD 851–862 The regional Highest Buddhist Priest Hong Bian constructed Mogao Caves #16 and #17 AD 862–866 The regional Highest Buddhist Priest Qu Farong (瞿法荣) built Cave #85 (continued)



(continued) Time




AD 865

Zhang Yichao built Cave #156 and documented the historical “Mogao Record” on the northern wall of the front hall AD 867 Zhang Yichao departed for Chang An, then the capital of the imperial governance. His nephew Zhang Huishen (张淮深) became the local army chief and general Before AD Zhang Huishen constructed Mogao Cave #94 and 888 renovated Cave #96, which housed the Great Buddha Statue of the North (Beidaxiang, 北大像) AD 890 Zhang Yichao’s son-in-law Suo Xun (索勋) killed Zhang Huishen and established himself as the army general AD 894 Zhang Yichao’s 14th daughter, wife of Li Mingzheng (李明振), killed Suo Xun with Li’s family support and made Zhang Chengfeng (张承奉) the Regional Army General. Li’s family rebuilt Cave #148 AD 919–920 Wudai Cao Yijin (曹议金) became the regional governor (五代, Five and army general after Zhang Chengfeng’s death Dynasties) AD 966 Song (宋) Mr. & Mrs. Cao Yuanzhong (曹元忠) renovated Mogao Cave #96 AD 974 Cao Yangong (曹延恭) became the Jiedushi, the military chief and general after Cao Yuanzhong passed away AD 976 Cao Yanlu (曹延禄) served as Jiedushi after Cao Yangong’s death AD 1002 Cao Zongshou (曹宗寿) killed Cao Yanlu and took over the position of Jiedushi AD 1014 Cao Shunxian (曹顺贤), the son of Cao Zongshou served as Jiedushi after his death AD 1016 Cao Shunxian made an official request to the imperial court, asking for permission to receive copies of the sacred Buddhist scriptures written in gold ink AD Xixia Xixia ruled Dunhuang during this period and 1035–1227 (西夏) Dunhuang’s grottoes were continually constructed, renovated, and repaired AD 1227 Mongolia Mongolia occupied Shazhou (沙州) AD 1354 Yuan (元) Shazhou administrative jurisdiction was established AD 1404 Ming (明) Shazhou Jie (street) was established during the second Year of Yongle (永乐) (continued)



(continued) Time



AD 1516

Tulufan took over Dunhuang

AD 1723

Tulufan (吐鲁番) Qing (清)

AD 1725

Qing (清)

Before AD 1820

AD 1831

AD 1900

AD 1904

AD 1907

AD 1908

AD 1911

AD 1914–15

AD 1914 AD 1920–21

Republic of China


Wang Long (汪泷), who was supervising the repair of Dunhuang, discovered the “Virtue Tablet of Li’s Renovation” and Dunhuang frescoes. He wrote poems to praise the artistic creations The imperial court ordered the construction of a new Dunhuang city east of the ancient one and established Shazhou military post. People from 56 counties inland were migrated to Dunhuang to farm the land The famous geologist and historian Xu Song (徐松) traveled to Dunhuang. He documented the records on the stone tablets in the Mogao grottoes, and researched and discussed the origin and development of Dunhuang Dunhuang County Official Su Luji (苏履吉) wrote the history of Dunhuang and collected poems and drawings of Dunhuang The Daoist disciple Wang Yuanlu () discovered Library Cave #17 with ancient texts, Buddhist scriptures, and silk painting etc. –tens of thousands of artifacts Gansu provincial official ordered the Dunhuang County official Wang Zonghan (汪宗瀚) to make a complete inventory of Dunhuang’s artifacts British explorer Aurel M. Stein made his first visit to Dunhuang and removed 29 boxes of Dunhuang treasures including 24 boxes of scriptures and five boxes of silk paintings and artifacts French explorer Pelliot came to Dunhuang and took pictures of Dunhuang grottoes without proper permission and took several thousand artifacts Japanese explorers Tachibana Zuicho (橘瑞超) and (吉川小一朗) arrived in Dunhuang and left with hundreds of Buddhist scriptures Russian explorer came to Dunhuang, measured the grottoes structure, peeled frescoes, and left with scriptures, silk paintings, and other artifacts Stein came to Dunhuang for the second time and took hundreds of volumes of Buddhist scriptures Hundreds of roaming Russian soldiers camped inside Dunhuang grottoes cooking and damaging the grottoes severely (continued)



(continued) Time


AD 1924

AD 1942

AD 1944 AD 1950

AD 1979 AD 1984 AD 1987 AD 1999 2000 beyond

The People’s Republic of China



American explorer Langdon Warner came to Dunhuang, peeled off 26 frescoes, and removed multiple sculptures The history and archeology research group of the Northwest Science Expedition from the National Research Institute conducted research in Dunhuang and Mogao grottoes The Dunhuang Art Research Institute was created The Dunhuang Art Research Institute was renamed the Dunhuang Artifact Research Institute

Dunhuang Museum started its construction and was formally open to the public Dunhuang Artifact Research Institute was expanded and named Dunhuang Academy UNESCO officially named Dunhuang a World Heritage Site Dunhuang artifacts exhibition went on display in Taiwan Dunhuang Academy launched its digitalization project in 2006

Source: Translated by Xu Di with permission of Dunhuang Academy. The public website of Dunhuang Academy, Notes a During North Wei Dynasty, an imperial system was established (AD 396–397) to govern and supervise the Buddhist temples. Sui and Tang Dynasties continued this practice with some modification. The system was abolished in Song Dynasty. (Baidu Encyclopedia from…) b Guiyijun (归义军, the Return of the Army) was established in 851 to turn the Dunhuang and Hexi regions back to Tang from Tubo rule, which continued to Song Dynasty (from归义军/zh-zh/#anchorWiki) 敦煌研究院版权所有 陇ICP11000088 号-1号 敦煌研究院网站赐稿邮箱 [email protected] Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy (C) Tel:(86) 0937-8869852

Notes on Contributors

Chia-Ling Wang (王嘉陵) is a professor at the National Taiwan Ocean University. She is both the Chair of the Institute of Education and Director of the Teacher Education Center. She had been an elementary school teacher for seven years. She got the first Ph.D. from the Department of Education, National Kaohsiung Normal University, where her major study is curriculum and instruction, especially related to curriculum reform and curriculum practices. Then she completed the second Ph.D. at the Institute of Education, University College London. She studied in London with a main focus on philosophy of education and the application of poststructuralism into curriculum theories. During the time of her Ph.D. study, she visited the Center for Philosophy of Education, University of Leuven, Belgium and conducted short-term research on the philosophy of Michel Foucault. In recent years, her research interests have included curriculum innovation in higher education, marine education, ecological education, and Chinese philosophy of education. Her current research project is the application of Buddhist philosophy into educational theories and practices. Through philosophical wisdom, the exploration of her recent research is concerned with the relationship between humans and nature, and the aim of human life. She has written several book chapters and has published more than 40 papers in domestic and international journals, such as Journal of Philosophy of Education, Studies in Higher Education and Educational Philosophy and Theory.




Jing  Lin (林静) is Professor in International Education Policy at University of Maryland. She received her doctorate from the University of Michigan. Jing Lin has done extensive research on peace education and environmental education, spirituality, religion and education, and East– West Dialogues. She single authored Love, Peace and Wisdom in Education: Vision for Education in the 21st Century (2006), and she also co-edited books entitled Educators as Peace Makers: Transforming Education for Global Peace (2008), Spirituality, Religion, and Peace Education (2010), Transformative Eco-Education for Human and Planetary Survival (2012), and Re-envisioning Higher Education: Embodied Pathways to Wisdom and Social Transformation (2013). The most recent book, entitled Toward a Spiritual Research Paradigm: Exploring New Ways of Knowing, Researching and Being, comes out in 2016. She has been the co-editor of four book series on the respective topics of peace education, East Asian philosophy and education, and religion, spirituality and education. Jing Lin’s research also focuses on Chinese education and East Asian education. She has published five books and numerous articles on Chinese education, culture, and society, systematically examining educational reforms and policy changes in China since 1978. The five books she has published are: The Red Guards’ Path to Violence (1991), Education in Post-­ Mao China (1993), The Opening of the Chinese Mind (1994), Social Transformation and Private Education in China (1999), and Portrait of 21st Century Chinese Universities (co-edited, 2011, 2015). Dr. Lin teaches courses on Education for Global Peace, Ecological Ethics and Education, World Religions and Implications for Education, Culture and Education in a Global Context, Gender and Education, International Higher Education, and Modes of Inquiry. Joseph Peters  is the Dean of Education at Georgia College in Milledgeville, GA. He has oversight for the Teacher Education and Professional Learning and Innovation Departments, as well as the Call Me MiSTER program, the Montessori Academy at the Early Learning Center, and Early College (Grades 6–12) in partnership with Baldwin and Putnam County Georgia Public Schools. Dr. Peters is a graduate of Mercyhurst College with a B.A. in elementary education and a dual master’s degree in natural sciences and environmental education from Gannon University. He has a Ph.D. in science education from the University of Pittsburgh and joined the University of West Florida as a professor of science education in 1990. At UWF, he



served as Chair of Teacher Education, Associate Dean for Educator Preparation, and Coordinator of the university’s doctoral program. During the 2007/2008 academic year, he participated in the American Council on Education Fellows program at the University of Florida. He spent time at Northern Marianas College in Saipan and as Dean of Education at Chaminade University prior to joining Georgia College as Dean in 2015. Dr. Peters’ is the author of the Science in Elementary Education textbook series and is a regular presenter at professional conferences. His main focus is on STEM education and higher education leadership. His community service includes past work as executive director representative to the Council of Scientific Society Presidents, North American representative to the International Council of Associations for Science Education, executive director of the Association for Science Teacher Education, and president of the East–West Toastmasters in Hawaii. He currently is the Secretary of the Milledgeville, GA Rotary Club, on the board for the American Council on Education Fellows, and a board member of the Sandra Dunagan Deal Center for Early Language and Literacy. Kang Lee (李崗) is an Associate Professor of Philosophy in Education at the Department of Education and Human Potentials Development; National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan. He received his doctorate from the National Taiwan Normal University. His areas of research include Chinese and Western histories of aesthetics; Confucianism and Daoism; Ch‘an Buddhism (Zen) and transpersonal psychology; Kant and Schiller; Nietzsche and Heidegger; aesthetic education and moral education; curriculum and instruction; and Philosophy for Children. His recent publications include the following: “A Concept Analysis of Aesthetic Education” (2016), “The Aesthetic Foundation of Aesthetic Education” (2016), “Teaching for Aesthetic Education through Drama Appreciation: The Application of Sheng-Chuan Lai’s Theory” (2016), “How to ‘Learn’ to Be a Master? The Implications of Sheng-Chuan Lai’s Studying Experiences” (2016), “Freedom and Discipline: A Study on Montessori’s Theory of Personality Education” (2016), “Learning English by Storytelling: The Effects of Implementing Differentiated Instruction on Rural Junior High School Students” (2016), “Your Child’s Conscience: A Study on G. Ezzo’s Parenting Curriculum for Moral Education” (2015), “An Analytic Study of Curriculum Integration in the Area of Chinese Language in Elementary Schools” (2014), and “Semiotics as a Methodology for Educational Research: A Case of Educational Aesthetics”



(2014). He is also the author of Nietzsche’s and Zhuang-zi’s Philosophy of the Sublime: Reflections on Aesthetic Education in Taiwan (2007) and the co-author of An Introduction to Chinese Language Teaching (2014). Lee is the chief editor of a book entitled Educational Aesthetics: The Spiritual Dimension of Art and Instruction (2017), and he has been the co-editor for four journals on the respective topics of Integrating Significant Issues into Curriculum & Instruction (2016), Educator’s Reflection on Social Issues in Taiwan (2015), The Issues of Qualified Teachers and Substitute Teachers in Primary and Secondary Schools (2015), and Crossing the Boundaries: The New Connection between Curriculum and Instruction (2014). In addition, he is the aesthetic domain editor of the Journal of Taiwan Philosophy of Education, and serves as a member of the editing board of the Curriculum & Instruction Quarterly. Leng Lu (冷璐) is Assistant Professor in Department of English Education at Jinan University, China. She holds a Ph.D. in educational psychology from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She teaches courses on Intercultural Communication, English Communication, Business English, and Market Leaders at Jinan University. Dr. Leng has done extensive research on philosophy for children, approach to education and psychological and/or cultural analysis on educational/behavioral phenomenon. She is the author of The Role of Philosophical Inquiry in Helping High School Students Engage in Learning and Find Meaning in Life (2015). Her publications and research interests focus on the application of philosophy for children Hawai‘i in teacher education, Chinese classes, cross-cultural communication, and multi-­cultural education as well as the implication of traditional Chinese culture in modern education. Her recent publications are the Renaissance of Confucianism through the Perspective of Terror Management Theory (2016), Xueji and Motivation (2016), Contemporary Trends of Education Movement (2016), Empowering Global P4C Research and Practice through Self-Study: The philosophy for children Hawaii International Journaling and Self-study Project (2016, with Makaiau, Wang, and Ragoonaden), and Critical Friendship, Mindfulness, and the philosophy for children Hawai‘i Approach to Teaching and Learning (2016, with Makaiau, Wang, Ragoonaden, and Dewoody). Rui Kang (康锐) is Associate Professor of Education in the Department of Teacher Education and has served as the Associate Director of the Center for Economic Education at Georgia College since 2015. Dr. Kang received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from Texas A&M



University. She also holds a M.Ed. in Mathematics Education and a M.S. in Finance. She has published one book, three book chapters, and numerous articles in such journals as International Journal of Science and Mathematics Education, Teacher Education & Practice, The Journal of Social Studies Research, and Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education. Song Baoru (宋宝茹) is an independent researcher in the history of natural education of China. Her study focused on the important role of study from nature in early stages of childhood. As a multi-social role practitioner, PMP, CIOB member, amateur gardener, and carpenter, she advocates multicultural education in compulsory education system and made some practice. She is the chief editor of 200 Books of Nature published by China Science and Technology Press (2017). She has hosted a website on educational projects since 2012, and is the host agent for the Elementary Principle Education Forum that is sponsored by Chinese Youth League. Su Xiaojia (苏晓佳) is the Director of Talent Center at Beijing Wangfu School, an instructor of its American Art Center Studio and a visiting artist/scholar of Renmin University’s Renaissance Institute. Su studies East and West religious art work and he creates art based on his findings. He had published articles in Art Education Studies in 2014 and his book AP Art History in 2012. Su also exhibits his artwork nationally and internationally. His last solo exhibition “Modification and Reflection” showcased a large variety of his creations based on Dunhuang art. Xu Di (许笛) is a professor in the Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. She is a member of the site visitor for Council for Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP, formerly the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education  – NCATE), which has provided national accreditation for teacher education programs in the United States since 2007. Her recent publications focus on bridging Eastern and Western philosophy to educational practices and include Chinese Philosophy on Teaching & Learning: Xueji《学记》 in the Twenty-First Century (2016), “The Wisdom from the East: A Holistic Theory and Practice of Health and Wellness” (2013), “Spiritual Heritage and Education Today” (2013), “Taoism: Origin, Essence, and Practice” (2013), and “A Reading of Lao Zi for Educational Philosophers Today” (2012). In addition, she has published A Comparison of the Educational Ideas and Practices of John Dewey and Mao Zedong in



China (1992) and various chapters and articles on teacher education, educational foundations, multicultural education, and international education. She worked as an international consultant in teacher education and educational reforms in Central Asia and Africa for the World Bank in 2002 and 2001. She served on the Hawai‘i Teacher Standard Board (2005–2008) and as the president of the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (AACTE) Hawai‘i Chapter as well as Hawai‘i state representative (2006–2008). She was a visiting scholar and research associate at the Philosophy of Educational Research Center at Harvard University (1999–2000), a visiting professor in Peking University (2018, 2015, 2011, 2009, and 1997) and in Renmin University (2016, 2014, and 2012), and an exchange professor at National Kaohsiung University in Taiwan (1998). She served as manuscript editor as well as editorial board member for Harvard Educational Review during 1988–1990. She was honored in Who’s Who among American Teachers in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, and 2008. Yu Danhong (余丹红) is a professor, the Head Librarian, and the former Department Chair of Music Education (192018) in the Shanghai Music Conservatory (SMC). She received her Ph.D. in Music from SMC in 1999. Currently she serves as the evaluator for the K-12 music education curricular in the Ministry of Education of China, the Secretary General and the Vice-director of Academic Committee of Music Education in Chinese Education Association. She is a member of Education Committee in the Chinese Musician Association, the Secretary of Shanghai Musician Association. She is an editorial board member of Music Art (Yinyue Yishu,《音乐艺术》), an essential Chinese National scholarly journal, and served as the editor of The Chronicle of Chinese Music Education, and the Board Member of Asian-­ Pacific Society of Music Education & Research (APSMER) in both 2009 and 2013. She has published numerous articles and books in music education and musicology. She was the chairperson of 2009 APSMER Conference, 2010 International Society of Music Education (ISME), and the Commission for the Education of the Professional Musicians (CEPROM), which were held in Shanghai, China. In addition, she founded the Shanghai Music Conservatory’s Female Choir in 2002 and has served as its director since. She participated in three international music competitions in the past ten years and received six gold medals, including the Gold Medal for the 2012 Cincinnati



International Women Choir Competition. She is the principal researcher in the Moral Development Through Music Education, a key research endeavor in humanities in Shanghai, and she is the leading professor in music education in Shanghai’s innovative educational initiatives. Zhang Jianhui (张建慧) is currently a doctoral candidate in the Department of Educational Foundations at the College of Education, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Her research focuses on philosophy for children (p4c), ethics education, global and international education, and educational equity. She is concurrently a Graduate Assistant and key personnel on the Waikiki Elementary School Portrait Project that documents the “bright spots” of exemplary practices in student achievement through p4c Hawai‘i. She holds a B.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley and a M.Ed. in Higher Education Management from the University of Pittsburgh. From 2015 to 2017, she served as administrative staff and an instructor at the International Business School of the Beijing Foreign Studies University. She was a visiting scholar at Peking University from July 2018 to January 2019. Her recent scholarly activities include her paper presentation on “Closing the Gap of Social Justice Between the Rich and the Poor: A Perspective from the Foundation Program and Leftbehind Children” at the XXIV World Congress of Philosophy in Beijing, 2018. At the Comparative & International Education Society annual conference in 2018, she and her colleague presented “Globalization of Chinese Higher Education: A Case Study of the Admissions Policy to Ph.D. Programs”. She has presented in other national and international conferences and has several manuscripts in her field in press. Zhou  Hongtao (周洪涛) is an Assistant Professor of the School of Architecture at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. His research, practice, and teaching include Fine Art, Architecture, Exhibition and Contemporary Sculpture and Installation. Hongtao holds a Ph.D. from Purdue University, a M.F.A. from University of Wisconsin-Madison. Currently he is an Executive Member and Curator of the National Association of Chinese Artists in American Academia. He has l­ectured at Peking University, Tsinghua University, MIT, China Academy of Fine Art and exhibited nationally and internationally including Centre Pompidou in Paris, National Museum of China in Beijing, Milwaukee Art Museum, Haggerty Museum of Art, Honolulu Museum of Art, Philadelphia Art Alliance, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft and Taiwan Design Center. He has published his work



and research internationally, including “Hongtao Zhou Textscape” in Huffington Post Arts (2015), “Designwire” in Interior Design (2011), “Burniture” in Design Bureau (2011), Metropolis, “Zero Impact Experiments” in Modern Weekly (2011), “The Cold Truth” in American Craft (2009), as well as numerous art design and creation and scholarly papers. Hongtao is also a winner of the Silver Medal at the International Snow Sculpture Competition in Quebec (2010) and the First Place Award of Design Emphasis, International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta (2006) among many other international awards, titles, and grants.

List of Figures

Fig. 2.1

Mogao Cave #172—North Wall, Amitayurdhyana Sutra. (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy) 21 Fig. 8.1 Rod numerals 144 Fig. 9.1 Mogao Cave #249—Northern Ceiling, Hunting. West Wei (AD 535–556). (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy)169 Fig. 9.2 Mogao Cave #23—West side of the North Wall, Farmers Working in the Heavy Rain. Mid-Tang (AD 712–781). (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy) 171 Fig. 9.3 Mogao Cave #423—Vimalakirti, AD 581–618 (Dunhuang Academy 1984, p. 212). (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy) 175 Fig. 9.4 Mogao Caves #254–500 Robbers Become Bodhisattvas. (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy) 178 Fig. 14.1 School picture, Dunhuang Mogao Cave #12, Eastern side. (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy) 277 Fig. 14.2 Bowu Three-force Educational (BOWU-3-FORCES) Model 279 Fig. 14.3 The lifecycle of grape ivy moth (By Lulang He (Lulang He is the author’s son)) (food—grape ivy leave; four stages—moth, pupa, larva, and eggs) 281



Introduction: Dunhuang and Education— The Missing Piece Xu Di (许笛)

Introduction Throughout the thousands of years of documented Chinese culture and human civilization, the well-known UNESCO World Heritage site Dunhuang, an oasis in the Gobi Desert along the historic Silk Road, continues to shine like a bright jewel. It is famous for its grottoes full of colorful ancient Buddhist frescoes, sculptures, and scriptures, created over a thousand years from the Northern Liang (北凉, AD 366) to the Yuan dynasty (元朝, AD 1279–1368) (Fan and Liu 2009; Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002). The beauty and magnificence of these treasures have captured spiritual beings of the highest realm, human beings and other creatures on earth, the underworld, and those between dimensions and realms. Situated in the current Gansu Province, in the northwestern part of China, Dunhuang’s establishment, expansion, and sustainability appear to be rather accidental. In AD 366, a roaming Buddhist monk named Le Zun (乐僔) arrived from the western region. He happened to see a brilliant sunrise on Mt. Mingsha (鸣沙山), a desert sand mountain on the Xu Di (许笛) (*) Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,



XU DI (许笛)

edge of Dunhuang. The reflection of the sunlight on the infinite grains of sand on this mountain created an unforgettable and powerful natural and spiritual experience for the traveling monk. Le Zun dug a small grotto on the spot in order to meditate. That simple decision and very personal action ignited a tradition of constructing grottoes on Mt. Mingsha and nearby areas over ten dynasties, from Beiliang (AD 304–439) to Yuan (AD 1279–1368). The second accidental incident occurred in 1900 when the hired helper of a Daoist disciple, Wang Yuan Lu (Wang Yuan Lu, 王圆箓, 1889–1931), unwittingly discovered the manuscripts hidden inside Cave #16 in Library Cave #17, which held over 50,000 significant Buddhist scriptures, historical documentations, and other works and artifacts (Cangjingdong 2015; Fan and Luo 2010). Wang sold a large number of these scriptures, paintings, and sculptures to British, French, German, American, and Japanese adventurers in the early twentieth century. Marc Aurel Stein (1862–1943), who was the first to arrive, in 1906 left with 29 carts of Dunhuang’s treasures from Library Cave #17 (ibid, p.  22). Paul Pelliot (1878–1945) arrived in 1907 and took 6000 volumes of texts and paintings (ibid). He was followed by Albert von le Coq (1860–1930) of Germany, Langdon Warner (1881–1955) of America, Sergei Oldenberg (1963–1934) of Russia, and Otani Kozui (大谷 光瑞, 1876–1948) and Zuico Tachibana (橘 瑞超, 1891–1968) of Japan (Library Cave and Its Museum 2014). This major exodus of Dunhuang’s treasures and works from China brought Dunhuang and its arts into the world’s limelight for the first time, establishing its prominent place in the modern world. To date, the rediscovery of Dunhuang is the largest and richest archaeological find in the world (Winchester 2008, Disc. 4). Dunhuang studies have become a global phenomenon. The last of Dunhuang’s caves was constructed in the Yuan dynasty. As China declined through the last three imperial dynasties Yuan (元), Ming (明), and Qing (清)—with divisions, wars, and foreign colonial invasions— Dunhuang seemed to be lost and forgotten. Surprisingly, Dunhuang survived the decaying feudal dynasties, then conflicting warlords, the emerging republics, World Wars I and II, and, most of all, it was miraculously untouched during the Cultural Revolution of 1966–1978, when the Red Guards were destroying all the ancient antiquities. Its remoteness in the Gobi Desert, far away from the major cities, enabled Dunhuang to avoid the fate of most historical sites in Mainland China, which were seriously desecrated or completely destroyed.



However, the seemingly accidental series of events in Dunhuang was in many ways actually inevitable because of its unique geographic location, which lead to the intersection of many cultures. First of all, as an oasis in a desert on the Silk Road, it was and still is a critical place that connects the West and the East, a required stop for those traveling by land between western nations or regions and eastern China. With its lush greenery and water, Dunhuang was a striking contrast to the thousands of miles of the Gobi Desert that surround it, and like a magnet draws all travelers for pure survival, nourishment, and renewal. It was a center of political and military interaction and the intersection of cultures, commerce, and religions. Le Zun, who started the grottoes there, was one of many—like a grain of sand—who have traveled and sojourned in Dunhuang over the ages. With the harsh landscape and the challenges to human existence, there was a natural need for metaphysical understanding and spiritual support and guidance. The local and regional belief system over Dunhuang’s long history mingled with the various ethnic cultures in China as well as those in the neighboring countries, especially the Buddhist religion from India to the West. Scholars believe that Buddhism began to reach China in the third century BC (Broughton 1999; Rong 2004) and the consensus is that it became a common practice among people in the Han dynasty, with the White Horse Temple, which was built in Luoyang, the capital of Eastern Han in AD 68 (Maspero 1981; Dumoulin 2005), as solid evidence. The first documented translation of Buddhist scripture into Chinese occurred in AD 148 by An Shigao (安世高, AD ?–168) a Parthian/Iranian Buddhist priest (Dumoulin 2005; Broughton 1999). Le Zun’s appearance is deeply associated with changes brought by the multiple ethnicities and nations that were inevitably interacting in Dunhuang at the time. The multicultural interactions integrated Buddhism into the daily lives of those in transit through Dunhuang along the Silk Road and those who migrated and lived there. As vividly and indisputably captured in the frescoes, the influence of Buddhism touched everyone, including the poor, the rich, the highest officials, and military generals. As the feudal dynasties in China rose and fell, so did Dunhuang. Its grottoes reached the height of construction and prosperity in the Tang (唐, AD 618–907) and Song (宋, AD 918–1127) dynasties, and then withered gradually till the Yuan (AD 1279–1368). However, it continued to be an important transit place between Western China and the Chinese


XU DI (许笛)

Central Plain for travelers of all sorts. The presence of Daoist disciple Wang Yuan Lu, illustrates the continuous attraction of Dunhuang as a gathering place for adventure seekers even during its decay, as was true for the British, French, German, American, and Japanese explorers, who came because of Dunhuang’s fame and its treasures (Dunhuang Academy 2014; Fan and Luo 2010). For those who understood the meaning and value of the antiquities of this remote place in the northwestern part of China, the treasures called and inspired them to travel in the harshest conditions for months or even years in the Gobi Desert. Those who did not understand the spiritual depth and wealth of Dunhuang ignored and abandoned this seemingly backward place, which was a true blessing in disguise, as it has enabled Dunhuang to survive to the present day.

Dunhuang Studies As one of the brightest and most renowned sites of Chinese cultural heritage, Dunhuang has been a phenomenon ever since the first grotto was built in AD 366. The study of Dunhuang persisted throughout the vicissitudes of Chinese history, even in times of war. For instance, during World War II, the famous Chinese artist Zhang Daqian (张大千) spent over two years in Dunhuang copying the frescoes (Li 2013) and completing 276 paintings with Xie Zhiliu (谢稚柳) and Chang Shuhong (常书鸿). Chang Shuhong was so mesmerized by Dunhuang’s art that he gave his entire life to the preservation of Dunhuang and was buried there (Chang Shuhong 2018; Ye 2001). Joseph Needham, the famous British chemist from Cambridge who visited Dunhuang in 1943, later became a Sino Science and Technology historian (Winchester 2008). The richness and beauty of Dunhuang has manifested its irresistible attraction to the scholars and artists in the East and the West alike. Outside China Dunhuang became known through the publication of its paintings and scriptures in the West as a result of the British, French, and American adventurers who obtained these works in Dunhuang from Wang Yuan Lu between 1907 and 1924. This loss of Dunhuang antiquities brought the renewed attention, awareness, and focus of Chinese scholars as well. Chen Yinle (陈寅恪) described this scholarly effort worldwide in the 1900s as “Dunhuang studies,” an effort which has continued to the present (Fan and Luo 2010).



The Stages of Dunhuang Studies Dunhuang studies have gone through various focuses and stages. The primary focal point of Dunhuang has naturally and inevitably been Buddhism, since the Buddhist traveling monk, Le Zun, constructed the first grotto on Mt. Mingsha. These studies have been multifaceted, from the content of Buddhist teaching and different Buddhist schools in the context of history to Buddhist history, the authentic Buddhist scriptures and their variations and annotations, to name a few. Many came or passed through Dunhuang as the participants of these studies and eventually became the prominent historical figures in them; for example, An Shigao (安世高), Tang Seng (唐僧 or 玄奘 AD 602–664), Kumārajı̄va (鸠摩罗什, AD 344–413, Northern dynasty), Zheng Di, (真谛, AD 499–569, Southern dynasty), and Amoghavajra (不空, AD 705–774). They all passed through Dunhuang as they traveled to and from the western regions and Chinese capitals, and were the most famous translators of the Buddhist scriptures into Chinese. “The sutra is treated as a holy guide to practice and life which protects people and has much influence on many aspects of the lives of those who believe in it” (You 2010, p. 91). What brought Stein, the first foreign explorer to Dunhuang, was his burning question about how Buddhism traveled over the Himalayas to China (Winchester 2008). As Dunhuang studies continued, the number of participants skyrocketed, especially since the discovery of the Library Cave #17 in the early twentieth century. The areas of study have spread into multiple fields with considerable depth and breath, starting with arts, history, and architecture, and continuing to geography, languages, military studies, and then to sciences, technology, sociology, cultural and foreign relations, and others (Fan and Luo 2010). Dunhuang originally saw a gradual expansion before a slow decline. Dunhuang study started as a local and regional phenomenon. Every grotto was an illustration and evidence of the study of Buddhism and its expansion. Each was built on the knowledge of the previous grottoes, with the intension of creating its own uniqueness and novelty according to the preference of its sponsors and the artists in their own time and culture. They served as cultural and historical time-capsules of rich knowledge and a cultural way of being. Over the years, as the construction of the grottoes gained its own momentum, the grottoes became a fashionable trend, impacting everyone from Buddhist monks and nuns, to the autocrats,


XU DI (许笛)

generals, and the common people—men, women, and children alike. Each grotto contributed to Dunhuang’s richness, diversity, and creativity regarding the total number of grottoes and the span of time, and also provided a solid foundation for its future study. Dunhuang then shifted from being a living and prosperous Buddhist grotto site to a dormant and dying one. Dunhuang became a historical relic. The study of Dunhuang expanded from a focus only on Buddhism to include art, history, cultures, architecture, astronomy, and the military. Among all these fields, art has been the most prominent and dominant feature. The magnificent, stunning, and lasting beauty of Dunhuang’s frescoes and sculptures, in great contrast of the barren Gobi and seemingly lifeless desert surrounding Dunhuang for thousands of miles, silently and powerfully testify the synergy of human civilizations—their beliefs, values, and cultures as well as their determination, diligence, and creativity. Buddhism was on the sidelines, especially during World War II, the following civil wars, and the revolutionary years between 1949 and 1970, when religions were mostly banned. The Missing Piece An obvious omission among the fields of study involving Dunhuang has been education. Such a missing piece is the more surprising and noticeable since China is a country that has always held education in the highest esteem and of the most prominent importance in both theory and practice. The question that can be asked is whether Dunhuang has any connection with education. If it does, why has the study of Dunhuang neglected such an important element in Chinese culture and history? What are the factors that have influenced and shaped such neglect? How can we examine the artifacts of Dunhuang and its history to fill in the missing piece—and why should we? While many hypotheses and explanations may address these issues, it is urgent that we examine them in light of the paintings, sculptures, scriptures, and other artifacts of Dunhuang and let the evidence and facts tell their stories authentically and consistently. This book explores these questions from a new angle and purpose for Dunhuang study in the twenty-­ first century.



A Study of Dunhuang and Education From August 4–7, 2015, Drs. Xu Di (许笛) and Leng Lu (冷璐) visited Dunhuang for the first time with scholarly curiosity and the above mentioned questions in mind. There they met Ye Lin (叶琳) from the Dunhuang Academy, who kindly guided them during the entire site visit. Dunhuang and its beauty touched both visiting scholars powerfully and deeply and connected with their souls. As Su Xiaojia (苏晓佳), the coauthor of Chap. 9, learned about Dunhuang he was so enchanted by it and his new spiritual connection with it that he joined research expeditions and has visited Dunhuang more than 20 times. Other chapter contributors who have researched and visited Dunhuang share the same sentiments and awe as all those who have visited Dunhuang. Words cannot adequately describe the experience of visiting Dunhuang. Flying from one of the most populated cities in the world—Beijing, with over 20 million residents—to Dunhuang City, with a population of approximately 150,000 (The Friends of Dunhuang 2016), the contrast is striking. First and foremost, as Beijing, one of the most crowded and congested cities in China and perhaps in the world, recedes from view, suddenly the airplane is flying over a vast and sparsely-populated landscape, and then the “noman’s” land of endless Gobi Desert. The abrupt encounter of the openness and magnificent nature, with the blue sky high above and the infinite land beneath, provides an entirely different metaphysical orientation and powerful paradigm shift. The strong sense of nature’s timelessness, permanence, and seriousness intricately bridges the past and present. It heightens the awareness and understanding of traditional Chinese philosophers’ reverence for nature throughout history (Laozi 1999; Zhuangzi 2018) and showcases the strong connection with and commitment to nature and Mother Earth. The second impression is the survival instinct and hard-working spirit of the people. From the air, wherever there is a little sign of water, there is a village, some a mere cluster of two or three houses. Dunhuang, the largest oasis, which has survived thousands of years of harsh conditions, still stands green and fertile, more beautiful than ever, to testify to the Chinese people’s diligence and courage. For generations, they made the best of what the reality offered, going far beyond survival to expand their dreams of prosperity and their simple, yet rich, life in the midst of the most barren desert. Their very spirit has continuously served as the drive and ­inspiration that fuel China today, as evidenced by the fast transformation of the country in the past 30 years.


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Such a spirit created the synergy of Dunhuang, which still draws tens of thousands of people annually from all over China and the world with its beauty and magnificence. In 2016 alone, with Chinese renewed emphasis on Belt and Road—a government project to develop the western regions of China in connection with its neighboring nations—Dunhuang had over 8 million domestic and foreign visitors (Zhang et al. 2017). Dunhuang shares its art, history, and essence to help all reconnect the past with the present and look to the future. These visits have helped scholars to see the numerous and striking connections between Dunhuang and education. Education here was not a narrow concept that only focused on the content of one particular subject in formal schooling but was a comprehensive sense of teaching and learning, including purposeful and meaningful life experiences and profound and inclusive understanding of the world we live in. As the American Pragmatist philosopher Dewey stated, “Education is not a preparation of life, it is life itself ” (Dewey in Ozmon 2012, p. 131). American educational historian Cremin also defined education in a similarly inclusive and open manner, pointing out that “educational is everywhere…” (Cremin 1988, p. 135). Confucius once said that “Among three travelers, one must be able to serve as my teacher” (“三人行必有我师焉”) (Confucius 1999, Analects 7.22), which illustrates that learning occurs in all circumstances and among all fellow human beings. In this book, the exploration of Dunhuang, education, and its impact reflect this broad sense of education. Our research and discourse are based on the reality of human existence in Dunhuang over a thousand years and through the actual documentation that remains in those grottoes. In real life, the emergence, development, and implementation of any system of education have never been separated from the social and cultural contexts and people’s physical, psychological, and spiritual needs. Education has always been intricately woven into the political, social, economic, and cultural fabrics of a society. It is this very relation between education and life that makes education necessary, effective, and powerful. Therefore, such a broad and comprehensive orientation is a requirement in Dunhuang studies, especially when Chinese education has been the creation of such social, cultural, and political environment. Examining Dunhuang through such lenses, we can see the powerful and persistent connections with education throughout history. First of all, Dunhuang is one of the most important places for Buddhist study, as has been discussed. Apart from the religious content, or perhaps more



accurately, the close examination of the Buddhist content, such study is a manifestation of the human search for knowledge, meaning, survival, and sustainability—an educational endeavor to the core. Buddhist teaching provides a unique philosophical orientation to help people understand and deal with the insurmountable challenges or “sufferings” in their life, especially in the harsh surroundings of the Gobi Desert. The beautiful Dunhuang’s frescoes, numerous Buddhist scriptures, and other artifacts reflect teaching and learning that upheld the higher purpose and meaning of life and offered inspiration and understanding of the layers of life on earth and in the universe. In this final analysis, Buddhist study is a systematic educational pursuit. In Dunhuang, the frescoes as well as sculptures and scriptures served as the curriculum, which was heavily focused on axiology, as is typical of religion. The content focused primarily on moral education, and virtue of sincere beliefs, kindness, gratitude, and so on, qualities that promoted harmonious existence among all beings and elements, humans, animals, and nature. The sculptures, Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and disciples were the accomplished individuals, through dedicated self-cultivation and development, along the journey of enlightenment. They served as role models and illustrated the possibility of obtaining transcendence through persistent personal cultivation. Dunhuang’s frescoes, sculptures, scriptures, and other texts and artifacts manifested a beautiful and artistic approach to teaching and learning. The frescoes, described as the “artistic depiction of scriptures” (You 2010, p.  88) or “jinbian” (经变) by the Dunhuang scholars (Fan 2010; You 2010), were a unique way of teaching the most profound philosophical metaphysics to people at a time when few could read and write. The visual teaching methodology reached many throughout the generations in a lasting manner that surpassed the written scriptures. It also transcended the ethnic languages and cultural boundaries. The epistemology utilized in Dunhuang was multicultural and psychological, which helped all viewers to connect, admire, and hopefully try to imitate and emulate the virtue, principles, and behaviors of the enlightened ones. Such an approach continues to be potent to the world today even though the majority of people in the world have access to formal schooling and can read and write. As Dunhuang developed, the teachings went far beyond the authentic ancient Buddhist scriptures. The Dunhuang collection includes textbooks for beginning learners first at the elementary level and then to the middle and high school levels (see Chaps. 2 and 12). These teaching materials


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included Buddhist stories, but also Chinese Daoist and Confucian teachings. The teaching materials integrated the various schools and cultures over the years in a pragmatic and realistic manner, as the chapters in this book reveal. In addition, during the years of Dunhuang’s grotto construction, a unique system of management, expertise, and training developed. A Boshi (博士), the equivalent to a modern Ph.D., held a position right under the highest manager in charge all aspects of the grotto construction. The Boshi was someone who had knowledge in multiple fields, including construction, painting, sculptures, carpentry, and so on (discussed further in Chap. 2). Through this system, artisans and specialists were trained, expanding their knowledge and improving their skills. In many ways, it was one of the earliest vocational educational systems, quite different from the imperial scholarly system of education, which focused primarily on literature, debate, writing, and governance. Without an exaggeration, almost all aspects of the Dunhuang area can be examined and connected with education. The lack of exploration of these connections, as well as their implications for education today, has left a huge gap so far in Dunhuang studies.

This Book Project This book therefore examines Dunhuang antiquities from an angle that has largely been neglected, by focusing on the relation between Dunhuang and education and educational philosophy. Purposes and Significance The goals of the book are as follows: • To examine the connection between artifacts in the grottoes and education and educational philosophy. • To identify the educational themes and focuses. • To search for global insights for educational implementation and practices today. The uncovering of Dunhuang’s educational value is an urgent and important task. In many ways, as we admire Dunhuang, much of the focus has been on the historical past and on the aesthetic beauty. Without a



doubt, the Dunhuang Grottoes form one of the brilliant representations of the creativity of Chinese civilization arising from the intersections and synergy of multiple ethnicities and cultures throughout history. However, when we study Dunhuang from such an orientation of art and history, it remains a beautiful and magnificent manifestation of the past. At the same time, Dunhuang is situated on the fringe of contemporary human existence, a major tourist destination, a window back into history through its grottoes, which are confined, remote, and distant, having little to do with the modernization of the twenty-first century. However, when we study Dunhuang’s relation with education as well as the depth of teaching and learning it reveals, there is a qualitative shift in our understanding of these artifacts. Inevitably, the past and present connect as one into the future. Recognizing and understanding Dunhuang as a significant link between the past and present in the field of education provides a continuum, an intersection, and a fresh viewpoint for contemporary education today and beyond. Dunhuang becomes a full living force carrying the essence and insights of teaching and learning in Chinese history to inform, impact, and shape education in China and the world. Dunhuang is no longer only a relic of the past. Its life extends to and impacts on the present through its educational philosophy, ethics, goals, methodology, and content. It becomes an immense, profound, and inspiring force for the future. The latter approach more truthfully reflects the philosophical understanding and practices of continuing Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. What Dunhuang offers, in terms of education, is actually what education in China and in the rest of the world lacks in the twenty-first century. First of all, the self-cultivation and self-realization were at the core of Dunhuang’s frescoes, scriptures, sculptures, and other artifacts. Morality and enlightenment were the primary themes and goals. As China rapidly becomes one of the fastest developing countries in the world in its economy and modernization, its greatest challenges come from the lack of such ethics and morality. The current anti-corruption movement in China continuously illustrates the scope and depth of the challenges of destructive forces and obstacles that undermine the accomplishment of the country and threaten its unity and prosperity. Presently, China is definitely not the only county in the world facing such a reality. From the developed nations (the US Britain, France, and Japan) to the developing ones (Brazil, African countries, and others), corruption is at the core of chaos and inequity, and immorality is the very source of terrorism, dictatorship, discrimination, and poverty. The lessons from Dunhuang help us wrestle with these classic


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and profound questions: How can we build the common connections and bonds that enable us to live peacefully and prosperously with shared values and visions? What is the role of education in the development and implementation of such a teaching and learning process? With the rapid development of science, technology, and commerce, the world is becoming smaller and much more interconnected in all aspects, from politics, weather, finance, and health, to music, food, and fashion. In recent history, formal education has largely conformed to Western systems and approaches, whose primary focus is to produce experts and skilled workers in particular fields for commercial and economic development and purposes. This approach has expanded education to an unprecedented level worldwide and trained numerous professionals who have fueled the fast development of many countries (Roser and Ortiz-Ospina 2018). Between 1970 and 2015, the number of primary school teachers more than doubled to 31 million and the number of secondary teachers increased 2.8 times, to 33 million (World Bank 2017). However, such career orientation, individual focus, and profit motivation have serious limitations and consequences. The concentration on self-interest and monetary development has contributed greatly to the drastic rich–poor divide, continual conflicts, and detrimental impacts on the environment worldwide. The formalization and expansion of Western educational systems also creates a one-size-fits-all phenomenon that seriously conflicts with, challenges, and threatens diversity and the rich indigenous cultures of the world. The current system creates and perpetuates conformation, competition, discrimination, and inequity and alienates the underprivileged and diverse populations (Banks 2008; Darling-Hammond 1997). Looking at the development of Dunhuang over a thousand years, we actually find an interesting and compelling model that integrates the diversity of Eastern and Western cultures, languages, beliefs, and the richness of multicultural synergy and peaceful collaboration and co-existence. It is a vital component that is lacking in contemporary education in China and the world. Similar to many historical studies, the purpose of this book is to seek insights and implications for contemporary education today in China and the rest of the world. Twelve Chinese and American scholars and researchers have examined Dunhuang’s artifacts and their meanings for teaching and learning from various aspects: metaphysics, epistemology, axiology, curriculum, multicultural education, and education in special fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), art, music, history, and basic education.



The book consists of two parts. Part I, Dunhuang and Educational Philosophy, includes seven chapters on the underlining principles in education across all fields, subjects, and cultures. This chapter has provided an introduction to illustrate the rationale and purposes underlining this book and maps out its organization. Chapter 2 traces and analyzes education and historical evidence of education’s strong link to Dunhuang. Chapter 3 takes a philosophical look at Dunhuang in terms of its metaphysics for education and the implications for contemporary education. Chapter 4 focuses on Dunhuang’s teaching on morality and its insights for ethics education in the global context. Chapter 5 takes on a unique perspective by examining aesthetics in education and its relevance for education. Meanwhile, Chap. 6 reflects on the multicultural integration in Dunhuang and the reasons behind its success and fall, seeking lessons for educational equity for the diverse populations in China and many nations in the world today. Chapter 7 highlights the form and substance of Buddhist meditation and discusses the meaning of spiritual education for the world today. Part II, Dunhuang and Contemporary Educational Practices, studies Dunhuang’s educational systems and the applications in multiple fields or content areas today; for example, basic education, educational psychology, art, history, and science. Chapter 8 presents the insights and practical pedagogies for STEM education based on Dunhuang’s early development of sciences and technology in Chinese civilization. It shows global connections in human knowledge and growth, which are continuous and have no borders. Chapter 9 analyzes Maogao frescoes historically and reflects on their meaning for universal and art education. Chapter 10 applies Maslow’s psychological theory to a study of the psychological needs of the Dunhuang people over its long history, and discusses the relevance for education today and the importance of integrating psychological needs into our contemporary education to teach the whole person. Music, one of the highest forms of human connection, cultivation, and communication, is the focus of Chap. 11, which looks from the heritage of Dunhuang’s artifacts to today’s reconnection and tomorrow’s sustained and renewed creation. Chapter 12 summarizes the texts for Chinese basic education for beginners, young and old, and analyzes the focus and the principles of ancient teaching and learning that are very much the ethos of China’s practice today, for better or for worse. Chapter 13 examines Dunhuang education and life-long learning. The final chapter, Chap. 14, takes a unique perspective in seeking the connection between Dunhuang and naturalistic education in order to show the importance and relevance of naturalistic education today when education is often removed from nature and life.


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This book importantly expands the existing Dunhuang studies to a new dimension and level. While the past studies have laid a solid foundation and revealed the beauty and complexity of Dunhuang, they are incomplete. In many ways, Dunhuang was first and foremost an educational establishment and manifestation, as education was one of the profound reasons for its construction and sustained appeal. This realization provides a unique and significant angle for celebrating and honoring Dunhuang, and, at the same time, adds new layers to the breadth and depth of Dunhuang’s value and contribution to Chinese civilization and to the world. This book stresses applying the wisdom, essence, and insights of Dunhuang into current teaching and learning practices. It aims to bring alive the spirit of Dunhuang, and integrate it into Chinese and global education today. In the end, the Dunhuang spirit is the spirit of committed self-cultivation for a complete connection with nature and humanity as one. As we view Dunhuang in awe, we ask the following questions: How many of us truly understand its spiritual consciousness and educational significance and can live, teach, and learn accordingly or, standing on top of the past civilization, become taller, and bring education to a new height? It is the intention of this book to address this issue exactly, or to at least ask the question aloud as a humble beginning.

References Banks, J.  (2008). An Introduction to Multicultural Education (4th ed.). Boston: Pearson. Broughton, J. L. (1999). The Bodhidharma Anthology: The Earliest Records of Zen. Berkeley: University of California Press. Cangjingdong (藏经洞, Library Cave). (2015). Retrieved December 25, 2015, from QKurjpzh-cNLb72h0yZ5zZuqA0SnpCY4j0iVX1TJpr7aZOYDPxslxdYaD PDK#2 Chang Shuhong (常书鸿). (2018). Retrieved from Confucius. (1999). The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. New York: Ballantine Books. Retrieved from catalog/999917943502121/cite Cremin, L. (1988). American education. New York: Harper & Row. Darling-Hammond, L. (1997). The Right to Learn: A Blueprint for Creating Schools That Work. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Dumoulin, H. (2005). Zen Buddhism: A History, 1: India and China. Bloomington: World Wisdom.



Dunhuang Academy. (2014). The History of Dunhaung in Dunhuang – Silk Road. Fan, J. S. (2010). Fahuajing de gushi, (法华经的故事, The Story of the Lotus Sutra). Shanghai: China East Normal University. Fan, J. S., & Liu, Y. Z. (2009). Dunhuang Jianshang (Authentication and appreciation of Dunhuang, 敦煌鉴赏) (2nd ed.). Nanjing: Jiangsu Art Press. Fan, J. S., & Luo, H. Q. (2010). Faxian cangjingdong (Discover Library Cave, 发现藏经洞). Shanghai: East China Normal University Press. Laozi. (1999). Daodejing (道德经). Taiyuan: Shanxi Classics Press. Li, L. (2013). Shixi Zhang Daqian limu Dunhuang bihua de yiyi (试析张大千临摹 敦煌壁画的意义, Analysis of Zhang Daqian’s Copying Frescoes in Dunhuang). Master Thesis from Shanxi University. Retrieved from Article/CDMD-10108-1013325434.htm Library Cave and Its Museum. (2014). The History of Duhuang. The Dunhuang Research Academy. Maspero, H. (1981). Taoism and Chinese Religion. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. Ozmon, H. (2012). Philosophy of Education (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson. Rong, X. J. (2004). Land Route or Sea Route? Commentary on the Study of the Paths of Transmission and Areas in Which Buddhism Was Disseminated During the Han Period (X. Zhou, Trans.). Sino-Platonic Papers, 144, 26–27. Roser, M., & Ortiz-Ospina, E. (2018). Primary and Secondary Education. Published Online at Retrieved from [Online Resource]. Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes. (2002). Hong Kong: Polyspring. The Friends of Dunhuang. (2016). Retrieved from travel-to-dunhuang.php?lang=en Winchester, S. (2008). The man who loved China. Harper Audio. Disc 4. New York: HarperCollins. World Bank. (2017). Secondary Education, Teachers. World Bank Open Data. Retrieved from Ye, W. L. (2001). Dunhuang’s Protecting God: Chang Shuhong, (敦煌守护神 – 常 书鸿). Shanghai: Shanghai Art Press. You, Y. (2010). The Diamond Sutra in Chinese Culture. Los Angeles: Buddha’s Light Publishing. Retrieved from books?isbn=193229337X Zhang, X.  L., Jiang, J.  H., & He, C.  X. (2017, February 13). Dunhuang’s Tourist Surpassed Eight Millions in 2016. Gansu Daily. Retrieved December 17, 2017, from t20170213_20169980.shtml Zhuangzi. (2018). Zhuangzi. The Chinese Text Project. Retrieve from https://


Dunhuang and Educational Philosophy


Dunhuang’s Infinite Connections with Education Xu Di (许笛) and Leng Lu (冷璐)

Introduction As a famous UNESCO World Heritage site in China, Dunhuang is known for its artistic beauty and richness as evident in hundreds of grottoes filled with colorful murals, sculpture, scripture, texts, and other artifacts over its thousand-year history. Those who have had opportunities to visit the site or view its artifacts have testified how magnificent these treasures are. According to Fan (2010), Dunhuang “displays to the entire world, the magnificent Chinese arts and the glory of the ancient civilization of the East in the history” (p. 6). Based on the Dunhuang findings, scholarly research on the region has become an established and specialized field, which Chinese scholar Chen Yinle (陈寅恪) titled the “Dunhuang study” (Luo 2010, p.  44). This research has developed into many subfields and areas related to arts

Xu Di (许笛) (*) Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, USA e-mail: [email protected] Leng Lu (冷璐) School of Foreign Studies, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,



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(murals, wall paintings, architecture), humanities (cultural studies, ­language, religion), social sciences (history, economics, political science, sociology) and natural sciences (geography, medicine) (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 17). The breadth and depth of the study as evidenced in the subfields illustrate the richness or “grandeur” of Dunhuang. Many publications have focused on the subfields in the past century, Hao (2001), Fan and Zhao (2004), and Nan (2008) on history, Yang (1994) on Sociology, Yin on art (2011), and so on. Despite extensive research on Dunhuang’s art, architecture, literary texts, and more, little has been done to make connections with ­education— both formal and informal schooling—that occurred in the region. Focusing on this aspect, the chapter examines Dunhuang’s educational roots and connections in Buddhist and non-Buddhist philosophies. Both formal and informal educational systems are presented, illustrating how Dunhuang offered a powerful, systematic, and sustainable education model with possible implications for contemporary educational systems and practices.

Educational Roots and Connections From its inception through its expansion and preservation, Dunhuang has infinite connections with education, evident in the teaching and learning from the past. Each subfield, when examined in depth, leads to and intertwines with education through its human growth inevitably. For instance, all the Buddhist sutras and frescoes in the Dunhuang collection were and still are the curriculum for Buddhist teaching and learning. The same is true for knowledge on medicine, astronomy, and any element discovered in Dunhuang. This section will present both the religious and secular education of Dunhuang. Buddhist Education As a place, Dunhuang held multiple roles in Chinese history, beginning as a remote residence with an oasis surround by the vast Gobi Desert. Later it became a trade route along the treacherous territory between Central China and Europe. Dunhuang evolved into a strategic military outpost for numerous Chinese imperial dynasties. However, what actually put it on the world map was the work of a traveling monk, Le Zun (乐僔), who was seeking self-cultivation and enlightenment. In AD 366, after having a



unique spiritual experience of witnessing infinite light reflected off the sand dunes, the monk dug a small grotto for meditation on Mt. Mingshao (Luo 2010; Jeong 2016). It was this that laid the foundation of Dunhuang as a cultural marvel. The hundreds of murals in Dunhuang’s grottoes revealed the most prominent display of repeated paintings of Buddhist teaching (Lee 2010; Nan 2008). Researchers categorized them as shuofatu (说法图) meaning paintings of doctrine teaching. For example, in Cave #57, in the center of the south wall, the mural “Buddha preaching the doctrine” showed Buddha teaching Bodhisattvas, disciples, and heavenly generals (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 71). Cave #217 depicted Buddha preaching the doctrine and his visit to his mother with disciples in the niche ceiling on the west wall (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 113). The north wall in Cave #172 (Fig. 2.1) illustrated Amitayurdhyana Sutra (观无量寿经, Guanwuliang shoujing), showing Amitabha teaching on the lotus platform, surrounded by Bodhisattva and disciples (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 107).

Fig. 2.1  Mogao Cave #172—North Wall, Amitayurdhyana Sutra. (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy)


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The same Sutra and scene was one of the most repeated paintings in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) as well as at other times. It can also be viewed in Cave #159 on the center of the south wall (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 139), in Cave #148 on the south side of the east wall (ibid p. 104), in Cave #217 on the west side of the north wall (ibid, p. 111) and in the Yulin Cave #25 on the south wall (ibid, p. 129). In addition, there were many similar murals showing various Bodhisattvas teaching including Medicine Buddha Sutra on the north wall of Cave #61 (ibid, p. 187), Avalokitesvara (Guanyin, 观音) teaching in Cave #161 on the ceiling of the west slope (ibid, p.  170), and Manjusri in Eastern Thousand Buddhas Caves #6 (ibid, p. 240). These murals emphasized and highlighted Buddhist teaching as the main theme of the Dunhuang Grottoes. More importantly these frescoes illustrated the established and consistent system of Buddhist education. The murals showed clear structure, orders, and the scale of Buddhist teaching as an established and sustained school spanning over a thousand years on a grand and beautiful magnitude. They included the most important journey of Buddha’s enlightenment from birth (Cave #76, ibid, p. 200) to Nirvana (Cave #158, ibid, pp. 132–133), the enlightened disciples in history, and the most prominent and essential Buddhist scriptures (ibid; Hao 2001). In addition, the illustrations provided the content of Buddhist teaching and education. They often showcased the life of the Buddha as a role model and the path of enlightenment. Other enlightened beings were similarly depicted, such as Buddha Abitabha, Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, Manjusri, Samantabhadra (Cave #159, south side of the west wall, ibid, p. 140), and disciples Ananda and Kasyapa (Cave #419, niche interior on the west wall, ibid, p. 59). Scholars and researchers (Fan and Zhao 2004) used a special term, jingbian (经变), artistic rendering of original Buddhist sutras, to describe many Dunhuang paintings and sculptures. Most Chinese Dunhuang scholars would view and categorize jingbian as a unique contribution and heritage from Chinese civilization. However, such claims are still subject to scholarly debate and ongoing archaeologist findings because of evidence from similar artistic renderings in other parts of the world. For example, in France and Spain, the earliest cave paintings, known as “parietal art,” can be traced back to over 67,000 years ago in prehistoric times (Hoffmann et al. 2018). Artistic renderings like finger fluting and animal images also can be found in Indonesia, Australia, and Africa (Curtis 2006; Fage and Chazine 2010).



Nevertheless, Dunhuang’s jingbian still remained a powerful and deliberate means to teach Buddhism to people at a time when most in the Chinese population and neighboring states were illiterate. So far, it embodies the most comprehensive murals of its kind (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 16). These murals served as “picture books” or “scripture illustrations” to share the teaching of Buddhist beliefs through stories of the Buddha and his disciples. The medium of art reached a much large population in Dunhuang then, and generated lasting impact in people’s beliefs, values, rituals, behaviors, and cultures as the following chapters in this book will illustrate. The jingbian murals in Dunhuang Grottoes did not present a random artistic rendering of the Buddhist teachings, rather they represented consistent and systematic presentation throughout history. The core texts, stories, and characters were continuously focused on and painted with strong Buddhist themes of teachings on metaphysical perspectives of the world, the suffering and illusionary living of human beings, morality, and the path of self-cultivation toward enlightenment. This consistency was evident despite the various painting styles, sophistication, and cultural characteristics of different times. Where jingbian reflected one manifestation of Buddhist teachings for the general public, Buddhist scriptures in volumes uncovered from the Library Cave (#17)1 represented the predominant text for those who were literate or those who practiced in service of the literati. They included Mahāprajnāpāramitā-sūtra (Heart Sutra), Vajracchedika-prajna-paramita Sutra (Diamond Perfection of Wisdom Sutra), Vimalakirtinirdesa-­Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra (Sutra of Perfect (Complete) Enlightenment), and Śūraṅgama Sūtra (Heroic March Sutra) (Hao 2001; Hao et al. 1995). Most scriptures were copied for a particular purpose as indicated at the beginning, to pay respect as a Buddhist practice, to wish someone recover from an illness, or as a memorial for a loved one who passed away. The sponsors usually were not the actual ones who copied the scriptures, rather they had the literati do so for them. The classic scriptures often had repetitive copies during the same dynasty and through different dynasties (Hao 2001; Hao et al. 1995). Dunhuang’s Buddhist text, scriptures, or whatever survived, actually illustrated the prevalent practices of Buddhist teaching by people in their lives over a thousand years. Clearly the uncovered texts and artifacts from the Library Cave were only a very small portion of the entire Dunhuang collection, presenting just a glimpse of the actual scale and impact of education over its


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t­housand-­year history in ancient China. They exemplify the process and products of Buddhist teaching and learning in the grottoes, temples, and the daily lives of the people. Scripture copying was an important Buddhist teaching method (Fan and Zhao 2004), especially before the invention of printing.2 The copied texts served as the curriculum for those who were learning to read and write, while the murals together with the memorization and chanting served the population who could not read. Scripture chanting and c­ opying in Buddhist practices were not only rote memorization, often perceived as shallow and dull. The practices actually generated a spiritual focus and connections that would get rid of the busy, worrisome, and impure thoughts of the human mind, to quieten it with a simpler and greater connection to natural and higher frequencies. Like Buddhist meditation practice, the focus and concentration could open the practitioner’s heart, mind, and soul for deeper spiritual and universal understanding. The proponents who were documented through Dunhuang murals, scriptures, and other artifacts indicated the influence of Buddhist education in the region over ten Chinese dynasties. They included King of Yutian (于阗 or Khotan) and his wife in Cave #98 (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, pp. 184–185), numerous Chinese Imperial Generals, court officials, monks and nuns, people of wealth and poverty of various ethnicities, as well as young and old (Fan and Liu 2009; Fraser 2000). Perhaps it would be reasonable to conclude that such education was both formal as in temples, imperial and private schools, as well as informal at home with commoners. The varied users provide evidence for the employment of Buddhist education during the fourth and thirteenth centuries in the western region along the Silk Road in China. Such occurrence did not happen in isolation but actually was interconnected with and impacted upon the neighboring nations and tribes as well, such as India, Afghanistan, Kirgizstan, Tubo, Yutian, Ughur (回鹘, Huihu), Qiuci (龟兹, Kunica), and so on (Fan and Liu 2009). The evidence also showed both the constancy and change ­present in Buddhist teaching from the early influence of India to the integration of Chinese culture, mythical beliefs, and social values. Non-Buddhist Education While 90 percent of the texts and artifacts from the Library Cave were Buddhist, Dunhuang education was not limited to Buddhism. In reality, the holdings had much greater breadth and depth that far exceeded



Buddhism. Its texts included rare religious texts, Chinese ancient classics and secular works, documents of imperial and private schools, and educational practices. Religious Education  Among Dunhuang texts, scholars found the religious texts of Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, and Nestorianism (Ji 2007; Whitefield 1995). These texts illuminated the religious teaching, learning, and practices of people from different regions, cultures, and nations, regarding their world orientations, beliefs, rituals, and practices. For example, Darmesteter commented on the importance of The Avesta, one of the sacred texts for Zoroastrianism (The Sacred Books of the East’s Zoroastrian Texts 2018; The Zend Avesta 1880/2018). What he said in 1880 still rings truth today. Yet great is the value which that small book, The Avesta, and the belief of that scanty people, the Parsis, have in the eyes of the historian and theologist, as they present to us the last reflex of the ideas which prevailed in Iran during the five centuries which preceded and the seven which followed the birth of Christ, a period which gave to the world the Gospels, the Talmud, and the Qur’ân. (Darmesteter 1880/2018)

Part of this sacred text appeared in Dunhuang’s artifacts as the documentation of people’s religious practice, which occurred five times a day, each “asniia-ratu,” a section of a day (Zhang 2014, p. 7). Such religious texts offered the education then, as living guidance, and now, as educational and historical documents for study and examination. They demonstrated a continuous search for knowledge and understanding of the world regardless of geographic location, languages, cultures, and ethnicities. Even in this early period (fourth–fourteenth century) humans demonstrated persistent efforts to connect with higher powers in the universe for bettering life and gaining prosperity. Chinese Classics and Scholarship  In the Dunhuang collection of Chinese classics were a wide range of texts, most noticeably Laozi’s Daodejing (道德经) and Confucius Chunqiu (春秋). While many scholars, especially those from Western traditions would equate both Daoism and Confucianism as religions, the majority of Chinese people believe that these actually belong to philosophical and classical teaching from a secular and populous tradition. This occurred not by the founders’ design but more as a continuation of the existing practices of the disciples with respect and reverence in social and cultural contexts.


XU DI (许笛) AND LENG LU (冷璐)

Laozi’s book Daodejing (1999) revealed an inclusive metaphysical view of the cosmos and the universe we reside in, as well as a profound teaching on virtue and goodness. While Laozi (1999) referred to tian (天), the entire writing was not intended to establish a religion of any sort, rather to follow nature’s way (Dao) to cultivate human virtue, guiding all conduct, relationships, and social affairs. Proposing that the highest virtue flows as water (上善若水) Laozi recognized all elements and phenomenon with respect from “tian (天),” “di (地),” all species, beings, and nonbeings with no discrimination. His Daodejing illustrated both the simplicity and complexity of all interactions, movements, stillness, and transformations within the dynamics of the universe that govern all elements naturally. Similarly, Confucian teachings emphasized that the Dao, morality, virtue, and goodness, are the foundation of education and life. Confucius wrote that The Dao is never very far from human beings (道不远人) … the Dao of advanced learning and self cultivation is to develop virtue so as to promote the people’s life and prosperity… once one learns the priority of the elements in the universe, then one is close to Dao. (Confucius 2001, p. 698)

Benevolence and equilibrium served as corner stones among Confucian values since the educational philosophy and practices focused primarily on the individual and social relationships. The five basic social structures of Confucius consisted of ruler to the ruled, father to son, husband to wife, elder brother to younger brother, and friend to friend, which were all described in terms of the desired and virtuous behaviors with social responsibilities. It was from these regulated relationships that family, clan, community, and nation could reach harmony and stability (Yang 1994). In this sense, the human centeredness and social priority of Confucius differed from Laozi who had a much broader and all-encompassing approach to teaching and learning as well as knowledge. Laozi’s focal point was on the environment beyond humanity per se. Fingarette depicted Confucius as “the secular as sacred” (1972, pp.  1–2), which illustrated that Confucius’ focus on humanity and social life as his main teaching and his emphasis on the social living as the core of education. Most of the Daoist and Confucian texts from Dunhuang appeared as the contents and process of formal and informal learning during those ten dynasties in China, not as the major religious theologies, rituals, and practices.



Actually, Dunhuang murals, text, and artifacts demonstrated another key characteristic of both Daoism and Confucianism, specifically how deeply they are embedded in the daily practices of people’s lives and are still the core of the consciousness of Chinese people and culture, in and outside of China, today. That is, a thirst for knowledge and a diligence for learning in all realms have been signature traits of Chinese people regardless of where they live, their age, and their social conditions. Chinese tradition reveres learning and pursuit of scholarship. The recent three decades of fast economic development in China and the amount of investment and expansion of its education systematically illustrate and testify to this. The higher moral and ethical tenets of Daoist and Confucian teachings align with Buddhist teachings. These three philosophies have long been recognized as the triad foundations of Chinese civilizations. In examining Dunhuang artifacts, this can be verified over a thousand years along the western Chinese border. As varied as they may be, with different perspectives and orientations, the three traditions pointed to teaching and learning being the fundamental manifestation of life and self-cultivation essential for human survival and growth. More importantly, such an educational purpose bears both individual and collective meaning intertwined for the betterment of all. Similar themes for education have been echoed in various forms from educational philosophers worldwide (Ozman and Craver 2012). In addition to Buddhist scriptures, the numerous volumes of Daoist and Confucian texts from Dunhuang provide evidence of the scholarly and literary learning as well as spiritual cultivation and reflection. Included were classic texts, popular curriculums such as Taigongjiajiao (太公家教, Grandfather’s Family Teaching), Kamenyaoxun (开蒙要训, The Principles of Early Learning), and Youwenxue (幼文学, Children’s Study). Also, there were collections of poetry, essays, prose, and other documents like Chinese copybooks to practice characters (Chaoxie, e.g. Xiziqianziwen, Thousand Words of Practice) (Hao et  al. 1995) and Yinjishao (应机抄, Random Copying) (Hao 2006b). While these may vary in their versions over the course of history, the texts used remained the same. This showed that the content of teaching appeared to be rather stable and consistent, indicating a continuous growth and development of the Chinese scholarly tradition from the fourth–fourteenth century AD period. More importantly, the texts and artifacts of Dunhuang clearly provided evidence that Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism co-existed during this time in the western region of China, with the latter dominated


XU DI (许笛) AND LENG LU (冷璐)

t­ eaching. Together they formed the triad foundation of Chinese education throughout its history. These three philosophies interacted, intersected, and influenced one another, forming a richer and more complex educational system religiously, secularly, politically, socially, and culturally in ancient China.

Types of Educational Systems The evidence of Dunhuang’s teaching and learning went far beyond the visual artistic renderings of murals, paintings, architectural forms, and so on. It was evident in formal educational systems (temple schools, official government schools, specialty training) as well as informal home schooling, all of which spanned over dynasties. Formal Educational Systems  According to historical records, the formal school education in China originated from the Xia Dynasty (夏朝, 2070–1600  BCE) (Mencius 2003). The beginning of schools in Dunhuang, located in the western region as a national border, occurred much later than in the Central Plains region (中原) of ancient China. Li (1996) noted that the establishment of the school in Dunhuang was probably from the Western Han Dynasty (西汉, 206  BC–AD 24) after the county (郡, jun) was established by the Han Emperor (汉武帝, 156–87 BCE). After the Han Dynasty, the majority of residents in Dunhuang became of Han ethnicity having immigrated from the Central Plains region. These people brought basic education and the official education system to Dunhuang. In general, the official schools included state school (州学), county school (郡学/县学), village square school (乡里坊巷学), school of Chinese medicine, and Daoist school. The state and county schools integrated Buddhist practices and granted imperial scholarly ranks on subjects such as state governance, medicine, Confucianism, Daoism, and economics. Interestingly they were called “Boshi,” the equivalent of today’s Ph.D. (Yan 1999, p. 22). They also established assistantship positions for these scholars. From the Eastern Han Dynasty (东汉, AD 25–220), outstanding students such as Zhang Huan (张奂, AD 104–181) and Suo Jing (索靖, AD 239–303) went to the Central Plains to study and subsequently brought Taixue (太学, ancient higher learning system in China) to the region. In particular, the scholars and works of Confucian lineage,



t­ raditional education practice of the Chinese Central Plains, were followed and reinforced in Dunhuang (Feng 2013; Yan 1999). Dunhuang’s school system reached its unprecedented scale and quality during the Northern Reign of the period of Sixteen Kingdoms (十六国, AD 304–439). It entered into an even more flourishing period during the Tang Dynasty (唐朝, AD 618–907) when both official and private schools developed to form an integrated educational system. Gao (1986) found that one representative feature of Dunhuang education in the Tang Dynasty was the implementation of the temple education system (miaoxuezhi, 庙学制). Dunhuang’s state and county magistrates constructed Confucius Temple, where the statues of Confucius and his disciple, Yan, were revered each spring and autumn. The temple was a place where people could worship and offer sacrifice to Confucius (孔庙) but also served as teaching space for Buddhism and Daoism (Yan 1999). However, during the Mongolian period in the Yuan Dynasty (元朝, AD 1215–1294), temple education largely disappeared—although there was still a position called “Shazhou Road Confucianism Scholar” (Yan 1999, p. 26). By this time, the basic content of Dunhuang school education had the study of Confucius (儒学) as its core and involved the study of Laozi (老子) and Zhuangzi (庄子), as is evident in the artifacts from the Library Cave (Hao 2006a). Dunhuang school education shared many similarities with the Chinese Central Plains region with regard to its educational content and system. Yet, gradually, it developed local features according to regional characteristics and needs, thus making flexible changes to the Central Plains traditional education. Zheng and Zhu (2002) stated that Dunhuang’s education is mainly about Confucian ideology, but hybrid with Buddhism and Daoism. It is essentially a formation of realistic and practical folk ideas, which teaches basic enlightenment education (tongmeng jiaoyu, 童蒙教育) for children and basic ethics and moral behaviors for common people. (p. 8)

Obviously, behind the Dunhuang Grottoes, there was a formal school system that consisted of Buddhist temple education, Daoist school, and official Confucian education. They provided and formed the larger educational context to educate people from different ages and backgrounds. These schools developed and expanded over the course of a thousand years.


XU DI (许笛) AND LENG LU (冷璐)

Informal Education  Gao (1986) divided Dunhuang education into official education and private teaching and tutoring. He argued that Dunhuang private tutoring at home (jiaxue, 家学), free charity tutoring (yixue, 义学), and temple tutoring (sixue, 寺学) contributed more significantly than official schools to people’s learning and daily life. According to Gao (1986), Buddhist education influenced all forms of schooling and teaching in both curriculum contents and pedagogies. Wang (2013) also believed that private schools could best reflect Dunhuang education for ordinary people. The following section describes Dunhuang informal education, which made for vocational pathways of learning as well as private and family education. First, vocational training in the region related to an ongoing construction of hundreds of grottoes, large or small, for over a thousand years. Because of this construction boom, Dunhuang attracted and hired many unskilled workers (laborers), skilled craftsmen such as carpenters, painters, artists, calligraphers, and material buyers, and architects and project managers. Based on the historical record, there was ongoing training and apprenticeships through all the grotto constructions. Patrons and donors hired the specialized, highly accomplished artisans to construct the caves at Mogao. The artisans were divided into “lianggong (excellent workmen, 良工),” who hollowed out the cave from the cliff, and “qiaojiang (skilled artisan, 巧匠),” who created paintings and sculptures. (Dunhuang Museum 2015)

In each specialization, the artisans were ranked and organized into five levels: (1) duliao (supervisor, 都料), the highest skilled craftsman who was in charge and supervised the entire project, including design, architecture, materials, painting, and business management; (2) boshi (senior artisan, 博士), who having mastered the trade could undertake difficult work independently; (3) shi (teacher or instructor, 师), who as painter or sculptor could teach others; (4) jiang (general artisans, 匠), who were the majority of the working force; and (5) sheng (painters, 生), who painted under supervision (The Rank of Artisans 2018). A closer examination of the Dunhuang Grottoes showed the progress in quality and sophistications of the murals, paintings, and sculptures over the dynasties. Early grottoes (Caves #275 and #272) from Beiliang (North Liang fourth–fifth century) were simple in design and composition, using



colors of brown, black, and green. The expressions of the figures behind Buddha were almost uniform and lacked details. Even in the Sui Dynasty (AD 581–618), the sculptures in the grottoes were not accurately scaled according to human bodies. However, by the Tang Dynasty (618–907), at the height of Chinese ancient civilization, the grottoes became grander, more detailed, accurate in proportions, and more complex in design, color, and style. The murals, paintings, and sculptures were beautiful and more sophisticated as depicted in Caves #159 and #18 of the Western Thousand Buddha Caves (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, pp.  142–143). In many ways, these works exemplified the successful vocational training system in Dunhuang, suggesting its growth in quality and design over time. A second example of informal education was evident in home schooling and the local education of commoners. After Buddhism was introduced into China in the Eastern Han Dynasty (东汉, AD 25–220), traditional education reflected Buddhist teachings, which focused on purifying the mind, eliminating desires and cravings, and cultivating tranquility and stability in life. Later, the local education in Southern and Northern Dynasties (AD 420–581) incorporated Confucian educational thought with Buddhist doctrine, applying it in educational practice. For example, the Yan Family Instructions (Yanshijiaxun,《颜氏家训》) preached Karma sternly as a forceful persuasion (Wang 2013). A distinctive feature of Dunhuang society at the time was the secularization of social life including religion, mainly of Buddhist doctrine and faith (Yang 1999). This secularization was “not vulgarization and formal mediocrity of content, but direct humanistic artistic expression” (Yi 2005, p. 339). For example, the content of Wang Fanzhi’s Poems (Wangfanzhishi, 《王梵志诗》) emphasized primarily teaching people the right way to live and social etiquettes in accordance with Buddhist doctrine and precepts (Zhang 1983). It advised the public to engage in good deeds, nurture compassion, and commit to devout religious practice with perseverance and determination. Dunhuang local education originated from people’s daily life, and it directed teaching and learning toward transformation (教化作用). It taught people practical principles and good virtues like the four commandments—loyalty, filial piety, chastity, and righteousness—(zhongxiaojieyi, 忠孝节义), diligent study (qinxue, 勤学), making friends (jiaoyou, 交友), self-cultivation (xiuyang, 修养), and other aspects of moral education. These educational ideas and values penetrated the Dunhuang community and became an integral part of the public psychology (Wang 2013).


XU DI (许笛) AND LENG LU (冷璐)

In mengxue (蒙学), the beginning or basic Chinese education for students aged 8–15, Dunhuang artifacts provided much evidence of the curriculum and texts used in mengshu (蒙书), educational primers. The primer was a very unique part of Dunhuang literature, known as posthumous writings (敦煌遗书), scripts (敦煌写本), scrolls (敦煌卷子), which refers to the ancient writings (古代写本) and printed book (印本) uncovered in Mogao Grottoes (敦煌莫高窟藏经洞), the Temple of the Land (土地庙), the Feng Sui ruins of the Northwest Great Wall (敦煌西北汉长城烽燧遗址), and other places in the sixteen countries (十六国), the Northern Dynasties (北朝), Sui (隋朝), Tang (唐朝), and Song Dynasties (宋朝) (Yang 2006). The 300 volumes that make up the Dunhuang literature are related to the texts of primers (Xiao and Wang 2009). Napolas (那波利贞) commented that Dunhuang primers were the encyclopedia of common sense, it included… the origin of the diet and utensils, the anecdote of loyal officials and dutiful sons, the recompense of accumulated merits in the next world, the knowledge gained from social experiences, moral practice methods. (Hei 2011, p. 70)

It appeared that all aspects of knowledge and norms in people’s daily life were included. Some examples of these primers were Beginning Search (Mengqiu,《蒙求》), Miscellaneous Essays (Zachao,《杂抄》), The New Collection of Nine Scriptures (Xinjiwenci jiujingchao,《新集文词九经抄》), and The Family Teaching of Grandfather (Taigong jiajiao 《太公家教》) (Hao 2006b). They presented the basic knowledge regarding history, the universe, morality, social order, and common sense in everyday life with specific behaviors and norms for the beginning learners. All of these indicated educational knowledge required for the imperial examinations as well as the social and cultural norms in people’s daily lives (Hei 2011).

Implications for Contemporary and Global Education The evidence from Dunhuang artifacts clearly established strong connections between Dunhuang and its educational system that were religious and secular, formal and informal, classic training and vocational, taking place over ten dynasties between the fourth and fourteenth centuries AD.  There was a gradual systematic growth and development in the ­curriculum, pedagogies, and participants of teaching and learning. At the



same time, it remained steadfast in purpose, goals of moral development of human beings in society. What, then, are the implications for education today? What can be learned from examining the ancient Dunhuang education and applying it to contemporary society? As Yang indicated in this book, Dunhuang’s classics and past often have profound meaning and “practicality” for us today (Yang 2006; Zhu 2011). Importance of Dunhuang Education In many ways, Dunhuang reflects first and foremost an educational system to connect the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs of the people. It was driven by the continuous search for understanding humankind, the natural environment, and the universe. To recognize education at the heart of Dunhuang’s artistic creations will bring better understanding that all human endeavors, if they are to be meaningful and long lasting, must be connected with fundamental human needs and contextualized within society and based upon universal principles. From the traditional Chinese perspectives of shundaozhechang and nidaozhewang (顺道者昌, 逆道者亡), it is thought that “Those [who] follow the Dao will prosper and those against shall perish” (The Twenty-Four Histories 2014, p. 32). It is that this deliberate human consciousness be connected and aligned with the Dao—the entire nature and cosmos as well as the principles and flows—that is the essence of Dunhuang’s creativity and expansion. This acknowledgment can provide a unique angle to celebrate and honor the artifacts present in Dunhuang, and, at the same time, it adds new understanding of the region’s value and contribution to Chinese civilization as well as to the whole world. Studies of Dunhuang works have celebrated past glory in nostalgia, offering cave renderings, relics, and remnants of historic beauty. However, the focus on education reorients the scholarly research, applying the wisdom, essence, and insights of Dunhuang study into current teaching and learning practices. This makes the spirit of Dunhuang come to life and integrates it into contemporary Chinese and global education. What Dunhuang illustrated in terms of education is in sharp contrast with the current educational systems in China and in the world today. As a starting point, the following are three challenges to ponder. First, contemporary education has become rather compartmentalized and specialized. As formal education has seen a drastic expansion globally,


XU DI (许笛) AND LENG LU (冷璐)

the fast growth of teaching and learning has branched out into numerous fields, subfields, and programs from the disciplines of humanities and the sciences to professional training and vocational specializations. Such specialization offers greater knowledge, a clear focus, and in-depth practice for each sector of the field, potentially offering great progress through more sophisticated technology and innovation. By contrast, Dunhuang’s model was holistic, inclusive, and interconnected, drawing upon the spiritual, religious, metaphysical, and physical realms. Human activities occurring in daily life were within the context of nature and the environment. In those early days of teaching and learning, the borders of each field apparently were blurred, less defined, or merged. Teaching and learning were more intertwined and complete with the cosmic and natural world in which humankind exists. It called for reflective and critical examination of the current educational practice and trends and raised thought-provoking questions. What is lost when education is separated and partitioned into specializations? How separated are the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual parts? More importantly, to what extent is humanity isolated from its natural roots, connections, and environment and with what consequence? Secondly, contemporary education tends to be subject focused and career oriented, in contrast with Dunhuang’s teaching and learning being based upon virtues and morality focused with an orientation toward the Buddhist notions of enlightenment and nirvana. Certainly, by the second half of the twentieth century, education moved from an elite privilege of the rich and powerful few to the right of all citizens to gain an education. With this shift the educational purposes and outcomes were about gaining knowledge, information, and skills directed toward vocational and career training. This was evident in how curriculum, pedagogies, and outcomes were organized and delivered. Can there be excellence in education if only core subjects, skills, and careers are the preparation? Would such an ­education help humanity survive and sustain in this world of complexity? Where is the place of spirituality, morality, and virtue that relate to quality of life, value of all species, in addition to humanity. Related to this is the vocational and career training with its profit orientation in comparison with the Dunhuang model directed toward higher purposes and the common good. In the United States, as the funding for the public education dwindles in the twenty-first century, schools and ­universities market their institutions vigorously and strive for profits by viewing students as customers. This profit orientation, be it individual



focused or self-centered, seriously compromises our relationship with the natural world and the fragile ecosystem of the planet. That view was espoused by both the President of Harvard University, Dew Faust, and the Vice-­president of Tsinghua University (at the time), Shi Yigong (Faust 2018; Shi 2017). While some people are richer materially, such profits are at the high cost of all others, including other species, plants and animals alike. The direction calls for reexamining how Dunhuang’s education integrates micro and macro components of the universe to balance and nurture the development of all in an interactive and creative manner more in alignment with natural laws and forces. These three challenges of contemporary education are very much interconnected. At the heart is the philosophical question of the purpose for education. Are teaching and learning for the practicality of making a livelihood shortsighted? Might there be much more that needs to be considered? Should education be so specialized and compartmentalized? How might it be made more holistic? Dunhuang education in its historic efforts can offer an alternative model of reflection and contemplation to assist in better understanding contemporary life. In this sense, humankind is searching for the truth, understanding, and betterment along the same path as the ancient people of Dunhuang. A full recognition of this connectedness and relationship with the life force of the past might be an essential beginning for a different possible future.

Concluding Remarks To start viewing Dunhuang through the lens of education is only a beginning, but a crucial one. Through this perspective, we build a powerful connection between Dunhuang’s model in ancient China and our contemporary education. This connection breathes life forces with c­ ontinuum, as Emerson said, “man is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots, whose flower and fruitage is the world” (2018). It is from this relational and educational lens that we can benefit the true gift from the Dunhuang Grottoes and its past to the present and value the essence of its meaning in a profound and continuous way. Viewing Dunhuang in its dazzling artistic beauty and creation might enable us to admire and appreciate the history and the past. However, when we go beyond the decorative surface to understand the underlying inspiration and reasons behind all the creativity, we can truly gain a better


XU DI (许笛) AND LENG LU (冷璐)

understanding of the spiritual consciousness made possible through educational endeavors. In this light, we see Dunhuang offer much deeper meaning and relevance, which provides insights and alternatives for our education and life in the contemporary context.

Notes 1. Historically, scholars of Dunhuang have debated the reasons for having the sealed Library Cave. Stein (1862–1943) and others theorized that the materials, now viewed as treasures or “encyclopedia” (Fan and Luo 2010, p. 48), may simply be the discarded materials in the eleventh century. Plliot (1878– 1945) and other scholars, however, believed that the sealing of the cave occurred in 1035 AD prior to the war invasion of West Xia (Fan and Luo 2010, pp. 27–28). While there was no definitive evidence of other alternatives, interestingly almost no gold or silver paint was used in scripture writing, as was the case for formal and official copies for the temples and the imperial court by officials at the time. 2. In 3000 BCE, ink from lamp-black made in China. The oldest printed text known is Diamond Sutra (AD 868), a Chinese translation of a Buddhist text now preserved in the British Library (History of Printing Timeline 2018).

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Ozman, H., & Craver, S. (2012). Philosophical Foundations of Education (9th ed.). New York: Macmillan Publishing Co. Shi, Y. G. (2017, October 28). Conversation Between Teenager and the Future Science at the Award Ceremony for the Future Science 2017. Retrieved December 1, 2017, from The Rank of Artisans. (2018). Dunhuang Museum. dl/?file=bnry1mcXRISHo3Wxb30zrZrOZuYfb-xb0WgFuFmg-cprlogjjjEkEaCryhqeSf2ZXon2Qjv0-S64Rc1ORqGfSA&callback=163mail The Sacred Books of the East’s Zoroastrian Texts. (2018). Retrieved March 1, 2018, from and Introduction Part 1, http:// The Twenty-Four Histories. (2014). Fifteen Classic Quotes. Chinese Teaching and Research, 12, 32. The Zend Avesta, Part I (SBE04), (J. Darmesteter, Trans.). [1880], at sacred-texts. com. Retrieved from Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes. (2002). Hong Kong: Polyspring. Wang, J.  E. (2013). Exploration of Folk Education and Characteristics of Dunhuang in the Tang Dynasty. Inquiry, (1), 8–14. Whitefield, R. (1995). Dunhuang, Caves of the Singing Sands. London: Textile Arts Publication. Xiao, X.  Y., & Wang, X.  H. (2009). Significance of Dunhuang Elementary Textbook in Contemporary Chinese Education. Hundred Schools in Arts, 25(6), 225–229. Yang, G. X. (1999). Chengqianqihoude dunhuangyishu sanju (承前启后的敦煌 艺术“三绝”, Dunhuang Art “Three Wonders”). Dunhuang Studies, 1, 47–51. Yan, T.  L. (1999). Guanyu Dunhuangwenhuazhongdejiaoyu (Education in Dunhuang Culture. The Journal of Lanzhou Education College, 1, 16–28. 关于 敦煌文化中的教育). Yang, M. (1994). Gifts Favors & Banquets: The Art of Social Relationship in China. Ithica: Cornell University Press. Yang, L. (2006). Classics and Their Practicality (Gudianwenxianjiqiliyong, 古典文 献及其利用). Beijing: Peking University Press. Yi, C. G. (2005). Dunhuang yishumeixue: Yi Dunhuang yishu weizhongxin (敦煌 艺术美学: 以壁画艺术为中心, Dunhuang Art Aesthetics: Mural Art as the Center). Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Publishing House. Zhang, X.  H. (Ed.). (1983). Wang Fanzhi’s Poems (《王梵志诗》) Beijing: China Press. Zhang, X. G. (2014). Dunhuang Artifacts: The Relation Between Erlangwen and Zoroastrianism. Western Region Study, (3), 86–94. Zheng A.  C., & Zhu, F.  Y. (2002). The Study of Dunhuang Primers (Dunhuangmenshuyanju, 敦煌蒙书研究). Gansu: Gansu Education Press. Zhu, B. (2011). The Religious and Cultural Spirit of Dunhuang Art and Its Contemporary Relevance. Xinjiang Social Sciences, (6), 100–105.


Educational Philosophy and Dunhuang: Diversity, Synergy, and Transformation Xu Di (许笛)

Introduction Dunhuang is a well-known and fascinating UNESCO World Heritage site on the Silk Road in the desolate Gobi Desert, in the northwest Gansu province of China (Fan and Wu 2004; Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002). Since AD 366, when a traveling Buddhist monk built a modest and simple meditation grotto on the east side of Mt. Mingsha, hundreds of grottoes, fancy or basic, have followed suit over a thousand years of civilization. They flourished over 13 dynasties (AD 366–1368), and then survived

This chapter was first published on October 20, 2017 in International Communication of Chinese Culture, 4(4), 515–530, s40636-017-0109-y and the final publication is available at (© Academy for International Communication of Chinese Culture and SpringerVerlag GmbH Germany 2017). Xu Di (许笛) (*) Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,



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approximately another thousand years through wars and political turmoil in the nation. Today Dunhuang, with its 492 well-preserved Mogao Grottoes, over 3000 sculptures, and more than 45,000 square meters of frescoes, is famous among scholars and the public alike, especially since it was designated as one of the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1987 (Fan and Liu 2009). It has become the focal point of an established research field worldwide “Dunhuang study,” as Cheng Yanle first described it, since the beginning of the twentieth century (Luo 2010, pp.  45 and 57). Numerous volumes have been published regarding its contributions to Buddhist religion, history, archaeology, art, geography, sociology, and multiple fields such as military strategies, agricultural, fashion, and so on. Interestingly, however, there is a missing link in the study of Dunhuang regarding education, philosophy in general, and educational philosophy in particular. The lenses of almost all studies, research, and publications view Dunhuang primarily as being the past and a Buddhist religious site. Based on the origin of Dunhuang, this tendency is perhaps natural and reasonable. However, something is seriously missing in the in-depth study and analysis of Dunhuang. This chapter will explore and examine the relationship between Dunhuang, a very unique place, and its undeniable and profound connections with teaching and learning, education, and educational philosophy as it is manifested through Northern Liang (Ad 421–439) to the Yuan Dynasty (AD 1227–1368), and up to today. The primary questions are: How does Dunhuang, as a small and simple place in the vast Gobi Desert, inform us regarding philosophy in general? How has the place influenced Chinese educational philosophy in theory and practice? Where is the place of Dunhuang in education in China’s ancient past and in the present day for global education in both China and the rest of the world? What is the connection between Dunhuang and Chinese education as well as educational philosophy, or is there any? How does this reflective examination of Dunhuang and its connection with education and educational philosophy provide insights for us today?

Dunhuang: Place and Philosophy First of all, how has Dunhuang, in such a remote and barren place, evolved into such a prominent rich philosophical location of fame and importance with lasting effect? To address that, we will need to look at the common perception or misperception regarding the relationship between place and philosophy, and the unique characteristics of Dunhuang as a place, which has attributed to its position and connections with philosophy.



In the field of philosophy and academia, most of the attention is focused on the philosophy, the theory as the fruit of human wisdom, and a higher manifestation of human intellectual capacity. Place, on the other hand, is in the shadow, or mentioned briefly, if at all, as an anecdote of historical fact. Over time, the association of philosophy with the elite, clergymen or priests or priestesses, power, politics, and ruling class, has generated a perception that philosophy is an abstract belief system in an ivory tower, which originated from the brilliant minds of the sage, junzi, or from God. While philosophy studies and examines the metaphysics of our universe, seemingly, it is lofty, airy, and illusive, and has little to do with the reality of daily life of ordinary people, and least of all with any earthly place. Such a view has been pervasive in human history till today even among many scholars, and it has cost humanity dearly as the industrial revolution, scientific and technological development, and the information explosion has steered human existence drastically through capitalism, commercialism, and materialism. It is in this context that the examination of Dunhuang as a place and its relationship with philosophy becomes more potent and essential, for Dunhuang tells a very different story throughout history that is contrary to the above perception or, more accurately, misconception. Place: Roots and Foundation of Philosophy Prior to any existence of grotto, religion, art, or philosophy, Dunhuang was first of all a geographic and physical place on earth. It was a notable place that had provided appropriate conditions for human existence— water and cultivatable land—and it was of more significance because it was an oasis in thousands of miles of the barren Gobi Desert. Its real importance in history and today came to light when it became a must-see place and town, and “as a major stop in the Silk Road and a hub of East–West trade” (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 4). This is not by sheer coincidence, but due to the fact that it is located right in the approximately central point of the vast Silk Road, east from then the capital of China, Chang An (长安, now 西安), extending all the way to Korea and Japan, and west to Xinjiang (新疆), India, Persia, and all the way to Moscow and Venice, as indicated by the ancient map of Buddhist trails in Asia by Bashashaoyi (白砂昭义) (Fan and Liu 2009, pp. 4–5). As a critical place on the Silk Road, Dunhuang and its growth actually is not merely place bound or limited, rather it has been very fluid and


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expanding throughout time and history. While Dunhuang’s Mogao Grottoes chronicle back to Le Zun (乐僔) in AD 366 (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 15), Dunhuang itself was actually established, then grown and changed over time, through continuous and constant occurrences and events. For instance, the “‘Silk Road’ could date back to the 2nd century BC, when a Chinese official Zhang Qian, emissary of the court, was sent on a diplomatic mission to Turkestan along the trade passage connecting Asia and Europe” (Xu and Leng 2016, Slide #8). Zhang’s diplomatic missions a century earlier in 139 BC, and again in 119 BC (Luo 2010, p. 172), laid the foundation for the later rise and development of both the Silk Road and Dunhuang. The same can also be said since the height of Dunhuang, the accidental discovery of the Scripture Library in Cave #17 by Mr. Yang and Wang Yuanlu, and the devastating events of the loss of the 40,000 scriptures, frescoes, sculptures, paintings, and artifacts to the foreign explorers and scholars in the early 1900s, in many ways paradoxically brought Dunhuang alive once again in the modern world (Luo 2010, pp. 32–43). The current preservation and digitalization of the Dunhuang Grottoes and data not only continuously bring the place forward into the existing creation of knowledge and philosophy but more importantly into the future. Thus, Dunhuang’s growth is not limited to the time when the grottoes were built or in active use as meditation residences, temples, or family burial sites. Nor is it a restricted place bound to Dunhuang per se. To a large extent, Dunhuang can be Dunhuang and still remain in the limelight of human civilization because, as a place, it is not just fixed and confined, but fluid, expanding, connecting, and breathing. It is in this context that it could be the birthplace, root, and foundation of philosophy. Without fluidity, Dunhuang simply could not become or remain a significant site of Buddhism, philosophical exchange, and fusion, nor a key place of business, interaction, and life, which is organically connected with the former. Most powerfully and noticeably, Dunhuang, through this fluidity, could intersect places and time and even transcend and elevate them, which manifests a profound character of philosophy and metaphysics. This interactive and relational connection between Dunhuang and its time in history is key evidence of its link with philosophy. Through this fluid and organic relationship, Dunhuang, the place, has become the birthplace, roots, platform, and foundation of a variety of beliefs and metaphysics for life and education. At the same time, it also illustrates that philosophy is not an illusionary mirage in a desert, but a deep-rooted human consciousness anchored in the fertile soil of a living place and its people.



Human Needs and Philosophy The place alone does not necessarily lead to a philosophical flourish without a most important component—human existence and needs. As Dunhuang’s history is dated to Han Dynasty (111 BC) in written documentation (Luo 2010), the window we see through is in the relatively recent past. What was captured and reflected in Dunhuang is the long continuous human existence in that place and region and human lives as well as their needs throughout history. The paintings, frescoes, sculptures, scriptures, and books offer us glimpses into the past of all walks of life, from hunting, farming, trading, family gathering, official ceremony, to spiritual teaching as well as burial and nirvana. While the construction of the grottoes seemed to be somewhat separate from ordinary and practical lives, other than offering work and livelihood for thousands of builders, artists, and workers, it actually demonstrated human needs and necessity in more ways than one. Such needs were educational, philosophical, and metaphysical, of a higher consciousness and connectedness. For instance, the connection with loved ones who have passed away (Cave #25, North) (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 121), the need to create meaning and seek enlightenment in life through Buddhist or other practices such as Ananda and Kasjapa (Cave #419) (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 60), and the role models for compassion, morality, and/ or eternal life such as in Amitaurdhayana (Cave #18) (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 143). The grottoes became the memorial and homage place for the higher spiritual beings, Buddha, Bodhisattva, ancestors, and family members, and it also served as a community center for special gatherings, prayers, and meditation. In this way, they helped people in Dunhuang to stay connected, with their own basic personal and psychological needs, desires, and hopes in daily life. At the same time, the ritual and spiritual practices at the grottoes also continued to build and expand the ancestral and spiritual connections within the family, community, and beyond. To a large extent, for people who lived in the extreme harsh and barren living conditions and confronted the constant challenges in the Gobi Desert, there was a stronger demand for emotional and spiritual support so as to face reality and seek a deeper meaning and purpose of life. These may be basic human needs throughout life, however, they are also the philosophical and metaphysical roots for human values, beliefs, metaphysics, and religions. Therefore, the place of Dunhuang serves as the platform and foundation of its unique philosophy and its manifestation that has come forth


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since AD 366. The needs of the people in Dunhuang were fulfilled by the rich and fertile soil in which the values, beliefs, and philosophies could organically grow, evolve, and transform. It can be said that today there are similar reasons, though in very different conditions, for people to come to Dunhuang, seeking understanding of life and death through the past in connection to the present and future.

Diversity and Synergy As a place, one of the primary reasons for Dunhuang’s celebrity status in world heritage is its impressive diversity and inclusiveness, covering every simple aspect of human life, from ethnicity, languages, dynasties, content of knowledge, subjects, and so on. “Since ancient times, Dunhuang was a place where multiple ethnic groups resided, and where the transportations of the East and West met. Therefore, its cultural heritage displayed unique richness of many nationalities” (Jin in Fan and Liu 2009, p. 35). The richness of Dunhuang’s diversity throughout history is multifaceted, and it serves as a fundamental force for the lasting development and continuing expansion of philosophy. Diversity and Philosophy The establishment of Dunhuang Grotto, a Buddhist practice and manifestation coming from the India and Nepal region, was a major historical cultural encounter between the West and the East at the time and in unique geographical context. Such occurrence happened among highly diverse ethnic and lingual groups including Qiangrong (羌戎), Wusun (乌孙), Yuezhi (月氏), Xiongnu (匈奴), Xianbei (鲜卑), Tuyuhun (吐谷浑), Tibetan (吐蕃), Uighur (回鹘), ITIL (栗特), Yutian (于阗), Mongolian (蒙古), Dangxiang (党项), and Han (汉) people (Tan 2007, p.  19). Dunhuang and its literary and artistic collections clearly demonstrated such diversity. For instance, the painting of “Princes Listening to Buddhist Teaching” in Mogao Cave #103 from the Tang Dynasty illustrates ten princes from various ethnicities and nations in their own cultural costumes and manners (Xu and Leng 2016, Slide #9). “Buddha’s Nirvana” in Cave #158 portrayed a wide impact from all over the region and among a diversity of believers as they mourned his passing (Fan and Liu 2009, pp. 94–95). Another legendary event is of eight kings coming to request the relics of Buddha after his cremation to show respect and seek his wisdom and



power continuously (Cave #332, South Fresco) (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 78). The Mogao Grottoes housed medieval manuscripts, historical documents, and Central and Western Asian works from different ethnic groups. The Buddhist scriptures were in multiple languages from Classic Chinese to ancient Tibetan, Sanskrit, Uighur, ITIL, Yutian, Brahmi, and so on (Fan 2010, p. 4). In addition, the diversity and richness of Dunhuang were also demonstrated in its form and content. The forms ranged from sculpture, to paintings (fresco and silk), from its original simple cave to the nine-floor pagoda with a giant Buddha, 34.5 meters high in Cave #96 (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 76) and a 27 meter high sculpture, dubbed “South Big Picture” in Cave #130 (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 86). They expanded from its characteristic jingbian (theme paintings according to classic Buddhist scriptures) to thousands of written scriptures. The Dunhuang Grottoes preserved a dazzling range of colorful and exquisite collections and manifestations over thousands of years. More importantly, the content of these collections consists of subjects far exceeding Buddhist religion such as history, art, architecture, agriculture, business, geography, customs, rituals, fashion, military strategies, and much more (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 17). Without exaggeration, it is an “encyclopedia” for the ancient and medieval times in that part of the world and China (Fan 2010, p. 6). Another noticeable diversity came from those who built, maintained, and utilized these remarkable historical grottoes. While Le Zun (乐僔), the first traveling monk, started Mogao Grotto, as a religious meditation and practice site, the sponsors, architects, and constructors of the grottoes were not limited to Buddhist monks and nuns. In fact, they included a vast range of people from all layers of society, from the “Yutian King” in Cave #98 (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 110), to generals, officials, the wealthy, scholars, and commoners. The workers, artisans, architects, and managers came from different cultures, regions, ethnicity, styles, and nationalities as manifested through all the caves in various times and dynasties. Therefore, the creation of the Dunhuang Grottoes composited religious and secular forces, the “high and low brows,” the rich and powerful and the ordinary and poor, all walks of life and social sectors. This is another unique aspect among world heritage sites, many of which were often the enterprises of the kings and queens, religious institutions, and the powerful. Certainly, the diversity and its richness mentioned briefly already are but “the tip of the iceberg,” and the actual diversity and its depth are far beyond the scope of this chapter. However, the diversities discussed and


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illustrated here in ethnicity, languages, forms, styles, contents, and all members of society have provided a context of complexity and intricacy in addition to place and time in the formation of and relation with philosophy and metaphysics. Due to this very factor, the metaphysical beliefs and systems depicted in the Dunhuang Grottoes echoed such richness and pluralistic philosophies. Although Dunhuang indisputably captured Buddhist religion and beliefs primarily, the metaphysics and philosophy it presented throughout its collections, in many ways, were strongly influenced by and integrated with the diversity in the flow of time and history. They far exceed Buddhism per se. A look at Cave #249 showed that Indian classical legends and Hindu beliefs were vividly painted on the ceiling of the Cave, together with the Chinese mythical forces and gods of Pidian (霹电, Thunder) and Zhuque (Red Bird, 朱雀, God in charge of South), as well as many other mythical beings (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 40). The views of Tibetan Buddhism, the Mandela, metaphysical presentation of the universe’s existence, were prominently featured in Mogao Cave #465 (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 117), especially in Yulin Grottoes in the Yuan Dynasty. The Chinese Confucian values and beliefs such as “filial (孝)” could be seen at the height of the Tang Dynasty and thereafter, as illustrated in Buddha’s preaching to his mother after his nirvana in Cave #148 (Fan 2010, p. 127). Meanwhile, among the classics discovered in the Library Cave, Daoist works, Lao Zi’s Daodejing, and Confucian classics such as Analects mingled with the Buddhist scriptures over thousands of years. According to Whitfield (1995), More than 50,000 manuscripts dated between the fourth and eleventh centuries were found inside the cave. Ninety percent of them are relics from religions that were important at the time: Buddhism, Daoism, Manichaeism, Zoroastrianism, Nestorianism, etc. (p. 16)

These works showcased the divergent human beliefs and understanding of the world and universe from varied geographical, cultural, social, and historical orientations. They illustrated that while humans resided on the same planet, Earth, their beliefs, philosophies, views, and values could vary quite differently and interestingly. The renowned Chinese sociologist, philosopher, and Dunhuang scholar Ji Xianlin (季羡林) commented:



There have been only four cultural systems in the world that have a long history, occupied vast territory, and exerted far-reaching impact: China, India, Greece, Islam, and no fifth. These four cultural heritages interacted and integrated only in one place on earth: the area of Dunhuang and Xinjiang Greece, Islam, and no fifth. These four cultural heritages interacted and integrated only in one place on earth: the area of Dunhuang and Xinjiang. (Ji 2007, p. 19. Author’s translation)

In Dunhuang, from the frescoes, paintings, sculptures, classical works, and scriptures, the unique manifestation of the diversity and its intersection could be found everywhere. These indicated that human philosophy, metaphysics, beliefs, and values were not shaped and developed in a vacuum or in pure and pristine conditions. Nor were they impacted by the geographical place and time alone. In fact, more intricately, they were inevitably, irresistibly, and organically influenced and morphed by multiple factors in culture and environment, may they be micro or macro. This “fusion” illustrated the relational nature between diversity and philosophy and reciprocal connection between the rich human life and their developed philosophical beliefs, which served as their life compasses and principles. The richness and diversity in life largely contributed to and is associated with the diversity in human metaphysics, and the relationship is a dialectical one. Philosophical Synergy The power of Dunhuang was not only due to its display of diversity, but more importantly it was the philosophical synergy over thousands of years. First was the metaphysical understanding and practice within and through Buddhism, and second was the philosophical synergy of the human pursuit for knowledge and meaning in the universe they resided in among the diversified belief systems. In a way, it can be said that this is also reflected in our current study and examination of Dunhuang in this chapter. Buddhism, as one of the world’s major religions in the past thousand years, resembles many human religions in the sense that it is a form of human metaphysics and part of the effort toward our understanding of the universe we live in. Through Buddha’s lifelong search for truth and meaning in the human world, his meditation and practices led to the revelation and systematic understanding of a cosmos that consisted of different layers of heaven, humanity, and other worlds. Our current physical world,


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according to Buddhist beliefs, is an illusion that is deeply surrounded by “suffering,” and results from our own ignorance, greed, lust, and materialistic choices and the cause and effect of the accumulated energy of our past lives. The meaning and purpose of life is to break away from this vicious cycle by meditation and spiritual practices so as to reach the other bank, crossing the ocean of suffering to enlightenment, the Buddhahood, nirvana, the heavenly realm, and peace. To such an end, Buddhism has developed thousands of scriptures of chants, texts, processes, and testimonies over thousands of years. Dunhuang’s library’s contents indicated the numerous volumes and depth of such classical works and its impacts (Luo 2010, pp. 63–69). Amazingly, this particular view and belief system, originated and developed in the now India and Nepal region, was able to expand and received a vast following in central Asia and then East Asia among many ethnic and lingual nationalities through peaceful exchange and encounters. This was rather different from the expansion of some other religions, which was often achieved by force and coercion. In a way, Buddhism became the synergy of the search for meaning and truth for the diverse people in that region at that time and it was accepted as the knowledge, beliefs, and principles of life. It addressed core elements of human life such as life, death, values, meanings, and relations as well as comprehensive components of the world, the universe, past, present, and future. At the same time, the synergy through Buddhism was not a simple replica and imitation of the original form, although there has been a consistent effort to keep the authentic scriptures and chants in Sanskrit. As Dunhuang’s grottoes presented the core Buddhist teaching and concepts over history, there was a clear change and adaptation of the Indian features, beliefs, and contents to those of Chinese and local cultures, values, and aesthetics. For instance, the frescoes in Cave #275 in Northern Liang (北凉, AD 420–439) showed the Buddha and Bodhisattva in traditional costumes and with facial features of those from the western region (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 25), and the Buddha’s meditating posture of crossed legs at ankles (right over left) is a recognized style in the west region, which also appeared in the Buddhist caves in Afghanistan and Xinjiang (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 27). While in Cave #194 (High Tang 705–781), the physical appearance, attires, and postures had obvious Chinese characteristics and styles (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 91). The meditation positions of the Buddha and Bodhisattva also changed significantly, more aligned with what can be found in the Buddhist temples in eastern Asia today.



The emphasis of teaching shifted from the focus on Buddha’s early life stories to more Chinese-value-oriented ones such as Cave #148 (High Tang) where Buddha shared his farewell teaching with his mother (Fan 2010, p. 127). The Tang Dynasty saw more Amitabha scriptures in the grottoes and during late Tang and Song dynasties, Vimalakirti’s scriptures frequented the grottoes’ frescoes as the Chinese elite admired his carefree lifestyle and unique beliefs and rhetoric and compared him with Chinese Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi (Fan 2010, p. 179). The focal content also shifted to more Chinese based place and themes as indicated in Cave #21 Mt. Wutai (Five Dai, 五代, AD 907–960) with bilingual subtitles in both Western Xia and Han (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 111). In Cave #217, the stories pictured the original teaching of Lotus Sutra (法华经) while the painting and landscape were completely of Chinese style and orientation (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 80). All these continuously illustrated the adaptive and reciprocal interaction as the Buddhist philosophy and beliefs grew from a seed to a regular part of people’s lives in Chinese society. While the socialization process during Buddhist philosophy’s expansion in China was dynamic over time, so was its interaction with the Chinese myths, legends, beliefs, and philosophies and those in the larger context in the region at the time. The manuscripts also include a large range of classics such as Daoist Tao De Jing and Hua Hu Jing, Jewish Selihot, Confucian classics such as Anelects, and ancient editions of Shang Shu, to name a few. Although the Dunhuang Manuscripts contain mostly Buddhist texts, there were other forms of sacred texts as well. These include Taoist, Nestorian Christian, and Manichaean texts. In addition, there were also secular texts that dealt with various areas of knowledge, such as mathematics, history, astronomy and literature. One of the significant aspects of the Dunhuang Manuscripts can be seen in the large amount of folk literature in it. As this form of literature is about the lives of ordinary people, it provides a unique perspective on their experiences, the way they associated with the wider society and the government, as well as their relationships with family and friends. (The Ancient Manuscripts of Dunhuang 2016)

With the vast variety of spiritual, religious, philosophical, historical, literary texts, Dunhuang’s Library Cave revealed a flourishing interaction and synergy of many schools of thought, traditions, and cultures, which ­provided a more comprehensive and complete record of the rich philosophical development and functions in the diverse people and nations in


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addition to Buddhism. Thus, it indicated that the origin and expansion of one philosophy and belief system (Buddhism in this case) was not an isolated case and self-contained event, but rather a gradual and persistent development in a larger and more complex human existence. While it is clearly beyond the scope of this chapter to compare and contrast all the similarities and differences of the metaphysics developed at the time, it is obvious that each belief system, like Dunhuang’s Buddhism discussed earlier, carried the imprint of its geographic place, diverse people, and environment. Each and all contemplated and interpreted the meaning and truth of life, examined such profound concepts of life and death as well as life above and beyond the physical realm and depth across time, and developed values and principles that intended to hold life, people, and society together through time. Interestingly, the rich and divergent beliefs in the region converged through human encounters and efforts and formed a synergy of development beyond each single thought, combined into a multifaceted mega metaphysical exploration. In a way, both the rich diversity and organic synergy in Dunhuang further indicate the essential connection between the place, people, and environment, and their impact and roles in the philosophical construct, development, and implementations. Such relationships are ongoing, continuous, dynamic, and reciprocal. The multiple living forces powerfully impact the metaphysical belief system, which in turn serves as the guiding principles and provides higher purpose and meaning in daily life through generations. The recognition of this dialectic association of philosophy and diversity in life does not in any way diminish the status and power of philosophy, but rather illustrates the holistic integration and command of philosophy in humanity and society through time. A separation of philosophy and the diverse world would actually weaken it and reduce its relevance and meaning of life, and a synergic connection empowers and enriches it to the central living force of the function of life.

Transformation Through Education and Educational Philosophy While Dunhuang is well studied in numerous fields, it is rarely associated with the field of education in ancient China. So far, the research articles on Dunhuang and education have been few and none of them in any way related to education today. Does Dunhuang have anything to do with



education? As the discussions in this chapter examined Dunhuang’s rich connection with philosophy, could there be any link between Dunhuang and educational philosophy? Dunhuang and Education Regardless of the angle from which one examines Dunhuang, it simply is undeniable that Dunhuang has infinite connections with teaching and learning, education, formal or informal as described. Indeed, Dunhuang’s grottoes primarily focused on Buddhism. However, these Buddhist grottoes, from their first emergence to their last construction, had everything to do with teaching and learning as well as the practice and implementation of their belief systems. Cremin defined education as “the deliberate, systematic, and sustained effort to transmit, evoke, or acquire knowledge, attitude, skills, or sensibilities as well as outcome of that effort” (Cremin 1977, p. 135). Dunhuang’s emergence, development, expansion, and sustainability to date fit this broad and inclusive definition to a tee. Among the frescoes and sculptures, the most frequent scenes were of teaching, as portrayed in the largest jinbian of Amitayurdhyana Sutra in Cave #148, illustrating the teaching and attendance of all other Bodhisattva (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 104). It is a repeated throughout the thousands of years of Dunhuang history in all dynasties. Cave #159 in Middle Tang (AD 781–848) showed Tubo King listening to the scholarly debates (Mogao Cave #159, 2014), and again, Cave #61 (AD 907–960) depicted a scene where princes from ten different countries and cultures were learning from Buddhist teaching and preaching (Mogao Cave #159, 2014; Xu and Leng 2016, Slide #9). The hundreds of grottoes and over 50,000 classical texts provided unprecedented content of, and for, teaching and learning. The life journeys and stories of enlightened beings and those who were on their way to enlightenment served as role models and mapped out the different paths and possibilities of learning, growth, and transformation. As evidenced by Prince Sunada’s story in Cave #428 (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 55), Buddha’s own life story and journey in Cave #290 (Fan and Liu 2009, p.  48), and the “Parable of Conjured City” in Cave #217 (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p.  112). Teaching and learning were the main focal point in every single item of Dunhuang, and education and transformation were the primary purpose of Buddhist teaching and sutras.


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The connection of Dunhuang with education was not only Buddhist and religious. The historical documentations, text, and materials indicated an interesting and impressive educational system in Dunhuang over a thousand years ago. For instance, the ongoing construction of grottoes over a thousand years developed a very complicated formal structure with a vocational apprentice training and teaching of all artisans from painter to designer and builder. Actually, the highest ranked one held the title of boshi (博士), the same title as Ph.D. in Chinese today, who was impressively knowledgeable in all aspects of the grotto construction, from Buddhism and architecture, to construction and arts (painting and sculpture alike) (History of Dunhuang 2015). At the same time, included in the Dunhuang Library were the formal textbooks for elementary, middle, and high schools, up to the imperial advanced schools. The Dunhuang Grottoes had once been the public place that offered education to the ordinary people, as well as the women’s club and study center for scholars. The priests delivered Buddhism lectures and lay folks often gathered in the grottoes for special meetings. The murals and paintings documented the Buddhist stories and teachings that guided people’s behaviors based on moral principles (Ye 2016). The ultimate purpose of these grottoes and classics were to teach, expand teaching, and promote lifelong learning and practices with Buddhism as well other schools. Jinbian was a creation of transformed scripture and textbook for the majority, who did not have the privilege or ability to read in those days, and it was able to transcend the language barriers among a diverse population and ethnicities. That educational orientation successfully took roots in Dunhuang and led to its continuous expansion and development, and has continued to the present day. Educational Philosophy in Dunhuang As a result, Dunhuang also provided powerful content and connection with educational philosophy through its existence for a thousand years and its revival since the twentieth century. It manifested rich and profound educational goals, philosophical beliefs and concepts, content, pedagogies, processes, and roles of teachers and students (disciples and or believers at the time). These could be found and actually permeated every grotto and every text. The Dunhuang Grottoes presented a three-dimensional educational philosophy, lived and practiced in history, and they continuously serve as a strong reference point for educational philosophy today.



Perhaps it would take volumes to study, understand, and examine the rich and complicated educational philosophy of a thousand years in Dunhuang. This chapter would like to point out three noticeable themes and one unique characteristic: a metaphysical view of the universe, moral and ethical values, and their application, which formed the primary themes in Dunhuang’s teaching and learning. Philosophical Themes  Dunhuang’s vast collections showcase three philosophical themes prominently, no matter which angle or perspective we examine them from. First is the Universal Oneness. Dunhuang presented a mega metaphysics, which viewed the world as including all elements, souls from all realms, interconnectedly, continuously, and infinitely. Dunhuang’s works described the universe completely and systematically and illustrated it with heavenly realm (Cave #249) (Fan and Liu 2009, pp. 40–43), human realm (Cave #159) (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p.  136), nature (Cave #217) (Fan and Liu 2009, p.  80), floras (Cave #320, ceiling; Cave #85) (Fan and Liu 2009, p.  80; Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 162), and faunas (Cave #249 Ceiling North) (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p.  47), as well as other worlds (Caves #9 and #196) (Fan and Liu 2009, pp. 103–104). This thorough inclusion of all souls—past, present, and future—was not only limited to the physical integration of all elements in the grotto frescoes and sculptures and the scriptures and texts. More importantly, the teaching honoring them as full beings, as Cave #254 Jataka of Mahasattva depicted the prince killing himself, an ultimate and altruist sacrifice, to feed the hungry (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 32). Such jinbian stories reflected the strong axiology embedded in all the Dunhuang collections. Values are the driving force and theme throughout thousands of years of Dunhuang heritage. The Buddhist as well as many other texts taught a strong reverence and respect for all life, especially those higher spiritual beings who transformed from ordinary to e­xtraordinary through their self-cultivation and persistence. They preached, encouraged, and persuaded people to follow a path toward a purer consciousness above the physical and materialistic world for enlightenment and transcendence. They shared numerous role models and examples from the life stories of Buddha, all other Bodhisattvas, and some ordinary people, and thus provided strong common ethical codes and principles in the daily lives, cultures, and traditions for the dynasties of a thousand years.


XU DI (许笛)

Among all the values, compassion was one that stood out in the course of history. In Dunhuang’s best frescoes and silk paintings collected and published in Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes in 2002, “Avalokitesvara,” or “Guan Yin, God or Goddess of Compassion” appeared 27 times, representing over 11.4 percent of the total 238 pictures and items. For example, Cave #57 housed “the most beautiful painting of ” Avalokitesvara on the East side and was called the “Grotto of Beauty” (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 71). He/she was the most frequently portrayed in addition to Buddha himself and Amitabha, another Bodhisattva from Lotus family, symbolizing mercy and unconditional love to humankind and vigilant protection and guidance to all souls in need. Application  The educational and philosophical teaching of metaphysics, values, and principles sustained in Dunhuang, unlike many other philosophical works and thoughts, did not remain in theoretical, conceptual, and abstract forms per se, and they were presented uniquely as a lived philosophy and practice. The life and path of Buddha was depicted as well as many Bodhisattva and examples of ordinary people who sought truth and elevation, and reached and obtained enlightenment through their daily choices and practices. They served as role models and living testimony of an obtainable goal and an eternal existence. All these focuses of philosophical themes and the practical implementation of such beliefs over the centuries has offered hard evidence of a strong and inevitable connection with education and educational philosophy, which was Buddhist in nature but was not limited to Buddhist religion per se. The purpose of individual cultivation and social improvement echoed the education goals of Daoism and Confucianism in the long Chinese tradition as well as those of Western philosophical schools, from Plato to Dewey. The emphasis on moral and ethical values overlapped any educational thoughts, although it may differ in contents and rationales. The concept and practice on compassion resonated with “the highest virtue flows like water” in Lao Zi (1989), the “benevolence” in the essence of Confucius (1993, p. 21), and the “Good” in Plato (1960, pp. 205–208). The lenses of education and educational philosophy, actually, give Dunhuang and Dunhuang study a renewed perspective and significance. They expand Dunhuang, from a treasured heritage and wonder of the past, to a living force from the past that is present today. Dunhuang no longer only dazzles us with the creative arts and ancient scriptures and



texts, which uncover the history, it provides meaningful and profound metaphysics, educational philosophy, and practices for the living. The latter opens our eyes to see Dunhuang as not only a place in the past or merely an ancient museum of lost civilizations. It actually offers insightful and rich educational philosophy that has been developed, synergized, and transformed over thousands of years. It still holds the philosophical essence for education, relevant for us today, especially as we encounter diversity in the drastically changing world.

Conclusion Dunhuang was created through West meeting East and vice versa, built and inspired by diverse cultures, civilizations, religions, environment, and times. For thousands of years, Dunhuang has showed that the role and power of place in the development, expansion, and implementation of metaphysics, manifested the impact and influence of ethnic and cultural diversity in the philosophical synergy, and organic and reciprocal interaction between philosophy and human life. More importantly it presented continuous and persistent educational efforts, which integrated profound educational goals, curricular, pedagogies, and values. Through its manifestation, Dunhuang is intriguing and paradoxical: barren and rich; singular and pluralist; intensive and extensive; foreign and familiar; simple and profound; and spiritual and secular. Its rich and colorful collections wove a complicated and rich tapestry encompassing past, present, and future, and it reveals the deep and intertwined relations between a place, its people, cultures, and education and philosophy through integration and transformation over time. It teaches us insightfully that philosophy, after all, is organically from the earth and people as well as their diversity and synergy. The emergence, development, transformation, and sustainability of philosophy or philosophies depend entirely on such constant interactions and can only be studied and applied truthfully as such.

References Confucius. (1993). Translations of Confucian Classics: The Book of History. Wang Shi Shun trans. into modern Chinese, and Du Rui Qing trans. into English. Shandong: Shandong Friendship Press. Cremin, L. A. (1977). Traditions of American Education. New York: Basic Books.


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Fan, J.  S. (2010). Fahuajingdegushi (法华经的故事, The Story of Lotus Sutra). Shanghai: Eastern China Normal University. Fan, J. S., & Liu. Y. Z. (2009). Dunhuang Jianshang (敦煌鉴赏, Authentication and Appreciation of Dunhuang) (2nd ed.). Nanjing: Jiansu Art Press. Fan, J.  S., & Wu, J.  (2004). Dunhuang shiku (敦煌石窟, Dunhuang Grottoes). Beijing: China Travel Press. History of Dunhuang. (2015). Dunhuang Museum Exhibition (Permanent). Ji, X.  L. (2007). Dunhuang Tulufan Yanjiu (敦煌吐鲁番研究). Shanghai: Shanghai Guji. Lao, Z. (1989). Lao Tsu Te-Tao Ching (R.  Hendricks, Trans.). New  York: Ballatine Books. Luo, H. Q. (2010). In Fan Jingshi (Ed.), Faxian Cangjindong (发现藏经洞, The Discovery of the Scripture Cave) (Dunhuang Readings Series). Shanghai: East China Normal University. Mogao Cave 159 (Middle Tang AD 781–848) View 153. (2014). Figure 5: Tubo King (Bottom) Attending the Debate, East Wall. content.aspx?id=770495121621 Plato. (1960). The Republic (B. Jowett, Trans.). New York: Dolphine Books. Tan, C. X. (2007). In Fan Jinshi (Ed.), Jiedu Zhongshiji Dunhuang (解读中世纪 敦煌, Interpreting Dunhuang in the Medieval Age). Dunhuang: Dunhuang Academy. The Ancient Manuscripts of Dunhuang. (2016). Ancient Origins. Retrieved from Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes. (2002). Hong Kong: Polyspring. Whitfield, R. (1995). Dunhuang, Caves of the Singing Sands: Buddhist Art from the Silk Road. London: Textile Art Publication. Xu, D., & Leng, L. (2016, January). Dunhuang & Multicultural Education. Paper Presentation in East West Center International Education Conference. Manila. PowerPoint Slide #10 & #11. Ye, L. (2016). Proposal for 2016 East West Center Chinese Philosophy Conference. Honolulu, HI, USA.


Moral Education from the Dunhuang Murals Chia-Ling Wang (王嘉陵)

Introduction The Dunhuang Grottoes are the main focus of Dunhuangology, with the Mogao Grottoes being the most famous and one of the four most famous grotto sites in China. Located in Dunhuang, Gansu Province, they represent Chinese folk art and the culmination of the cultural exchanges between China and other countries bordering the western region. The large grotto site contains more than 800 caves, with approximately 3000 painted sculptures, and more than 50,000 square meters of murals spanning more than 1000 years of history (Sha 2002) and over ten dynasties (e.g. from the Sixteen Kingdoms, Northern Dynasties to Yuan Dynasty). Of the 800 caves, 492, with their numerous historical artifacts crucial to understanding the history of this area, have been thoroughly preserved. In the beginning, Buddhist monks and priests used the Mogao Grottoes for meditation, and murals were subsequently created inside the grottoes, which became art repositories. The study of these murals, which encompass religion, aesthetics, and art, has been one of the critical topics in

Chia-Ling Wang (王嘉陵) (*) Center for Teacher Education and Institute of Education, National Taiwan Ocean University, Keelung City, Taiwan e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,




Dunhuangology. But these murals are not only artistic works; they also served to educate people through religious (mainly Buddhist) expression in a combination of the traditional Indian sculptural style and the myths of traditional Chinese classics. Thus, they represent an integration of beliefs between these two traditional cultures that resulted from the spread of Indian scriptures to China along the Silk Road. Facing chaos and famine caused by war at that time, the rulers used these religious beliefs as a means of stabilizing the social and political situations in their kingdoms. Currently, the insufficiency of moral cognition and declines in ethical practices in the daily lives of students has led to numerous social problems. As a result, there is an urgent need to implement appropriate moral education in schools so as to improve students’ moral development. Lawrence Kohlberg (1927–1987), a well-known moral educator, maintained that the moral development of children shifts naturally from one level to another. Such advancement in moral development is not a result of the passive instillation of morality, but rather of reflection on cognitive conflict that leads to transcendence of the current moral development stage (Kohlberg 1971). Therefore, teachers can introduce moral conflict scenarios for students to resolve, thereby improving their moral cognition. Kohlberg and Turiel (1971) stated that moral education should involve open discussions, based on “discussion questions for moral development.” This study incorporates two stories illustrated in the Dunhuang murals along with a discussion of their moral teaching to emphasize the moral spirit of Dunhuang and facilitate the use of Dunhuang culture in modern education. This study is organized as follows: In the first part, this chapter presents an introduction of the content of the Dunhuang murals, their backgrounds, and moral implications from historical and social perspectives. Second, the chapter focuses on the two most commonly cited Jataka Tales, which offer a wealth of moral teaching among the numerous stories in the murals of moral significance as the source material for moral education. At the same time their content and moral implications are analyzed. Third, this chapter discusses moral topics that related and formulated according to the two tales through the context of the questions for moral development. In addition, the chapter explores the scenarios of moral dilemma involved in the tales as well as in life. Finally, the chapter concludes with a discussion and recommendation regarding the application of these murals in contemporary moral education.



The moral images and connotations within the Jataka Tales, developed and enriched through Silk Road cultural exchanges, can be interpreted from a modern perspective to develop new moral lessons. Over the years, various cultures and generations have understood the moral principles of these tales differently. Therefore, the historical moral principles in the tales can be converted to fit current society and environment through discussion and interpretation, while maintaining the moral concepts with their permanent values. Moral conflict scenarios in these tales can become the source materials for discussions to improve students’ moral cognition. The stories used in this study are solely for moral education in general rather than for purely religious instruction.

Contents and Moral Implications of the Dunhuang Murals Contents of the Dunhuang Murals The styles of the art in the murals in the Mogao Grottoes underwent historical changes from the period from the Sixteen Kingdoms to the Tang Dynasty, and can be divided into the following seven types (Wen 2018; Lin 2002): 1. Buddhist paintings: drawings that focus on Buddha’s preaching in order for people to worship the Buddha. 2. Traditional Chinese folk stories such as the Queen Mother of the West (西王母), Nüwa (女娲), Fuxi (伏羲), and Leigong (雷公). 3. Decorative patterns, primarily traditional architectural decorations. 4. Jingbian (Sutra illustrations): large jingbian paintings that illustrated specific sutras, such as the Vimalakirti Sutra, Saddharma Pundarika Sutra (Lotus Sutra), and Maitreya Sutra. 5. Buddhist history paintings, such as Zhang Qian’s visit to the Western Regions of China. 6. Portraits of patrons of these murals. 7. Story paintings: these are the main part of the murals, with the primary intention of conveying Buddhist ideas. They can be divided into three types: Buddhist biographies, which describe the life story of Shakyamuni Buddha; nidana, which involve the duhua (enlightenment) events related to Buddha; and illustrations of the Jataka Tales, which make up the majority of the story paintings and the type of stories selected in this study.



Background and Moral Implications of the Jataka Tales The Jataka Tales concern the life story of Shakyamuni Buddha before his ascension into Buddhahood. The tales originated from romanticized folk fables and legends in India, from which positive characters were interpreted by Buddhists as being the predecessors of Shakyamuni Buddha. The Jataka Tales that originated from folk tales are the parts of these murals with the richest folk heritage. They are usually tragic in nature, with central themes related to patience, sacrifice, and unconditional charity. The Jataka Tales played a crucial role in the early murals because of several social factors. According to Lin (2002), during the Sixteen Kingdoms, Southern and Northern China were divided and in conflict, with war being an everyday reality. Government officers were corrupt and tyrannical, taxation was extreme, and people could die meaninglessly at any time. The Jataka Tales conformed to the needs of the people at that time, who were wrought with despair and yearned for a selfless savior to deliver them from the sufferings in their life. These sufferings were expressed in religious paintings, which also revealed the nobility of the Buddha and the beauty of paradise, which had a healing effect on people. Historically, the social harmony of Dunhuang was strongly associated with the secularization of Buddhism (Du and Ren 2007), which involved reducing the upper-class characteristics of Buddhism and increasing its plebeian features. The rituals and symbols of Buddhist religion prevailed in human daily lives. The Dunhuang murals reflect a silent protest against the exploitation of people during the time, as well as a spiritual yearning for peace and stability during a period of famine, pandemics, and war. People became spiritually attracted to a belief in the afterlife, karma, and reincarnation, as well as the virtues of patience, compassion, and sacrifice. As mentioned earlier, rulers also reinforced these beliefs in their methods of governance to stabilize people’s morale and maintain social stability. Through the secularization of Buddhism, Buddhist activities such as statue sculpting, worshipping, scripture copying, and praying became a crucial part of people’s daily lives and led to the rise of the Dunhuang culture. The religious art in the grottoes of Dunhuang, including the murals, was created in this historical context. The cultivation of people’s morality and the establishment of their moral principles were also related to the ­religious activities reflected in these murals. The Jataka Tales represent the people’s pursuit of a moral orientation and a moral realm at that time.



Mural Stories as Materials for Moral Education The stories within these murals contain abundant lessons suitable for moral education in classrooms. Because of its limited scope, this study focuses on two famous Jataka Tales from the Dunhuang murals; both tales involve the story of Shakyamuni before his ascension into Buddhahood (Yuan 2014). The first tale, titled The Nine-Colored Deer, is located on the western wall of Cave #257. The second tale, Prince Mahasattva, also known as The Self-Sacrifice to Tigers, is featured in numerous caves in the Mogao Grottoes, such as Caves #428, #301, #302, #419, and #254, as well as in a serial mural.

Nine-Colored Deer Story According to the legend, a deer king lived peacefully with a bird in a fertile land next to the Ganges River. The deer king had fur with nine colors and a pair of snow-white antlers. Whenever the deer stood still, other creatures could see its vibrant colors. As the story goes, one day, a logger entered the mountain for wood and fell into a stream. He held on to a tree and screamed toward the sky. The nine-colored deer heard the scream, rushed into the water, and carried the logger ashore. When the logger regained consciousness, he thanked the deer for its help. “You do not need to thank me,” said the deer, “but please do not reveal my whereabouts to other humans. If any human knows of my existence, they will come for my life.” The logger agreed before leaving. One day, the queen of the humans on this land dreamed of a luminescent nine-colored deer. She thought that a coat made of the fur of this deer would be beautiful, but nobody had seen this deer. The queen became depressed as a result. The king, indulging the queen, announced that anyone who knew about and caught the deer would receive a substantial monetary reward and the right to rule the country with him. The logger who had been rescued by the nine-colored deer realized the opportunity for instant wealth. Following the emergence of this malicious thought in the logger, sores began to appear on his body. Ignoring the promise to the deer, the logger notified the king of the divine deer’s whereabouts and told him that he must capture the deer with his own army. Following this advice, the king led his army to the nine-colored deer.



The nine-colored deer was sleeping when the king entered the mountain with his army, and its companion bird, who was sitting in a tree, saw the incoming captors and shouted a warning. However, it was too late; the troops had surrounded the deer. With no way to escape, the deer illuminated itself with its divine power and said to the king, “Please give me some time, for there is a person in your country who is indebted to me.” “Who is he?” the king asked. “Who told you that I am here?” asked the deer. “He did,” the king replied, pointing at the man covered with sores. “That is he, Your Highness,” the deer continued. “When I heard his scream, I rushed to save him from the water, risking my own life. To repay my kindness, he made a promise not to reveal my whereabouts, but he has failed to keep it! This man, deprived of any conscience, is no better than a piece of dead wood floating in the river!” Upon hearing these words, the king felt guilty and condemned the logger for requiting the kindness of the deer with ingratitude. The king ordered his troops to release the deer and banned deer hunting. All the deer from various regions came to the nine-colored deer and flourished in the land, which was named Sarnath, literally the Lord of Deer. Subsequently, the king ruled the country benevolently and educated the people, enabling them to live prosperous lives. Moral Implications The story of the nine-colored deer implies that humans may not be as benevolent as other animals, and educates people not to repay kindness with ingratitude and destroy their benefactors for their own interests. Furthermore, the story discourages the behavior of the queen, who wished to harm an animal to satisfy her own material desires; thus, this story also promotes animal protection and rights.

Prince Mahasattva Story This story is about a king who had three sons, the youngest of whom was named Mahasattva. One day, the three princes visited a mountain and arrived at a bamboo forest. They saw a tigress that had just finished delivering her seventh cub and was dying of starvation. “She has seven cubs with her and is starving,” the first prince said. “I think she will end up eating her



own children.” “Poor thing,” the second prince replied. “These tigers are doomed. What can we do to help them?” Mahasattva did not say anything. “My body has been undamaged for years,” he thought, “and I have not done anything benevolent for others. Why can I not sacrifice this body of mine for the tigers here? This body can be used for the greater good. If I can abandon everything, then this body is but a shell. I should forsake my obsession with this body to end my worries of impermanence and achieve great wisdom.” Thus, Mahasattva developed courage and compassion. He asked his older brothers to return to the palace. Mahasattva entered the tigers’ cave, undressed, hung his clothes on bamboo branches, and lay down in front of the tigress. The tigress was too weak to eat. Mahasattva acknowledged this and severed his own throat with a bamboo branch, sacrificing his own life. His act caused the earth to shake; all the Gods were moved by the act. Finally, the starving tigress devoured his body down to the bones. The king and queen had ominous dreams at the palace, and the maids reported the prolonged absence of Mahasattva. The king ordered his subordinates to search for him and learned of Mahasattva’s sacrifice. The grief-stricken king and queen visited the place of Mahasattva’s demise to find his remains. The queen was heartbroken upon witnessing the scene. The king ordered his subordinates to recover the remains and bury them in a pagoda. The sacred place of Mahasattva’s sacrifice is located in Nepal, and continues to be worshiped by Buddhists. Moral Implications This classic traditional Indian tale appears in 16 caves in the Mogao Grottoes, and is the most frequently recorded of all the Jataka Tales. The story creates considerable tension and is centered on the theme of ­“self-­sacrifice,” which was extremely popular during the Northern dynasties in China. Most of the Jataka Tales advocated the Buddhist virtues of abstinence, humiliation, sacrifice, and dedication through stories of gore and brutality, which corresponded to the warring and chaotic society of China at that time. The Chinese people, who were unable to relieve themselves of grief, yearned for a savior similar to Mahasattva (Gao 2014), thus highlighting the social functions of these murals.



Teaching and Application of the Stories: Using Discussion Questions for Moral Development Teaching Method Using questions for moral development involves openly discussing the moral dilemma scenarios with students based on their current moral cognition, thereby improving their moral judgment. Moral education must provide moral conflict scenarios for students to debate and question in a respectful and peaceful atmosphere in order for their moral judgment to mature (Huang 2012). The moral dilemma scenarios are based mainly on the context of the mural stories. Teachers can present the contents of the murals and explain their stories to students. According to the principles for using discussion questions for moral development, the stories should be presented in accordance with the following four criteria (Huang 2012): 1. The plot must be simple and interesting enough for students to quickly understand the gist of the story. 2. The ethical and moral conflicts in the story must not be solved through only a single answer; cultural differences should be considered, and students should hold their own opinions and discuss the conflict from various perspectives. 3. The story should encompass two or more moral questions. 4. The story must provide choices for the characters’ actions. Dilemma is at the core of all moral discussions. After describing a story, teachers can divide students into groups to discuss questions related to the story, thereby facilitating the development of their moral judgment and thinking capabilities, and improving their moral cognition on the basis of their concurrent thought processes. When students disagree over solutions to a problem in a scenario, additional detailed questions may be derived for further discussion, and for students to reexamine the applicability of their choices. The interrogation method proposed by Socrates (469–399  BC) can be applied to derive related questions from the opinions of students and facilitate peer opinion exchange. The Socratic method encourages a learner to use their reason to think by means of continuous questions. It can lead to students challenging or adjusting their own opinions.



The discussion questions for moral development enable teachers to assist students in the following ways (Kohlberg and Turiel 1971): . Focusing their thoughts on moral conflict scenarios. 1 2. Helping students analyze their opinions and the applicability of their reasoning. 3. Enabling students to understand the inconsistencies and inappropriateness of their own thinking. 4. Identifying methods to solve inconsistencies and inappropriateness. Moral Questions for Discussion The two stories differ in their moral implications. The tale of the nine-­ colored deer provides several moral dilemma scenarios for discussion. For example, the drowning logger had to choose between his indebtedness to the deer for saving his life and the temptation of fame and fortune, and the king had to decide between material desire and moral rightness. The words spoken by the deer enable effective moral education. The tale of Prince Mahasattva represents the compassionate spirit in traditional Indian culture. As a result of cultural and societal changes, whether Mahasattva’s act of sacrifice is the optimal decision in today’s culture and society warrants in-depth discussions. The following sections provide more specific questions based on the two stories that can serve as the teaching material for moral discussions. Educators can develop additional questions relevant to these stories.

Questions for Nine-Colored Deer 1. The drowning logger was rescued by the nine-colored deer from the water, but he revealed the location of the deer to the king in the face of being tempted by the acquisition of money and power. If you were the logger, how would you have reacted to the announcement by the king that anyone who knew the whereabouts of and caught the deer would receive a substantial monetary reward and the right to rule the country with him? How would you have made your decision? Why? What would tempt you to betray someone who had saved your life? 2. The king attempted to capture the nine-colored deer to harvest its fur in order to satisfy the desires of his queen. However, he later



protected the deer, after learning of the logger’s betrayal. What type of person do you think the king is? How would you treat the logger if you were the king? 3. How do you think the king told the queen about releasing the nine-­ colored deer? If you were the queen, what would you do after losing the opportunity to obtain its fur?

Questions for Prince Mahasattva 1. Because the starving tigress was likely to eat her own cubs, Mahasattva sacrificed his body to save both the tigress and her cubs. Would you have done the same thing if you had been Mahasattva? If not, then what would you have done to help the tigress and the cubs? 2. The king and the queen were grief-stricken upon learning of the death of Mahasattva. Although the tigress and her offspring were saved, the royal family lost a precious son. What do you think of these consequences? 3. The tigress was starving and would have had to sacrifice some cubs to save herself and the other newborn cubs, which might have been a difficult choice for the tigress. Without the help from Mahasattva, what do you think the tigress would have done?

Conclusion The stories portrayed in the Dunhuang murals contain abundant moral lessons. This study chose the dilemmas in two such stories as the basis for discussion questions to guide students in reflecting on their moral cognition. The discussion questions serve as a merely preliminary outline and suggestions for moral education. Teachers can appropriately adjust or revise the content of these stories according to the moral cognition level of students, as well as their respective national and cultural backgrounds. In addition, other interesting Jataka Tales can be selected from the murals for moral education. The characters can also be compared to discuss appropriate moral behaviors and decisions. Used as teaching materials, the ancient stories from the murals of Dunhuang can be given new meanings across generations. Although some people consider the stories to be incompatible with modern society, the moral spirit and implications embedded within them encompass all generations. The portrayal of human greed in the tale of the Nine-Colored



Deer remains relevant; the generosity of the king and his respect for living beings has been praised and these traits continue to be admired. Mahasattva’s self-sacrifice for the tigress may seem foolish from a modern perspective and conflicts with the virtue of filial piety. Students may discuss the appropriateness of the moral implications within the story and might suggest other options, instead of self-sacrifice, for saving the tigers. The ancient virtues of self-sacrifice and compassion can be reinterpreted and practiced through different approaches, some of which may be more acceptable in modern society, giving new meanings to historical moral lessons. Both consistent and reinterpretable moral implications and practices should be considered in the application of the Dunhuang murals in moral education. Teachers may understand the historical background of the mural stories in order to fully grasp their moral implications and to guide students in formulating diverse solutions to the problems from the perspectives of all the characters and in a deep discussion of their solutions. With these mural stories as the starting point, moral education has a wide range of possibilities. Parents can guide children to understand the mural stories from the Dunhuang Grottoes through information in websites or storybooks, thereby enabling them to understand Chinese history and the cultural exchanges that were occurring when the murals were created. Parents can also help their children to understand and compare the life of people during that time with the lives of people the children know. The level of moral awareness in students, which varies with age, must be recognized in order to help them further develop their moral cognition.

References Du, D. C., & Ren, Y. X. (2007). The Social Harmony of Dunhuang and Buddhist Secularization. Journal of Religious Philosophy, 42, 3–182. Gao, H. Y. (2014). A Criticism of the Research on “Sacrificing Oneself for Feeding Tigers” Jataka Tales in Chinese Buddhist Art. Journal of Dunhuang Studies, 1, 170–180. Huang, Z. J. (2012). Principles of Instruction. Taipei: Shtabook. Kohlberg, L. (1971). Stage of Moral Development as a Basis for Moral Education. In C.  M. Beck, B.  S. Crittenden, & E.  V. Sullivan (Eds.), Moral Education: Interdisciplinary Approaches (pp. 34–36). New York: Newman Press. Kohlberg, L., & Turiel, E. (1971). Moral Development and Moral Education. In G.  S. Lesser (Ed.), Psychology and Educational Practice (p.  461). Glenview: Scott, Foresman.



Lin, Y. (2002). The Buddhist Jataka Tales in the Frescoes of Mogao Grottoes. Journal of Lanzhou Institute of Education, 3, 60–63. Sha, W. T. (2002). The Great Capacity: A Glance at Buddhist Thought. Taking Buddhist Art in Dunhuang Grottoes as an Example. Universal Gate Buddhist Journal, 8, 281–290. Wen, M. X. (2018). The Content and Style of Dunhuang Frescoes [Online forum]. Retrieved from Yuan, D.  H. (2014, July 30). The Stories and Historical Legacies of Dunhuang Frescoes [Online forum]. Retrieved from zhwh/14-018/4003839.html


The Philosophy of Aesthetic Education in Ch‘an Buddhism: A New Interpretation of the Mandala Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch from Dunhuang Kang Lee (李崗)

Introduction Since ancient times, Dunhuang has been a hub for exchanges between China and the West, and a significant number of Buddhist scriptures preserved there have long since disappeared elsewhere. In the beginning of the twentieth century, Wang Yuanlu (王圓籙), along with his assistants, discovered the caves with these scriptures hidden inside, and he sold these cultural relics to several Western explorers. Soon after, the Buddhist classics began to gradually attract the attention of foreign scholars and those in Chinese academic circles. There were early disputes between the two major approaches to the study of Ch‘an Buddhism (“Zen,” according to Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki 1964). In Japan, Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki (鈴木大拙) Kang Lee (李崗) (*) Department of Education and Human Potentials Development, National Dong Hwa University, Taiwan, Republic of China e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,




(1870–1966) argued that Zen transcended history, should not rely on abstract rational concepts, and had to be approached through actual handson experience (1964). In China, Hu Shi (胡適) (1891–1962) emphasized that the establishment of the philosophy of Ch‘an Buddhism had to be based on the scientific method of historical collation and should not allow for arbitrary fabrication without evidence (1953). Both Suzuki and Hu had conducted their research based on the Dunhuang manuscripts preserved in the British Museum, demonstrating that the academic value of Dunhuang’s cultural relics for the study of Ch‘an Buddhism (or Zen) is very high. Studying the international academic community’s understanding of Ch‘an Buddhism (or Zen), the researcher found that it has actually been deeply influenced by its introduction through Japanese scholars. For example, Suzuki, who lived in Europe and the United States for decades, defined Zen as an illogical way of thinking of non-dualism. He insisted on intrinsic spiritual experience and insight into reality, definitely affirmed a life of freedom, argued that Zen was everywhere, and believed Zen has had a far greater impact on Japanese art and culture than Chinese art and culture (Suzuki 1964, 2010). Shinichi Hisamatsu (久松真) (1889–1980) of the Kyoto School advocated that the essence of Zen was a formless self that showed seven culturally aesthetic characteristics: asymmetry, simplicity, austere sublimity, naturalness, profound subtlety, freedom from attachment, and tranquility (Hisamatsu 1971). While Suzuki has been suspected of being culturally biased toward nationalism, biased in favor of psychology by emphasizing the enlightenment experience, and ignoring the inherent contradictions of his own interpretation system, Hisamatsu was not accurate in the division of concept types, was over-reliant on the aesthetic experience of visual art forms, and was thus unable to form a complete aesthetic theory. In contrast, scholars from China or Taiwan have very different research perspectives. In his analysis of the images found in the Dunhuang artifacts, Mu Ji-guang (穆紀光) attempted to understand the metaphorical meaning of the artistic symbology (2007); Zhang Jie-mo (張節末) (2003) suggested not directly focusing on the analysis of works of art, but rather choosing the correct philosophical texts through which to look into the aesthetic experience of ancient life; and Lai Shen-chong (賴賢宗) (2007) delved into Heidegger’s philosophy, Taoism, Ch‘an Buddhism, and artistic creation in Taiwan, concerned with ways to view contemporary Ch‘an Buddhist art. All these scholars may break through the predicament of Ch‘an Buddhism’s aesthetics having been narrowed into Japanese-styled art. However, Lai’s aim was to explain its aesthetics system of artistic



conception, trying to create a mutual comprehensibility among the ancient, the modern, the Chinese, and the West, rather than pay attention to how Taoism and Ch‘an Buddhism differ. Zhang placed much emphasis on the historical development of Taoism in the direction of Ch‘an Buddhism—classifying the Taoist characteristics as “nothingness” while Ch‘an Buddhism’s as “emptiness”—as well as the progressive development of Ch‘an Buddhism toward being poeticized and humanized. Mu viewed painting Buddha’s body as a demonstration of the beauty of the human body, displaying the freedom of worldly life, but he lacked the evidence from the classic texts. It is obvious that the current academic discussion of Ch‘an Buddhist aesthetics has neither actively considered the text of the Mandala Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, nor puzzled over the differences between different versions of it, so it is impossible to precisely analyze the thoughts of Huineng (惠能 or 慧能) (AD 638–713) who is the author of the Mandala Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. He was the Sixth Patriarch or Six Ancestor of Chan, a famous Buddhist master and teacher in Southern Chan in Chinese history. Under this circumstance, Chinese aesthetic historians have seldom clearly explained the basic propositions of Ch‘an Buddhism’s aesthetics. Compared with other versions of the Mandala Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch, however, the New Dunhuang Museum version (DMSSP) has three unique traits. First, it is the oldest surviving version, originating between the late Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) and the early Song Dynasty (AD 960–1279). Second, it is closest to Huineng’s original thoughts, with the other versions mostly revised, enhanced, organized, or paraphrased by later generations. Third, from the very beginning, its purpose is “The Great Master Huineng ascended the high seat in the lecture hall of the Dafan Temple to expound the Great Perfection of Wisdom and to transmit the precepts of formlessness” [“說摩訶般若波羅蜜法, 受無相戒”] (Huang 2006, p.  4), which pinpoints the whole main idea. Therefore, the DMSSP has a key position in the study of Huineng. What is worth noting is that, in 1986, while visiting the Dunhuang Museum, Zhou Shao-Liang (周紹良) (1917–2005) unexpectedly found another copy of the manuscript, which became known as the DMSSP. After comparing it with the other versions, Zhou confirmed that it was a different version of the same Mandala Sutra manuscript. In this newly found version, the Chinese characters are beautifully and neatly written, with clear lines, uniform spacing, and word counts, as well as fewer mistakes than in the other versions (Yang 2001). In other words, the DMSSP is a more correct and complete version, with more credibility.



In terms of the historical development of pedagogy, the term “aesthetic education (education for feeling beauty)” was originally proposed by the German poet Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805), and later introduced into China by Cai Yuanpei (蔡元培) (1868–1940), the first Minister of Education for the Republic of China, who had studied in Germany. Both Schiller and Cai had been influenced by Kant’s aesthetics before putting forward their own respective claims about aesthetic education. In other words, aesthetic thinking should belong to the category of educational philosophy, as an indispensable theoretical basis for the practice of aesthetic education. It is a pity that many researchers in the philosophy of education regard aesthetic education only as a research theme in the field of art, not caring about the essential meaning of aesthetic thinking as philosophical research. To date, the rare research results in this educational field place too much emphasis on Western perspectives of aesthetics and not enough on those of its Eastern counterpart, so that the philosophical dialogue in cross-cultural communication is not yet substantive and deep. As a result, the profound application of aesthetics to people’s real life is very much neglected. Hence, the chapter interprets aesthetics in the philosophy of Ch‘an Buddhism, reconstructs the aesthetic education system in Ch‘an Buddhism, and explains its inspiration for contemporary aesthetic education by elaborating on the three dimensions of mahā (摩訶), prajñā (般若), and pāramitā (波羅密) according to Huineng’s core thoughts revealed by the first sentence of the DMSSP.

An Interpretation of Ch‘an Buddhism’s Aesthetics Aesthetics, in a sense, is the systematic knowledge of the nature of beauty, that is, of aesthetic experience, aesthetic judgment, and so on. Western philosophy has three major branches—metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology—and aesthetics belongs to axiology. Ancient Chinese intellectuals have rarely addressed the concept of “beauty” specifically in philosophical arguments in the academic sense of the West. However, this does not mean that aesthetic thinking has not existed in Chinese culture. By the twentieth century, intellectuals at the end of the Qing Dynasty and the beginning of the Republic of China had begun to absorb a large number of Western academic trends. During the past 100 years, many scholars in succession have employed transplanted Western aesthetic concepts as the basis for establishing Chinese aesthetics, resulting in a misunderstanding



or distortion of traditional concepts. Therefore, in this section the discussion is strategically directed back to the Chinese context of thinking by first explaining the aesthetic perspectives of Ch‘an Buddhism, and then adding Kantian aesthetics for comparison. The following sections describe the nature of the aesthetic experience from the metaphysical point of view, narrate the process of aesthetic judgment from the epistemological point of view, and interpret the results of aesthetic education from the axiological point of view. The Beauty of Mahā: The Mind Has a Great Capacity, While the Self-Nature Contains All Dharmas It is recorded in sections 24 and 25 of the DMSSP that: “Mahā means “great.” The mind’s capacity is broad and great, like space; do not meditate with a mind fixed on anything, or you will fall into ambiguity.” “Self-nature contains all dharmas—which is what is meant by “great.”” [摩訶者是大。心量廣大, 猶如虛空; 莫定心禪, 即落無記.]. (Huang 2006, p. 92) [性含萬法是大, 萬法盡是自性.]. (Huang 2006, p. 94)

“Capacity” here refers to scopes and boundaries, for which criteria should be set up in advance so that their sizes, lengths, strengths, amounts, and so on can be measured. Huineng compares the degree to which a human mind can open to the concept of space, which is vast enough to contain the sun, the moon, the stars, and everything on earth, including even both good and bad people, as well as heaven and hell. In mathematical language, “space” approximates “infinity”; in philosophical language, it transcends any fixed thinking frame. “Ambiguity” here refers to an ambiguous zone, which can neither be classified as being good or as being evil, nor be labeled or quantified, but rather, can only exist in a category that is neither good nor evil. In contrast, “space” can be either good or vicious, or is beyond being good or vicious, with a scope bigger than “ambiguity.” That is to say, all the phenomena of all things on earth are the result of the interactions of the causes and conditions of the self-nature itself, which, being empty in nature, can therefore embrace all kinds of changes. As a consequence, Ch‘an Buddhism, with its attitude toward “space,” claims that only with



the possibility of “infinity” and “changes” can aesthetical experience be constructed. This kind of experience, when compared with Kant’s aesthetics, involves the mathematical and dynamical sublime to enter the level of rational thinking and produce a moral personality that pursues ideals when faced with a variety of constantly changing objects. The difference between the two aesthetics lies in Kant’s referring to the beauty of the greatness of the transformation of the moral subject’s mind, and Huineng’s referring to the beauty of the truth of the infinite changing of the universe. The Beauty of Prajñā: Destroying the Five Aggregates, Neither Taking Nor Discarding In section 26 of the DMSSP, it is recorded that: “Prajñā is wisdom. Not for an instant being obsessed with illusory thoughts, but constantly doing wise deeds means the practice of prajñā.” “Any moment a delusory thought arises, prajñā terminates; any moment a wise thought arises, prajñā generates.” “The deluded only recite verbally, whereas the wise practice heartily. Illusion arising while reciting means not truly having wisdom; consecutive illusions arising, yet being able to decide what not to do means truly having wisdom.” [般若是智惠。一時中, 念念不思, 常行智惠, 即名般若行.]. (Huang 2006, p. 96) [一念思, 即般若絕; 一念智, 即般若生.]. (Huang 2006, p. 96) [迷人口念, 智者心行。當念時有妄, 有妄即非真有; 念念若不行, 是名 真有。]. (Huang 2006, p. 98)

Prajñā means, at any instant, not being obsessed with illusory thoughts and worries that are foolish and delusional, but rather, whenever a thought rises, thoroughly illuminating it with wisdom, in order to take the right action. It is often said that the deluded only recite verbally, whereas the wise practice heartily at all times. People who have illusions while reciting do not truly have wisdom; only people who overcome all illusions and are able to decide what not to do truly have wisdom. That is, facing all kinds of things in the world, people with wisdom will neither stick greedily and stubbornly to such things, nor give them up. People with wisdom, instead, can purely and intuitively look at all matters as generating and changing, comprehending that the genesis of the five aggregates—all phenomena, sensations, thoughts, actions, and consciousness—is certain “causes” that



aggregate under specific conditions. They know that no characteristic is fixed and unchangeable. As time passes and conditions change, the five aggregates will form different permutations and combinations. Thus, Ch‘an Buddhism’s aesthetics, with its epistemological position based on “the five aggregates,” proclaims that aesthetic judgment must be a wise aesthetic attitude. It must, in the instant between birth and destruction, see through the phenomenon of life, which is unreal. Then a wiser person understands the truth of genesis and change, so he or she never determines a subject’s value as positive or negative, depending on the individual’s emotional responses. Therefore, when people with a rigid, fixed-function mind enter this cognitive mode, they cannot put down established value standards and flexibly use various methods to make aesthetic judgments. For example, Kant believes that “beauty” is the judgment of intuition, that “sublime” is the judgment of rational thinking, and that aesthetic judgment is different from cognitive or moral judgment. Aesthetic judgment has four characteristics: no concern, no concept, no purpose, and no rules (1911). Huineng believes that only people who have a free spirit can correctly understand the nature of aesthetic experience, differing from Kant in that he believes that aesthetics is a comprehensive judgment from knowing, feeling, willing, and behaving, and that a judgment not illuminated with wisdom will only produce fake and deluded emotional perceptions. The Beauty of Pāramitā: Dwelling Neither Within Nor Without, Coming and Going at Will In section 26 of the DMSSP, it is recorded that: “Afflictions are themselves enlightenment. At one moment when deluded, they are ordinary people, yet at another when enlightened, they are Buddhas.” “When people are attached to external objects, genesis and destruction arise; [when] people [are] detached from external objects, there being not genesis and destruction, [they are] like water running long and fluently, which means reaching the yonder shore, namely “pāramitā.”” [即煩惱是菩提。前念迷即凡, 後念悟即佛.]. (Huang 2006, p. 100) [著境生滅起, 如水有波浪, 即是於此岸; 離境無生滅, 如水永長流, 故即 名到彼岸, 故名波羅蜜.]. (Huang 2006, p. 98)



Bodhi, meaning “enlightenment” in Sanskrit, is one of the fundamental requirements for people to become Buddhas. “Affliction” refers to a situation where people, deluded by greed, hatred, and ignorance, whose body and mind are restless, trapped in the whirlpool of death, birth, suffering, and joy, cannot be ultimately enlightened and liberated. At one moment when deluded, they are ordinary people, yet at another when enlightened, they are Buddhas—the difference between the former and the latter depends on their thoughts. Therefore, the time when afflictions occur also marks an opportunity for enlightenment. Take a river, for example; when its water flows through various rises and falls of the riverbed, there is the phenomenon of wave changes caused by water coming into contact with the terrain—being still, smooth, and able to run long and fluently may be water’s true nature. In other words, a stubborn, deluded heart is sputtering under the changes in the phenomena in the world, while an enlightened heart simply illuminates the changes in all phenomena in the world, staying serene and stable. The “two shores” are a metaphor used to compare spiritual practice to crossing a river, during which consciousness has to be turned into wisdom in order to cross freely, and wisdom is the result of the mind being unattached to external objects. Ch‘an Buddhist aesthetics therefore, based on the proposition of pāramitā, advocates that the essence of aesthetic education is freedom of the mind, with which, in the face of joys and sorrows, people will not lose their direction in life, but rather stay in the state of body–mind integration and keep practicing throughout their lives. In contrast, Schiller (1977) advocates that the nature of aesthetic education is whole-person education and that the purpose of aesthetic education is to cultivate free citizens and achieve social harmony and unity. The difference between the two is that Schiller deals with issues of persons not having a suitable upbringing, while Huineng is more deeply concerned with issues of disorientation in life.

Reconstructing Ch‘an Buddhism’s Theory of Aesthetic Education The Chinese term for “aesthetic education,” semantically implies two things: education for appreciating beauty and education for feeling beauty. The former, with the Chinese character shen (審), meaning “appreciation” and “evaluation,” emphasizes “discerning,” “judging,” and then “understanding”; the latter, with the Chinese character gan (感), meaning



­feeling,” emphasizes “touching” and “reacting,” and then “the body “ receives.” They each have their own foundation; therefore, although this chapter adopts the translation of gan (感), doing so does not mean to negate the cognitive thinking of human rationality, but rather to emphasize the perceptual feelings of the human body. Baumgarten (1714–1762) points out that excellent sensory perception is constituted by some form of truth, and that beauty is named “the perfection of sensuous knowledge” (Bosanquet 2002, p. 185). The content of beauty is the part–whole logical relationship, in line with the formal principle of “unity in variety” (ibid). The natural world that sensory perception can reach out to is the standard and mode of art. Imitation of nature is the law of art (ibid, pp. 182–187). Therefore, aesthetic education, when implying education for feeling beauty, is an educational activity aimed at cultivating sensory sensitivity. Furthermore, only by grasping the spirit of the whole of mankind through the coherence of thinking and feeling can truth be gained. Thinking is only perceptive of the idea of the entity, not of the entity itself, for thinking is merely one of the superficial phenomena of the nature of things. Feeling makes us aware of good and evil, beauty and ugliness, value and worthlessness, contradiction and harmony; ultimate value judgments depend on feeling, which is the motivating force behind mankind’s attempts to seek the integral combination of understanding and action. Human love for truth is also completed in feeling (Yang 1988). Max Scheler (1874–1928) argues that all experience already has latent value, and objects of experience are bearers of value (Davis and Steinbock 2014, p. 4). For instance, historic artifacts carry cultural value, while religious portraits bear sacred value. That a certain object conveys a certain value does not mean that the object is valuable intrinsically, but instead that the value it carries is intuitively given through a certain “value-ception” (Davis and Steinbock 2014, p. 4). Mastering values is the most primitive relationship between humans and this world. From this relationship we see that as a result of human spiritual activity, a feeling of beauty is not only a subjective experience of value but also an objective form of value. Therefore, aesthetic education—education for feeling beauty—is also an educational activity that takes the exploration of and reflection on personal values as the learning process. Based on the definitions given here, this chapter reconstructs Ch‘an Buddhism’s theory of aesthetic education from four standpoints: the ­purpose of aesthetic education, images of teachers, the curricula of Ch‘an Buddhism, and its teaching methods.



The Purpose of Aesthetic Education In sections 6 and 8 of the DMSSP, it is recorded that: “If people do not know their original mind, studying the Dharma is all to no avail, but when they do and see the nature of humans, they are awakened to the cardinal meaning.” “The body is the Bodhi tree, the mind a stand holding up a bright mirror, which should constantly be polished so diligently as not to be stained with dust.” (Shenxiu) “The mind is the Bodhi tree, the body a stand holding up a clear mirror. The clear mirror is originally clean and pure, where could dust be attracted?” (Huineng) [不識本心, 學法無益, 識心見性, 即吾大意.]. (Huang 2006, p. 30) [身是菩提樹, 心為明鏡臺, 時時勤拂拭, 莫使有塵埃. (神秀)]. (Huang 2006, p. 20) [心是菩提樹, 身為明鏡臺, 明鏡本清淨, 何處染塵埃. (惠能)]. (Huang 2006, p. 32)

According to the analysis in the preceding section, the basic proposition of Ch‘an Buddhist aesthetics is that the mind has a great capacity, while the self-nature contains all dharmas. In the abovementioned quotation, Huineng clearly states that “to know the mind and see the nature of humans” is the primary goal of learning. In other words, the purpose of aesthetic education is to transform people from “being narrowminded” to “being open-minded.” In terms of aesthetic experience, those with parochial views usually block themselves from the world, always insist on their individual likes and dislikes, and thus can appreciate the beauty only of specific genres. Broad-minded people are always open to exploring infinite possibilities, willing to disregard personal likes and dislikes, and therefore are able to enjoy the beauty of multiple genres. The crux of the matter lies in whether or not people know their own original mind, are able to see intuitively without any preconceived notions, and are aware of the constraints of various ideologies so as to see their potential, as well as of the unseen possibility of the development of various benevolent and perverse forces. For instance, Shenxiu’s metaphor, in fact, connotes the idea that the body and the mind have to be cleansed by an external force. This way of thinking, which is attached to superficial forms, has not yet seen the Buddha nature existing in each individual. In contrast, reversing it, Huineng emphasizes that the body



is just a vessel, inside of which is the mind, which is the genuine source of wisdom; hence, the mind has always been clean and pure as a clear mirror, unaffected by the outside world and faithfully reflecting all things instead of generating afflictions or delusive thoughts. Therefore, one’s original mind is like the earth, and its breadth can determine the breadth of aesthetic experience; one’s own nature is like a king who, being deluded or enlightened, can determine the depth of aesthetic experience. As for one’s original mind, a mind of infinite changes implies spiritual freedom, not limited by time and space; regarding one’s own nature, discernment of the benevolent and the perverse implies the meaning of personality, of integrating the sound development of the body and the mind. Hence, we can conclude that the proposition “to know the mind and see the nature” indeed means the aesthetic purpose of spiritual freedom and the integration of personality. Images of Teachers In section 14 of the DMSSP, it is recorded that: “The one-act samādhi is to keep a true mind at all times, whether, moving, staying, sitting, or lying.” [一行三昧者, 於一切時中行住坐臥, 常行真心是.]. (Huang 2006, p. 46)

The following examples of interactions between teachers and students,  according to the DMSSP, evidently depict images of Ch‘an Buddhism’s teachers. Example One: Hongren and Shenxiu. Although the student’s answer did not meet the standard, the teacher publicly affirmed its merits, yet privately directed him individually, so as to offer the student an opportunity to revisit the answer. Hongren saw that Shenxiu lacked self-confidence and yet desired the teacher’s recognition, so he accordingly made the most appropriate response. This is the beauty of a moderate tempo. Example Two: Hongren and Huineng. When the two met for the first time, the teacher directly asked the student about his needs; immediately gave tests to assess the student’s level of understanding; then assigned daily chores to observe the student’s personality traits, waiting for the key timing to create room for thinking; and finally, chose the appropriate teaching material to complete the teaching objectives. In the face of Hongren’s questioning, Huineng was not afraid to argue against it, and



asked for the basis of the teacher’s argument. This is the beauty of dialectical repartee. Example Three: Huineng and Zhichen. When a student from other teachers came to ask for advice, the teacher was willing to listen to the opinions from different positions, clearly stated his own premises and arguments, and then objectively critiqued their respective scopes of application. This is the beauty of analysis that draws the line. Example Four: Huineng and Fada. When meeting a student confused about sutras, the teacher first emphasized the relationship between personal mentality and reading comprehension; then directly analyzed the main idea of the text and core propositions; proceeded to reveal the target audience set by the author, interpreting the cardinal meaning of the classic through using the comparison and contrast; and, finally, returned to life experience and gave specific recommendations. This is the beauty of precision in finding the best solution. Example Five: Huineng and Shenhui. When faced with the students who came to challenge him, Huineng returned the questions immediately, based on the same logic. The teacher first explained his own answers and the reasons; then compared the differences between the two arguments; and finally, used logical deduction to prove the students’ own fallacies of thinking. This is the beauty of wittiness that is invincible. Example Six: Huineng and disciples. After declaring that his life would be coming to an end, the teacher used the time to answer students’ questions, summarizing his one-of-a-kind methodology into valedictions. He insisted on not having a traditional funeral as was the custom, emphasizing focusing on life practice as usual. This is the beauty of peacefulness when letting nature take its course. To sum up, Ch‘an Buddhism advocates “keep[ing] a true mind at all times,” meaning that whenever facing any kind of life experience, one should concentrate on responding peacefully and sincerely. That is the manifestation of the one-act samādhi. Confronted with ever-changing teaching situations, teachers have to be unattached to specific teaching approaches in order to conduct lively dialogs and speculation based on their own wisdom of practice, and thus create a true and sincere teacher– student relationship. This kind of teacher image, built on a true mind with love and compassion, is the art of teaching that is able to improvise and turn afflictions into enlightenment.



Ch‘an Buddhism’s Curriculum In section 17 of the DMSSP, it is recorded that: “I have established this doctrine of mine from the beginning for both sudden and gradual enlightenment methods: with no-thought as the guiding principle, no mark as the essence, and non-dwelling as the foundation.” [我自法門, 從上已來, 頓漸皆立:無念為宗, 無相為體, 無住為本.]. (Huang 2006, p. 52)

According to the analysis in the preceding section, the practical strategy of Ch‘an Buddhist aesthetics is to destroy the five aggregates, neither taking nor discarding. Just before dying, Huineng summoned the top ten disciples, asked them each to become a well-rounded teacher in the future, and, in order that they would be able to inherit the right Dharma, listed detailed uniform teaching material. The main content was the discussions of two questions: how sensory experience occurs, and how spoken and written language should be used. The first discussion was about the epistemic function attributed to the six sense organs (eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind), which involve the subject, and the six aspects (sight, sound, smell, taste, touch, and idea), which involve the object. Then six types of consciousness generated by the interaction of the subject and the object. The second discussion was about Huineng’s critique of the theory of not using written language. Some criticized Huineng for not using written language to pass on Ch‘an Buddhism, and Huineng dismissed an insistence on either using or not using written language as slandering the Dharma, because people need symbols of some kind, written or oral, to think, communicate, and of course to pass on the Dharma. With the good use of all kinds of contrast and comparison while thinking, one can thoroughly comprehend all sutras and classics, and also avoid two extremes—only remembering without thinking or only talking without doing. In other words, because some people feel and think keenly, while some dully, there are sudden or gradual approaches to only one type of Dharma, both of which are based on the same guiding principles: the goal of practice is to achieve a mind that does not differentiate, the entity of practice has no specific image, and the essence of practice is being unattached to anything. In addition, one should not confine Ch‘an Buddhism’s aesthetic curriculum to the introduction of the Mandala Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch; one must also focus directly on students’ sensory experiences and ways of



thinking in order to understand how to make aesthetic judgments, use life situations to design local material taken on the scene, and then do mutual interpretations between teachings and real life. It must be noted here that the reason Huineng unified the teaching materials and proclaimed that anybody who has the chance to see the Mandala Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch can regard themselves as seeing Huineng teaching in person was in order to break the practice of only one successor at a time. This condition is necessary for the cultivation of many teachers, but it does not mean that the teaching materials cannot be taken from the students’ life experience. Therefore, when choosing Ch‘an Buddhism’s teaching materials, the teachers can freely arrange the proportion of “text understanding,” “life dialogue,” and “problem solving” according to the students’ aptitude. Ch‘an Buddhism’s Pedagogy In section 17 of the DMSSP, it is recorded that: “Illuminating all dharmas with wisdom, neither taking nor discarding, means seeing one’s own nature and achieving the Buddha Way.” [用智惠觀照, 於一切法不取不捨, 即見性成佛道.]. (Huang 2006, p. 102)

According to the images of teachers depicted in this article, Ch‘an Buddhism has been shown to have the characteristics of differentiated teaching, and the following is a summary of how Huineng created a learning environment full of aesthetic experiences. First, mind purifying. One can use mind purifying as a preparatory activity prior to the commencement of teaching. It emphasizes concentration and maintaining a serene psychological state of the mind. This is an important ritual to be carried out every time. Second, life story telling. One can relate one’s own life experience, exposing a real situation and using it as a medium to trigger students’ empathy. This was how Huineng introduced himself when he first faced and spoke to a group of ordinary people. This approach can usually reduce the psychological distance between a teacher and the students. Third, conversion to Buddhism. One can encourage students to rediscover the true nature that all human beings are born with, and, through a set of gate-entering ceremonies, to devote themselves to the criteria of values to abide by throughout their lives. This activity is in line with voluntariness in the educational criteria.



Fourth, vow making. One can use chanting to stimulate students to strengthen their will, broaden their ambition, devote themselves to self-­ enlightening, remove fakeness and illusion, learn the truth, and achieve wisdom. This is a strategy to have a good but imperceptible influence. Fifth, repentance. One can guide the students through repentance so that they are clearly aware of their previous faults, sincerely turn over a new leaf, and forever dismiss arrogant attitudes. This is an everyday life practice, not just a moral emotion of no more than psychological significance. Sixth, precept receiving. Receiving precepts can enable the students to look carefully for and try to find the right ways for settling their body and mind, actually realizing what it indeed means that discipline is not just external forms. This is in line with worthwhileness in the educational criteria. Seventh, explaining Dharma. Whenever a teacher finds that students do not probe any further, he or she can conduct a semantic analysis of the core concepts, applying vivid imagery to make a variety of metaphors. Using images is in line with cognition in the educational criteria. Eighthly, verse making. A teacher can engage in verse making at the end of a class, and, during the process, drawing conclusions in the form of clear, plain, and easy-to-understand language with rhymed words meant for chanting, with a view to helping students practice daily. This is a teaching method in accordance with learning psychology and aesthetic interest. To sum up, mind purifying is the only way to master the secret of Ch‘an Buddhism’s pedagogy. Because conversion to Buddhism, vow making, repentance, and precept receiving are interlocking, they must be implemented step by step. The three strategies of life story telling, explanation of Dharma, and gāthā making, each having its own strengths, should be used flexibly according to the situation. The four steps and three strategies, when properly combined and applied, help to mediate cognitive and affective learning effects. Therefore, Ch‘an Buddhism’s pedagogy of aesthetic education means to create a teaching and learning situation that is both intuitive and dialectical, which encourages self-awareness, self-­reflection, self-education, and self-transcendence. Such changes in attitudes to life are exactly the beauty of mahā-prajñā-pāramitā.



The Enlightenment and the Philosophy of Aesthetic Education of Ch‘an Buddhism In the history of Western education, Plato and Aristotle are the two major sources of a classical education. The former believed that the world of sensations is illusory and only the world of ideas is real (1974). Education, as the process of pursuing truth, is ultimately aimed at understanding the beauty of eternal universality. This kind of beauty itself is actually the concept of the combination of truth, goodness, and beauty, and it transcends all the limitations of time and space. Aristotle, on the other hand, believed that sensory experience is a necessary condition for understanding the truth. He said that negative emotions tend to accumulate in the mind (1982). In order to purify or vent the negative emotions, it is necessary to bring people’s emotions to a climax through tragedy or music. This kind of experience of beauty is actually a combination of form and material. Education, as a process of potential development, must transform emotional materials by making good use of art forms in order to restore the health of the mind. These two positions, which the history of philosophy refers to respectively as idealism and realism, argue whether beauty is an “idea” or a “sensation.” This is a long-term disagreement which Western aesthetics hasn’t been able to settle. In contrast, people can see that Huineng’s aesthetic thinking has its own unique contribution. Knowing one’s original mind and seeing the nature of humans (識心見性) means to comprehend the conditions under which aesthetic experience occurs. Beauty is neither an abstract, objective, eternal form, nor a concrete, subjective, temporary content, but a state of life in which the subject and the object are united as one. Thus, different life attitudes bring diverse life experiences. Therefore, Ch‘an Buddhism’s aesthetic education not only helps people appreciate their birth, development, and changes in the world, but also criticizes the ideology that people hold when facing the world. This kind of philosophical thinking that transcends the subject–object opposition is a momentous turn in twentieth-­ century Western aesthetics, as well as a practical criterion for contemporary aesthetic education. Consequently, this chapter proposes the following six suggestions for teachers:



1. Teachers should fully accept diverse aesthetic viewpoints, lest they limit themselves to specific ideologies and cannot appreciate the aesthetic tastes of students from different cultural backgrounds. 2. Teachers should carefully observe the personality traits of students and analyze their sensory experiences and ways of thinking, so as to understand the value orientation of students’ aesthetic judgments. 3. Teachers should properly determine flexible curriculum objectives. Whether the perception of aesthetic experience, the enrichment of aesthetic knowledge, or the establishment of aesthetic values, all must be based on a sincere teacher–student relationship. 4. Teachers should be flexible in creating reflective learning opportunities. They should, according to students’ aptitude, offer different kinds of guidance to make students practice objectively assessing the advantages and shortcomings of their own arguments. 5. Teachers should have an impromptu, free teaching style, rather than follow fixed teaching patterns. They should not exclude unfamiliar learning situations, but rather guide students to clearly see that all delusions and attachments are constantly changing. 6. Teachers should practice the professional ethics of love and compassion throughout their career, not only to deeply understand the feelings of students’ preferences for a certain value, but also to correctly point out the limitations imposed by such preferences.

Conclusion In short, this chapter examines in detail the unique expositions of the DMSSP and reinterprets the basic proposition of Huineng’s aesthetics, which is the beauty of mahā-prajñā-pāramitā, and builds on the ideological system of Huineng’s aesthetic education: spiritual freedom and personality integration. Ch‘an Buddhist images of teachers show them keeping a true mind at all times and exercising love and compassion. The content of Ch‘an Buddhism’s aesthetic education emphasizes a discussion of sensory experiences and ways of thinking. Ch‘an Buddhism’s pedagogy of aesthetic education emphasizes differentiated teaching and an intuitive dialectical teaching situation design. It can be seen that, in practice, Huineng’s aesthetic education should not be limited to the religious system of Buddhists, but can be integrated into the education system of primary and secondary schools. In today’s context of globalization, with the ecological



crisis becoming more and more serious, and the aesthetic experiential ­marketing becoming prosperous, Ch‘an Buddhism’s aesthetic thinking, especially, can help educators see the causal relationships of all phenomena, discover the connections between human beings and the world, and see that the destruction of the natural environment and the changes in consumer behavior are actually the result of value judgments. As a consequence, educators from all over the world can make good use of Ch‘an Buddhism’s aesthetic thinking to effectively promote cross-cultural communication among global citizens, make intelligent aesthetic judgments, and form a multi-inclusive aesthetic experience.

References Aristotle. (1982). Poetics. London: Heinemann. Bosanquet, B. (2002). A History of Aesthetics. London: Routledge. Davis, Z., & Steinbock, A. (2014). Max Scheler. In E. N. Zalta (Ed.), The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2014 Edition). archives/sum2014/entries/scheler/ Hisamatsu, S. (1971). Zen and the Fine Arts (T. Gishin, Trans.). Tokyo: Kodansha International Ltd. Hu, S. (1953). Ch‘an Buddhism in China: Its History and Method. East and West, 3(1), 3–24. Huang, L.-C. (2006). A Revision and Translation of the New Dunhuang Museum Version of the Mandala Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. Taipei: Wan Juan Lou. [黃連忠 (2006) 。敦博本六祖壇經校釋。台北市:萬卷樓。] Kant, I. (1911). The Critique of Judgment (J.  C. Meredith, Trans.). Oxford: Oxford University Clarendon Press. Lai, S.-C. (2007). Taoist Zen, Heidegger and Contemporary Art. Taipei: Hungyeh Publishing. [賴賢宗 (2007) 。道家禪宗、海德格與當代藝術。台北市:洪葉。] Mu, J.-G. (2007). Dunhuang Art Philosophy. Beijing: Commercial Press. [穆紀光 (2007) 。敦煌藝術哲學。北京:商務。] Plato. (1974). The Republic. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books. Schiller, F. (1977). On the Aesthetic Education of Man in a Series of Letters (R. Snell, Trans.). New York: Frederick Ungar Publishing Co. Suzuki, D. T. (1964). An Introduction to Zen Buddhism. New York: Grove. Suzuki, D.  T. (2010). Zen and Japanese Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Yang, S.-K. (1988). Theory, Interpretation and Practice: The Methodology of Educational Science (Part I). Taipei: Shita Books.



[楊深坑 (1988) ­ 。理論、詮釋與實踐:教育學方法論論文集(甲輯)。台北:師 大書苑。] Yang, Z.-W. (2001). A New Edition of the New Dunhuang Museum Version of the Mandala Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch. Beijing: Religious Culture. [楊曾文 (2001) 。新版敦煌新本六祖壇經。北京:宗教文化。] Zhang, J.-M. (2003). Ch‘an Buddhism’s Aesthetics. Taipei: World Religions Museum Foundation. [張節末 (2003) 。禪宗美學。台北市:世界宗教博物館基金會。]


West Meets East: The Interplay of Unity and Diversity—The Relevance of Dunhuang for Education and Life Today Xu Di (许笛)

Introduction One of the major intriguing attractions of Dunhuang studies that has continually generated excitement and sustained fascination since Dunhuang’s rediscovery in 1900 is the richness and depth of the civilization portrayed in its grottoes. The Dunhuang Grottoes not only present the artistic beauty, through the stunning frescoes and sculptures in hundreds of constructions over a thousand years, from the fourth to the fourteenth century, but also offer layers of complexity and variety in all their remaining artifacts for a large range of scholarly studies and fields. On the surface, Dunhuang seems to be a deposit of a singular heritage—Buddhism. However, with a close-up analysis, it appears to be a kaleidoscope that provides knowledge, teaching, and insights in multiple fields and for vastly different cultures and time ­periods depending on the angle and lens of the viewers. Xu Di (许笛) (*) Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,



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This chapter focuses on the intriguing interplay between the unity and diversity revealed through the frescoes, sculptures, scriptures, scholarly works, and other artifacts discovered in Dunhuang’s Grottoes. The purpose is to examine the patterns and meaning of the richness in both the diversity and unity in search of relevance for education and life in today’s global context. In an effort to synthesize the manifested diversity, richness, and unity, this chapter focuses on the diversity and unity within Dunhuang Buddhism, the multicultural scholarly works, and the diversity and unity in education and life. It then goes on to discuss the connection and relevance between Dunhuang and contemporary education and life.

Unity and Diversity in Dunhuang Buddhism The Dunhuang Grottoes were constructed as Buddhist spiritual practices starting with Le Zun in AD 366. After that, for over a thousand years and during ten dynasties, kings and commoners alike built new grottoes to follow Buddhist teaching and to use as temples, for religious rituals and ceremonies, for community and family gatherings, and as end-of-life resting places. The frescoes, sculptures, and structures in all the grottoes rather clearly all had and still have a clear focus and constant theme—to share, teach, and practice Buddhism. At the same time, the grottoes in Dunhuang document the long and sustainable history of Buddhism, travels from the West, India and Nepal in particular, eastward along the western borders of ancient China, and eventually reaching the Central Plains and imperial capitals and even farther, to Korea and Japan (Chen 1964; Welch 1967). Buddhist Consistency Dunhuang’s Library Cave #17, discovered in 1900, yielded historical artifacts and documents in addition to frescoes and sculptures that are known to the world in all the other grottoes. It has been reported that 90 percent of the documents are Buddhist scriptures (or sutras, or jing, 经), paintings, and historical records. All the hard evidence indicates the prominent nature of Buddhism and its philosophy in this world heritage, which flourished and continued for over one thousand years despite the vicissitudes of ten dynasties, from Beiliang (北凉, AD 421–439) to Yuan (元, 1127–1368) and with different rulers and various cultural and time contexts. The frescoes in all the Dunhuang Grottoes, big or small, have a Buddha and Bodhisattvas as the main worshipping focal points, often in all four



directions. The main reverence displayed certainly is toward the founder of Buddhism, Siddhār tha Gautama, also known as Gautama Buddha, Shakyamuni Buddha, or simply the Buddha (563/480–c. 483/400 BCE) (Cousins 1996, pp. 53–63; Norman 1997, p. 33; Rawlinson 1950, p. 46). Sculptures and paintings of him and depicting his life stories can be found throughout the many grottoes, such as the cross-ankled Buddha in the interior niche on the west wall in Cave #268 (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 29), built during the Sixteen Kingdoms; Buddha and his disciples in Cave #322 (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 87), early in the Tang Dynasty; and the huge sculpture of Buddha, 34.5 meters high, in Cave #96, constructed in AD 695 (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 76). In addition, as the years passed, the images in the grottoes presented and focused on the famous disciples who became Buddhas and Bodhisattvas through their own cultivation, service, and spiritual practices. Among them, Guan Yin (观音), or Avalokitesvara, is the most depicted. On the south wall of Cave #57 (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 71), her painting has been called the “most beautiful” Guan Yin. On the north wall in Cave #3 (in the Yulin Caves) (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 231) is her famed thousand arms and thousand eyes image, signifying that she is always listening to and helping all souls in any given moment. In addition, Amitabha, Maytreyie, Medicine Buddha, Ananda (Anan, 阿难), and Kasyapa (Jiaye, 伽叶) are all frequent choices for the frescoes’ central sculptures. Together they represent those who understand the meaning of human suffering, the Oneness of humanity and all souls, the sacrifice of personal lives to seek persistent cultivation via Buddhism, and the final accomplishment of enlightenment and deliverance. While these frescoes, or jingbian (经变), spoke to and educated the general public, many of whom could not read at the time, both the core and advanced Buddhist teachings also came in the form of sutras, or scriptures. Throughout the thousand years of the formation of the Dunhuang Grottoes, the evidence of the sutras, both in the frescoes and the hard copies, remains very consistent. They contain the primary Buddhist classics and often focus on the core Buddhist cannon, for instance FahuaJing (法华经, Lotus Sutra or Saddharmapundarika-sutra), Niepanjing (涅槃 经, Nirvana Sutra), and Weimojijing, (维摩诘经, Vimalakirtinirdesa-­ sutra). Together these jingbians make up 147 fresco paintings: 67 Lotus Sutra paintings, 21 Nirvana Sutra ones, and 81 Vimalakirtinirdesa-sutra illustrations (Fan 2010, p. 14). The same is true for the hard copy scriptures from the Library Cave #17. The abovementioned three sutras also


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appear repeatedly. In addition, Dunhuang’s artifacts present Jinggangjin (金刚经, The Diamond Sutra or The Vajracchedika-prajna-paramita Sutra), Guanwuliangshoujing (观无量寿经, Amitayurdhyana Sutra), Guan Yin Jing (Lotus Sutra), Aditaba Jing (Sukhāvatī-vyūha), Duoluomiduojing (多罗蜜多经, The Heart Sutra or Prajnaparamita), and others (Hao 2006b), which are the core classics of the Mahayana Buddhist tradition. The Lotus Sutra has the most copies among all the sutras, so far over 5000 among Dunhuang artifacts alone (Fan 2010, p. 21), which shows its popularity and significance among Chinese believers based on their own cultural core and their needs in daily life. The teachings of these Buddhist scriptures and classics consistently guide people to pursue self-cultivation as the true knowledge and meaning of the universe. They show deliverance from the daily sufferings through the development of compassion, kindness, gratitude, services, and Oneness. Buddhism emphasizes the continuum of life and the cause–effect impact of good or bad deeds in personal lives and family lineages through one’s choices. The teaching advocates that all human beings regardless of age, gender, social status, or culture all have Buddha’s nature within and can become a Buddha or Bodhisattva if they choose to follow the disciplines of Buddhism diligently and faithfully. Diversity Within Buddhism While the core teachings remain rather consistent, Dunhuang’s Buddhism exhibits much diversity and many changes over the thousand years of its flourishing expansion. The most noticeable changes in the frescoes are in the images of Buddha, spiritual beings, and other beings. In the early paintings created during the Sixteen Kingdoms, for example, the Buddha in the niche on the west wall and the Jataka of Bhilanjili, a story of Buddha in his previous life, on the north wall in Cave #268 and the apsaras and worshipping Bodhisattvas on the south wall in Cave #275 all are topless, with decorative scarves or capes, representing Indian cultures and the roots of Buddhism (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, pp.  28–29). However, on the west wall in Cave #130, the second largest Buddha in Dunhuang, which was built in the Tang and rebuilt in the Song dynasties, appears more Chinese in his facial features and clothing (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 103). On the south wall, Lady Wang and her family and followers wear clothing distinctive of the Chinese Central Plains, reflecting the fashions of the Tang Dynasty (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 105).



These visual changes are not simply the subtle variations of the artisans’ personal styles (Curtis 2006). Rather they reflect the convergence and changes as Buddhism expanded into the Chinese culture and toward the Central Plains. As the Buddhist disciples and practitioners changed and grew in a new geographical and cultural context, the changes in facial features and attire brought familiarity, comfort, and a connection with the new believers or believers-to-be. While the Buddhist classics remain constant, the gentle changes in appearance indicate the continual cultural fusion and ongoing religious expansion. Such development on a much larger scale can also be seen through the impact of Buddhism on multiple nations, tribes, and cultures in the region, illustrated by the Buddha’s preaching to princes. On the south side of the east wall in Cave #159, the Tubo King (ancient Tibet) and princes from different nations come to listen to Buddhist teaching (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 139). In Cave #158, one of the world’s most artistic and vivid presentations of Buddha’s nirvana, depicts dignitaries from various nations and places: “kings from Tubo and Han in the Central Plains of China, princes from countries in Turkey, Xingjiang, Kunlun in the South China Sea, Central Asia, East Asia, etc.” (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 133. Author’s translation). All these artifacts show that Buddhist teachings quickly expanded from one culture and place to become the beliefs and practices for human cultivation and development among multiple cultures, nations, and peoples. This development was not one directional or dimensional from its birthplace in Nepal and India to the rest of the regions. Multicultural participation often brings fusion and enrichment to the original beliefs and practices as is depicted in Cave #158, where each person mourns Buddha in his own cultural rituals (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 133). As a result of Buddhism’s expansion in all directions from its origin to its neighboring nations and tribes, the Buddhist scriptures in Sanskrit and multiple Hindi languages started to be translated, copied, and even printed into multilingual foreign texts. Dunhuang’s Library Cave #17 reveals texts in Tubo (吐蕃), Sanskrit (梵文), (回鹘), Sogdiana (粟特), Yutian (于阗), Kuca (龟兹) (Fan and Luo 2010, p. 3). In the small meditative Cave B149, about one square meter in size, a stone placard was discovered with Guan Yin’s mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” in five languages—Sanskrit, Tubo, Uyghur, Pagba, and Chinese—with the additional Chinese phrases “meditate deep into universal consciousness; see Buddha from all ten directions,” and an engraved stupa (Fan and Peng 2007, p.  76. Author’s translation). In addition, in the northern district of the Mogao Grottoes


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the scriptures include some in the West Xia language, Mongolian, Uyghur, and Mongolian bilingual texts in Pagba script1 (or Phags-pa, Basibawen, 八思巴文) and Chinese as well as Brahmi scripts (poluomi, 婆罗迷字) (Fan and Peng 2007, p.  103). There are printed scriptures in Chinese, Tangut2 (Xixiawen 西夏文), Uyghur, and Mongolian, as well as Pagba that came from other cities and nations. However, the discovery of wooden printing characters in Uyghur indicates that some of the scriptures were printed in the northern district of Dunhuang Grottoes (Fan and Peng 2007). Apart from 14, 000 paper scrolls and fragments from this cave [#17] at Dunhuang, the British Library Stein collection includes several thousand woodslips and woodslip fragments with Chinese writing, thousands of Tibetan and Tangut manuscripts, Prakrit wooden tablets in Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts, along with document s in Khotanese, Uighur, Sogdian and Eastern Turkic. (Brahmi 2018)

The translation of Buddhist scriptures over thousands of years in multiple languages testifies to people’s receptivity and to the sustainability of these beliefs and teachings in diverse cultures and nations over time. Obviously, Buddhism addresses people’s spiritual, mental, psychological, and practical needs, strikes a cord with them, and provides deep meaning to their understanding of themselves and the world around them. At the same time, such large-scale translation in multiple languages over time also has enriched Buddhism with the perceptions and interpretations of the varied cultures. For no language translation can be exact because of the nature of language and the process of human cognition. This multicultural enrichment and infusion gave more depth and meaning to Buddhism’s development, teaching, and extension. Interestingly, in the translated scriptures, people from different regions and cultures tended to copy, print, and use certain passages they could connect to or favored based on their understanding, which was influenced by their particular culture. The same is true for the jingbian depicted in the Dunhuang frescoes. Cave #465 (Yuan Dynasty) is a typical Tibetan Tantric Buddhist temple that illustrates the secret and sacred special yoga practices developed through the unique interaction between traditional Buddhism and the Tibetan branch in the seventh century (Tantric Buddhism 2018; Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, pp. 235–237).



In this cave, naked couples, larger than life, embrace in their intercourse everywhere. These art presentations are a striking contrast with the frescoes of traditional Buddhism and Han Mystic Buddhism. Obviously, they are acting contrary to the morality of Confucianism in the Chinese Central Plains… However, this cave was constructed in a relatively remote area in the northern district, away from the southern district where the temples of traditional Buddhism and Han Mystic Buddhism are located. It served the needs of Tibetan Buddhist disciples and avoided obvious conflict with the other Buddhist traditions—a win–win situation for all. No wonder that, in the Yuan Dynasty, people called Cave #465 a secret temple. (Fan and Peng 2007, pp. 34–35. Author’s translation)

Over the years, the expansion of Buddhism created different branches, sects, and practices, and the evidence in Dunhuang indicates a peaceful coexistence among them throughout time. While Cave #465 does not reflect mainstream Buddhism in the Dunhuang Grottoes, it represents the diversity and inclusiveness of different developments in Buddhism, aligning with the Buddhist saying and understanding that there are 84,000 (meaning infinite) dharma doors to enlightenment. Such diverse development has continued since Dunhuang, with Japanese Dong Mi (East Mystic Buddhism) in the ninth century and Korean Won Buddhism in the twentieth century.

Multicultural Manifestation in the Dunhuang Artifacts The doors or venues of learning and cultivation in Dunhuang are not limited to Buddhism alone. The artifacts from Library Cave #17 and other grottoes in Dunhuang have provided rich and diverse spiritual and scholarly works from multiple cultures and nations in that region. There are a variety of pathways for people to learn, cultivate, and grow, and they intersect and interconnect in Dunhuang. Spiritual Diversity Christianity  A bronze cross, a symbol of Christianity, was discovered in Grotto B105, and in Grotto B53, four pages of Bible hymns in the Syrian language and dating to the Yuan Dynasty have been found (Fan and Peng 2007; Saeki 1951). According to Shiji, an early branch of Christianity,


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Nestorianism, called Jingjiao (Jing Religion, 景教) in Chinese (Sima 1961/1993), arrived in China from Persia. Nestorianism spread and was practiced in the Tang Dynasty for 150 years, until it was banned in AD 845, then again flourished in the Yuan Dynasty in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (Moule 1930; Tang 2004). Artifacts discovered in Dunhuang indicate the continuous existence of Nestorianism in remote areas even after the official ban in the capital and the Central Plains in China. Marco Polo, who traveled through Dunhuang, noted that Nestorians were among the Buddhists, who were the majority in that area during that time (Polo 1298/1907; Fan and Peng 2007). Hinduism  Because of the geographic connection, the Hinduism of the Indian subcontinent, the oldest living religion in the world, has long coexisted and interacted with Buddhism (Hinduism 2018; The Religions in Dunhuang 2014). This historical intersection has produced shared beliefs, gods or goddesses, teachings, and stories. For instance, both religions embrace the concepts of samsara, a continuous and repeated soul journey in the afterlife, and karma, the causes and effects of one’s actions, which determine an individual’s good or bad fortune (The Religions in Dunhuang 2014). Buddhist pantheons often include Hindu gods or goddess, especially in Tibetan Buddhism. For example, Guan Yin (观音), the most beloved Bodhisattva in China, is Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit and in the original Buddhism is believed to be borrowed from Hinduism, in particular from Shiva or Vishnu. Tibetan Buddhism also believes he or she is Ṣaḍākṣarı̄, “Lord of the Six Syllables,” according to his or her mantra. He or she is known as Kannon in Japanese Buddhism and has unique titles in Buddhist beliefs in various nations (Yu 2016). The frescoes in the Dunhuang Grottoes clearly illustrate the relation or fusion to a certain degree between Hinduism and Buddhism. Throughout a thousand years, the frescoes depicted and taught samsara and karma. In the center of the fresco on the north wall of Cave #275, the Jataka of King Bhilanjili portrays the previous life of Śākyamuni, who demonstrates his courage and faith by allowing Yaksha, a malevolent spirit, to hammer nails into his own body (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 29). Next to it is the Jataka of King Candraprabha, who peacefully allows his own head to be cut off to indicate his unwavering belief and determination to pursue enlightenment and cultivation (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 30). Many paintings and sutras teach that



good deeds continually bring good karma and enlightenment in one’s life in the past, present, and future, and bad deeds bring bad karma to one’s life and one’s samsara (soul journey). For instance, murals in Cave #296 vividly capture the horrible marriages and sufferings during the five life times of Wei Miao (微妙, BhkisunniSuksma) as a result of her prior killing of her own child (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 52). She eventually became a Buddhist nun. The teaching of these religious beliefs in Hinduism and Buddhism is intended to guide human daily life with spiritual principles for moral character and betterment. Early Islam: Zoroastrianism  For many years, scholars and historians have believed that the influence of Zoroastrianism, or Huoyaojiao (火袄教) in Chinese, with its obvious impact on China, came from Iran. The historical research of Forte (1999), puts the time period between AD 148 and AD 845 as “the most reasonable choice,” paralleling “the blooming and flourishing of Buddhism in China” (p. 278). In AD 148 an Iranian Buddhist monk, An Shigao (安世高), arrived in Luoyang, the Chinese capital at the time, and in AD 845 all religions of foreign origins were purged after the Tang Dynasty regained its power from a general of Iranian descent who overthrew Tang and established Da Yan (大燕) in AD 756 (Forte 1999). Scholars have been examining the historical evidence and debating the exact beginning of Zoroastrianism in China and the scope and details of its impact (Liu 1976; Zhang 1992). However, through excavations in Xinjiang Ughur Autonomous Region of China in 2014, archaeologists have “discovered major Zoroastrian tombs, dated over 2,500 years ago” (Han 2014). This discovery provides the oldest evidence of Zoroastrianism, which was the state religion of the ancient Persian Empire. In light of this new finding, a serious and heated debate regarding the origin of this religion in China is under way. Regardless of the exact time and origin of Zoroastrianism, it is certain that the religion spread to China through its western border. Artifacts from Dunhuang, as mentioned in Chap. 2, corroborate the time of the influence and practice of Zoroastrianism in China. While Zoroastrianism was not a major religion in any particular time in Chinese history, it was practiced by a minority, primarily in the western region, and coexisted with other religious beliefs between the first and ninth centuries in China.


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Daoism  On the Dunhuang Academy website, Daoism is the religion listed second, after Buddhism, in the description of religions in Dunhuang (Religions in Dunhuang 2014). Daoism originated as an indigenous Chinese philosophy and metaphysics. Laozi is considered its founder and his work, Daodejing (道德经, Laozi 1999), as its all-inclusive wisdom and text. Laozi (sixth century BC) did not establish his teaching as a religion nor did he advocate reverent worship of any particular God or gods. His work expresses a profound spiritual and metaphysical consciousness and understanding, showing the natural “Dao” as the universal principles and virtue that guide all realms and souls throughout and in transcendence of time and space. The Dunhuang Library Cave #17, contained over 500 Daoist classics and artifacts including Laozi (老子), Zhuangzi (庄子), Wenzi (文子), Liezi (列子) as well other Daoist writings, essays, and poems (Fan and Peng 2007, p. 141). Together they make up about 10 percent of the total artifacts in Cave #17, not an insignificant number in an overall Buddhist site. Laozi’s work, and later Zhuangzi’s dialectic method (fourth century BC), influenced the Chan School in Buddhism later in the sixth century (Oh 2000). The most noticeable fusion between Daoism and Buddhism can be found in Caves #249 and #285 with the appearance in the Buddhist frescoes of the legendary Chinese and Daoist figures of Dong Tian Gong and Xi Wang Mu (the East Heavenly Father and the West Celestial Mother) and the Eight Daoist Immortals (Schmid 2018; Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 44). The vivid images illustrate a fusion and synergy between Indian Buddhism and indigenous Chinese beliefs. Laozi’s work has been published in numerous languages, and Daoism is still viewed and revered by spiritual practitioners, philosophers, and scholars worldwide primarily as a rich spiritual, philosophical, and scholarly teaching. As Laozi’s followers continued to learn and practice Daoism, many different schools and practices developed. Along the way, some of these practices started to focus on the rituals and mythical aspects of the Dao and became religious. Religious Daoism was established in the 2nd century AD and matured in the 5th century AD. Daoists lay claim to lineages dating back to Laozi. Their final goal is to seek immortality through practice. During the long history of its development, it embraced the gods and goddesses from Chinese folk belief into its pantheon. More importantly, it also adopted the philosophy and institutions (priests, monasteries, etc.) of Buddhism. It has multiple lineages, and some of the practices became linked to meditation, martial



arts, alchemy and even sexual practices. In the earliest stage of Buddhism in China, the missionaries applied the local terms and concepts to deliver the Buddha’s message. That is why the Buddhist pantheon features some immortals from Daoism. (The Religions in Dunhuang 2014, Section B)

Frescoes in the Dunhuang Grottoes indicate that there were five or more Daoist temples in Dunhuang during the Tang Dynasty and that the sponsors of these grottoes participated in Buddhist rituals and worship as well (Fan and Peng 2007). In traditional Chinese temples, especially in the villages, it is common to see both Buddhist and Daoist icons coexisting and being worshipped together, sometimes with the inclusion of Confucius as well. Interestingly, the fate of Dunhuang, as we know it now, has an incredible connection with Daoism. Whereas the Dunhuang artifacts and frescoes illustrate the consistent connection between Buddhism and Daoism over a thousand years, subtle or significant, its last contact with Daoism, with disciple Wang Yuanlu (1849–1931), is perhaps the most powerful turning point. Wang set up a Daoist temple in a Dunhuang ruin, similar to many traveling monks, priests, and adventurers previously. His hired worker happened to discover Library Cave #17, which held most of the scriptures, texts, and artifacts of Dunhuang, and later Wang sold many valuable items to the British, French, American, and Japanese explorers in the early 1900s (Fan and Luo 2010). Certainly, Wang’s deeds played a significant role in making Dunhuang and its treasures known to the rest of the world after it had fallen into oblivion and subsequently led to the emergence and development of global Dunhuang studies. However, most Chinese see him as a “traitor,” an “ignorant” or “greedy” Daoist disciple because of the major loss of these treasures. Some scholars have commented on his continued efforts to make the discovery known and pointed out the overall decaying state of feudal China under pressure from European colonizing forces, which had much to do with the loss of the valuable Dunhuang treasures. Scholarly Richness Dunhuang’s diversity is not limited to its religious richness and depth. The other scholarly works discovered at the Dunhuang site are not large in number or percentage compared to the Buddhist scriptures or related artifacts, which make up approximately 90 percent of the total collection. However, these other items are definitely diverse and rich in their topics,


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focuses, types, and times and high in scholarly quality and variety. Noticeably they consist of prominent classic Chinese cannons and schools of thoughts such as Confucianism, Daoism, ancient histories, and numerous subjects and fields. Confucian Works Confucianism has long been described as one of the fundamental triple pillars, together with Daoism and Buddhism, of Chinese civilization. In the West, Confucianism, like Daoism, is often viewed and interpreted as a religion instead of a scholarly and practical philosophy. However, in reality, Confucius (551–479 BC) himself said his beliefs were not religious in nature per se, and his teaching focused very much on human affairs, human relations, politics, and governance, all through education. All the key Confucian classics can be found among the Dunhuang treasures, 20–30 types and 261 volumes (Dunhuang 2016): Analects (论语) (Hao 2006a, pp.  1–32), Chun Qiu (春秋左传) (Yang and Hao 1995, Vol.  14, pp.  491–495), Questions and Answers between Confucius and Xiangtuo (孔子项讬问书) (Yang and Hao 1995, Vol. 14, pp. 420–246), and Xiaojing (孝经, Book of Filial Piety) (Hao 2006a, pp. 539–546), to name a few. Xiaojing (Book of Filial Piety) has been largely viewed as fake Buddhist scripture and is considered a Confucian scholar’s work in the name of Buddhist teaching. In addition, Confucian scholars’ books, essays, and poems can be found in different dynasties throughout the Dunhuang collections. Their existence among the primary Buddhist scriptures and artifacts indicates that the priests and monks also studied Confucianism and that Confucian teaching and learning spread in that region among the people, Buddhist or otherwise, as basic studies. However, the evidence of Confucianism in the Dunhuang frescoes is very limited and subtle. It is reflected more in the paintings that teach filial piety, a signature of Confucian teaching and morality, and in the illustrations of polite greetings, or li (礼). Nevertheless, the appearance of Confucian texts in Dunhuang consistently over the dynasties shows a harmonious accordance between Confucianism and Buddhism in their fundamental metaphysics, teaching, and practices. Both focus on profound human cultivation through life-long learning, emphasize benevolent human relations, and advocate high moral and ethical principles such as harmony, peace, gratitude, compassion, and trustworthiness. While Confucianism approaches this learning through humanistic relations,



social and political structures, and classic Chinese Six arts (Liuyi, 六艺) in one’s current life, Buddhism aims at transcendence from the present suffering to eternal light via consciousness expansion and transformation for the future. Actually, Daoism also shares a similar orientation toward human cultivation and an emphasis on virtue both in understanding and in action throughout one’s lifetimes. Prof. Mu (牟宗三) from Taiwan, who discussed the relations of these three fundamental philosophies and the roles they played in Chinese history (Mu 1983), points out their similar orientations as well as their differences. In cultivation, Daoism likes to talk about peace; Confucianism often discusses stability; Buddhism teaches us to discontinue (bad human deeds and habits). The text of Da Xue (大学) indicates that “when one stops, one can have stability; when there is stability, there is peace. In peace there is calmness. Once calm, one can ponder in clarity. In clarity, one can accomplish.” These concepts are similar and related. (Mu 1983, p. 95. Author’s translation)

Perhaps it can be said that these three metaphysical philosophies point in a similar direction and orientation for human development and weigh in heavily on a virtuous and moral character while offering somewhat varied content, focuses, and approaches. Daoist cultivation is the most inclusive, including past, present, and future, in heaven and on earth as well as all realms and all souls in all times and even no times (Laozi 1999). Buddhism addresses human beings, all sentient beings, and light beings or enlightened Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Confucianism cultivates junzi (君子), an exemplary and knowledgeable moral being and a teacher, among all living secular beings. In their similarities and differences the three schools of thought generate a philosophical synergy embodying dialectics, which intriguingly connects both convergence and divergence at once. At the same time, all three ontologies are very practical in addressing actual human conditions and methods to transform humans for better outcomes. Chinese Histories  The Dunhuang frescoes and artifacts are the most valuable historical documents and evidence for a thousand years of Chinese history, between the fourth and the fourteenth centuries. However, the historical texts, consisting of 60–70 types (Dunhuang 2016), cover a much longer period of time, from as far back as 3000 BC to the fifth and sixth centuries BC of Laozi’s and Confucius’ times. Among the significant


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and famous ancient history books are “Shiji (史记), Hanshu (汉书), Sanguozhi (三国志), and Jinshu (晋书)” (Rong 2013, p.  372). For instance, there are different versions of Shiji by Si Maqian (司马迁, 145–87? BC), which have 130 sections that cover more than 3000 years of Chinese history, from the legendary Emperor Huang (approximately 3000 BC) to Emperor Wu in the Han Dynasty (122 BC) (Jian 1979; Yi 2007; Sima 1961). Some from the Tang Dynasty and some from the Six Dynasties are now housed in the Paris National Library. Another famous history book is Hanshu, written by Ban Gu (2011) in AD 86, which documents the history of China from 206 BC to AD 23. In the northern district of the Dunhuang Grottoes, archaeologists have found Zizhitongjian, (资治通鉴) written by Sima Guan (司马光, 1019–1086) in the Song Dynasty. This collection has 294 volumes and documents 1362 historical events in 16 Chinese dynasties from 403 BC to AD 959 (Fan and Peng 2007, pp. 144–145). Dunhuang scholars so far have discovered 11 different versions of Yijing, (易经, Book of Change), one of the most important classic texts of Chinese philosophy (Dunhuang 2016). These history texts and varied commentaries on each version during different dynasties, not only record the events and changes in the social, political, economic, and cultural aspects of China for over four thousand years; they also illustrate the fundamental core of Chinese philosophical and cultural roots, which still strongly impact contemporary China. In addition, the artifacts contain rich historic documents of the diplomatic relation between the Chinese Central Plains and China’s neighboring nations, tribes, and cultures and their fusion through time. These documents often corroborate and supplement the history of Tibet, India, Iran (or Persia in early days), Mongolia, Afghanistan, and other countries. As a result, Dunhuang preserves written documents covering more than four thousand years in that part of mother earth, a valuable, significant, and profound library of the world and human history. Other Educational Texts and Works The discussion so far has already revealed the most impressive scope of the Dunhuang findings. However, there is much more to Dunhuang’s holdings. Its texts include many basic curricula for beginning learners in Chinese, as Chap. 1 mentions, and Chap. 11 discusses in depth. These basic texts, which focus on moral teachings of respect and harmony while teaching learners how to read and write, show that the core of the beginning Chinese curriculum remained stable during a time span of a thousand years.



In addition, in Grotto B184  in the northern district of Dunhuang, archaeologists discovered a fragment of a page of a bilingual Tangut– Chinese dictionary called Fan-Han Heshi Zhangzhongzhu (番汉和时掌中珠), which literarily means the “The Handbook of Foreign-Chinese Pearls.” The book was published in 1190 and became a valuable tool for the communication and interaction between the two cultures and peoples during that time (Fan and Peng 2007, pp.  114–115). A complete copy of the dictionary was discovered in 1909 by a Russian explorer in the ruins of Heishui City in Mongolia. In the same grotto mentioned above and in B56 and B465, two Tangut texts for beginners appeared: one is Sancaizazi (三才杂字, Sets of Three Characters) and the other is Suijing (碎金, Gold Fragments). The former uses a set of three characters to teach literacy, and the latter cleverly organizes 1000 Tangut characters into a poem with five in a line and a total of 200 lines altogether (Fan and Peng 2007, p. 116). The estimated time of the publication of Suijing is before the twelfth century. The introduction to Suijing states its purpose as being to “learn literacy, understand the law, know rituals, and teach success” (Fan and Peng 2007, p. 117. Author’s translation). Each of the discovered texts is a piece of the puzzle, and, putting them together, we can piece together the core content and curriculum, and the connections within the systematic educational landscape, formal and informal, religious and secular, in the Dunhuang region for Chinese and other ethnicities and cultures in multiple languages and with multiple focuses.

Diversity and Richness in Dunhuang Education and Life In reality, it is not feasible for a single chapter, book, or even several volumes to completely capture the entirety of the Dunhuang artifacts that reveal its education and life over a thousand years. The richness and diversity of the artifacts touch every single aspect of human life and learning. Dunhuang studies has branched in numerous directions, starting with archaeology, history, and Buddhism, expanding to the arts, architecture, sociology, multicultural and ethnic studies, geography, international ­relations, political science, economics, trades, the military, literature, poetry, music, dance, calligraphy, sports, medicine, science and technology, transportation, and cultural exchange. “In every aspect, Dunhuang’s collection shows its grandness and brilliant depth. It presents the essence of Chinese


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culture and showcases a unique flower in the history of the global cultures” (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 17. Author’s translation). More importantly, the all-inclusive knowledge and wisdom revealed in these studies of Dunhuang are not merely written words in the texts and the still life in the paintings, but were actually lived in the real educational process and in daily life. The diverse and rich texts and scriptures show that those involved in learning were not only Buddhist monks, nuns, and priests; they included the commoners, from the poor and middle classes, to the wealthy in every walk of life—kings, generals, soldiers, and tradesman of multiple ethnicities and languages. They depict everyday aspects of life, from hunting, farming, military fighting, playing, preaching, and learning to life and death rituals, and more. Through all this, Dunhuang opens a window to a thousand years of life in the past, preserves a rich heritage, and presents a true “encyclopedia” for human study and development. Indeed, it dazzles us with its breadth and depth, the magnificent works and unfathomed wisdom and knowledge. Insights and Relevance for Contemporary Education and Life So far, this chapter has traced the history of some of the texts and artifacts in Dunhuang to show the wide range of diversity and richness in its metaphysics, beliefs, scholarship, educational curricula, languages, cultures, and practices. The power of Dunhuang and its magnetic attraction to scholars and other people alike continue to this day. It is largely because of the interconnectedness and richness of so many fields, which uncover the complexity and wisdom of all of human existence. How, then, does all this inform us today? How does Dunhuang relate to the contemporary and global education and to human life? A close examination and celebration of the Dunhuang heritage offers a deeper understanding of its richness and diversity, both historically and metaphysically. Currently when we discuss diversity, we often frame the question in the context of this century or, at most, the last century. Many scholars believe that multiculturalism started in America in the 1970s, building on the momentum of the Civil Rights Movement (Banks 2014; Gollnick and Chinn 2009). Indeed, American philosophers, scholars, ­educators, and others have made a great contribution and have taken a special lead in formalizing multicultural education in the public schools. However, such views are very limited and omit the long history of human efforts and the roots of diversity. When we consider this long history,



t­ aking Dunhuang as an example, we realize that diversity and its richness have been prominent in the entire human history from the very beginning of our existence and throughout our human development. Therefore, diversity is not a fad, short-lived, or something temporarily American; it is the core manifestation of humanity and the universe and thus is to be celebrated and not feared. In examining the multicultural encounters in Dunhuang, we see the choices and interconnections that our ancestors made through the most challenging and harsh conditions during medieval times. They chose to learn from one another, connect, and co-exist through ten dynasties over a thousand years. The Chinese learned Buddhism in the context of Daoism and Confucianism, and vice versa. Xixia (or Western Xia, a country neighboring Mongolia, Tibet, and Western China, AD 1038–1227) and Mongolia created their own languages based on their interactions with the Chinese. As a result, all thrived—religions, scholarship, education, art and music, architecture and construction, political and social governance, and above all, the famous trading along the Silk Road. As they coexisted and learned from one another, they created a genuine oasis of vibrant human existence and development in the barren Gobi Desert. The diversity and the richness it manifested connected all. This continuous interaction, collaboration, fusion, and synergy enriched everyone who resided in Dunhuang, passed through, and were touched spiritually, educationally, and materially. Such interaction is the key element that developed and sustained Dunhuang for over a thousand years. Certainly, as we look back into Dunhuang’s history, there is human nostalgia and the romantic tendency to glorify the positive outcomes of the past, viewing them through a rosy lens or predetermined positionality. In reality, Dunhuang was far from a utopia and a perfect Land of Enlightenment. During the fourth to the fourteenth centuries and prior to the inception of the Dunhuang Grottoes, there were numerous wars due to tribal conflicts, changes in imperial dynasties, and ethnic confrontations. This harsh reality was actually the impetus for people to search for alternatives and peace, and it provided the driving force for the learning of Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism. The construction of grottoes brought people together for such human purposes as rituals, to satisfy their needs. The Dunhuang Grottoes built an existence of peace and a higher consciousness of Oneness in contrast to the destructive and competitive rivalries among the powerful and wealthy of multiple ethnicities. The grottoes were expanded and developed, and they have lasted while all


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the wars and dynasties have faded, demonstrating the traditional Chinese wisdom that “Those who follow the Dao will prosper and those who oppose shall perish” (The Twenty-Four Histories 2014, p. 32). In Dunhuang’s history, there is an interesting dynamic between diversity and unity. As discussed earlier, within Buddhism, there was fluid development, and divergent practices emerged through multiple cultures and languages—diversity within unity. At the same time, the coexistence of diverse beliefs, six major ones in Dunhuang during the time, actually illustrates their synergy and commonality in human teaching and learning, moral emphasis, and a prosperous and peaceful orientation that honors all souls without discrimination—unity among diversity. This revelation highlights the dialectic principles that bridge simplicity and complexity, individualism and collectivism, East and West (and anywhere in between), the religious and secular, the abstract and the concrete. Such principles emphasize that all are related, connected, interdependent, interactive, and inclusive, like the DNA strand, spiraling in all directions from micro to macro, together as one. In this sense, each fragment from Dunhuang, big or small, has its own content, color, purpose, and characteristics. When all pieces are mapped out together, we can truly see the grandness of Dunhuang as well as its vicissitude in the course of a thousand years, glories along with the fault lines. The connections among the singular, to the multiple, and then holistic are profound. Here diversity is the natural manifestation, a natural product of universal principles, deeply rooted in unity—the foundation, core, and direction. The relevance for our education and life today is simple and deep. In schools, at work, or at home, we rarely cultivate, learn, and apply such holistic, dialectic, and relational consciousness in everything we do. Instead, our perspectives tend to be black and white because of our limited knowledge and experiences, or ingrained emotional and institutionalized biases. Our learning often uses a linear and number-based orientation for unrealistic materialistic expectations and growth. Our educational fields are instructed as closed and separated subjects instead of in an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary manner, what our real life actually is. Our relations and communications are likely to be “me” focused and personal-­profit oriented. The effects of all these common behaviors are visible daily in the modern media, from the seemingly unstoppable high school shootings in America to the continued hunger, slavery, drugs, and violence globally. What Dunhuang had, and what we are lacking, are the interconnections and the interdependency in our thinking, learning, teaching, and living.



Amid Dunhuang’s dazzling diversity and richness, emerges its core: the persistence of inward human development and cultivation through the recognition of all our Oneness. Education is and must be moral, ethical, and spiritual in order to fulfill its purposes to uplift all and for the betterment of all—including all souls, not only human, and for both now and the long-term. Among humans, “all” includes minority and majority alike, regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation, geographic location, and social class. Certainly, this is easier said than done. Dunhuang showcases the pedagogies and pathways, not through preaching and mandates only, but from doing and living. The realistic role models of the Buddha, Bodhisattvas, junzi, sages, and ordinary people, their enlightened choices and enduring outcomes, have said it all. True education and life are not taught through rhetoric, technique, and information alone. The essence is in the substance not the subjects. After all, education (and life) is a living journey of the heart and soul in search of the higher goodness within. It is this very point that is largely missing in the extensive and enormous systems of formal education at all levels everywhere in the world today.

Concluding Remarks “For any legendary and magic place in the world, once you visit it, the magic seems to diminish. However, for Dunhuang, once you visit it, the awe and magic actually expand in your heart,” Feng Ji Cai, The Vice-­ president of the Chinese Literary Association once commented (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 72. Author’s translation). Joseph Needham, a British Scientist and “a man who loved China” (Winchester 2008) read about the oldest printed text found in Dunhuang Library Cave #17, a fragment of Diamond Sutra of AD 868, and felt an “irresistible pull” to visit Dunhuang. He concluded that this book, made by a Chinese man, demonstrated conclusively that the printing press had been working in China six centuries before either Gutenberg or Fust set their own first books in type in Europe. If there was one thing in creation that gave away the lying notion in the west that China was a backward country, this was it. The ­fragile document to be plucked from Cave 17 showed that China was quite incontrovertibly a nation at the forefront of civilization. (Winchester 2008, Disc 3, Chap. 3)


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Similarly, since Le Zun, the monk who dug the first meditative cave there, Dunhuang for thousands of years, has been drawing numerous people from all over the world. Its diversity and richness have everything to do with such a magnetic attraction. It presents endless connections to all, as the Buddhist teaching says, opening 84,000 dharma doors and offering just as many or more pathways to enlightenment. At the core of Dunhuang, what makes all this possible and sustainable are, in reality, not the grottoes per se, it is Dunhuang’s water, both literally and metaphorically. As Laozi states, The highest good is like water; Water is good at benefiting ten thousand things and yet it does not ­compete with them. It dwells in places that the people detest. Therefore, it is close to the Way. (Laozi 1999, Chap. 8, p. 12. Author’s Translation)

Dunhuang’s water made it a must-stop place for all travelers along the ancient Silk Road and makes it feasible today for people to survive, live, and thrive in the surrounding Gobi Desert, the most harsh and barren desert on earth. The oasis that the water nourishes presents such a striking contrast between life and lifelessness, vibrancy and death, hope and despair, and peaceful coexistence and mutual destruction. The water and desert tell it all. The real water that flows through the human spirit and connects all hearts regardless of their multiple differences is the profound and simple consciousness that we are ONE and that self-cultivation with virtue and morality is the true development and future. Looking at, reexamining, and celebrating Dunhuang provides a profound understanding of human diversity and richness as well as that of all other species in the long course of history and as the natural manifestation of the universe. Therefore, it connects us more deeply within to know where we come from and who we are, individually and collectively. More importantly, Dunhuang guides us to reflect on our common core, essentiality, relationality, interdependency, and interconnectedness so that we can face the global world and its challenges with a solid foundation and renewed purpose—for the goodness of all. These seemingly basic revelations are critical for education, life, human destiny, and the future of ALL.



Notes 1. Pagba is a Mongolian text created by National Teacher Besbah (or Basiba, 八思巴) based on the Tobo script during the time of Kublai Khan of the Yuan Dynasty of Mongolia. It was used between the 1270s and 1360s and is now extinct (An 2003, p. 85). 2. Tangut is an extinct language of Xixia (西夏) used between 1036 and 1502 (Tangut, in DictALL 2018).

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XU DI (许笛)

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Enlightenment from Body–Spirit Integration: Dunhuang’s Buddhist Cultivation Pathways and Educational Applications Jing Lin (林静)

Enlightenment comes as a result of its cultivation, and Buddhism is a system for cultivating enlightenment. By cultivation, I mean being engaged in body-based, contemplative practices such as meditation, mindfulness, and other forms of practice such as dance and the arts. Another level of cultivation is to do good deeds and be compassionate. All these practices are inextricably linked with one’s ability to concentrate and to expand one’s awareness and energy. This chapter explores Buddhist cultivation methods as illustrated in the murals in Dunhuang’s Mogao Grottoes. I posit that these murals intend to preserve such cultivation methods in Buddhism. In the murals and sculptures, the sitting positions of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, their hand gestures, and their eyes gazing down and inward, and the stories that accompany the murals, all intend

Jing Lin (林静) (*) International Education Policy, Department of Counseling Education, Higher Education and Special Education, College of Education, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,




to convey methods of cultivation to help elevate a person’s energy to reach realms beyond our physical reality and become an enlightened person like the Buddha and his disciples. Finally, I discuss some educational implications derived from the Dunhuang Buddhist art. I posit that in education we need to recover contemplative cultivation methods that can powerfully elevate learners’ energy and wisdom and guide them on the pathway to enlightenment.

A Brief Overview of the Dunhuang Grottoes Dunhuang is a town in the western part of Gansu province, China, and here along a cliff are 735 caves, of which 492 contain wall paintings and colorfully painted sculptures. The spectacular works of art in these caves (hereafter called the Mogao caves or the Dunhuang caves) contain 45,000 square meters of murals and 2415 sculptures. The construction of the caves started in AD 366 and lasted until the fourteenth century. Over more than a thousand years, devout Buddhist artists poured their hearts and souls into their art, transmitting what they had learned through their cultivation of enlightenment into these works in order to guide others on the same pathway. I believe these artists intended to preserve what is fundamental in Buddhism and that in order to achieve enlightenment, we need to commit to contemplative cultivation in ways the Buddha and his disciples had adopted.

Foundations of the Cultivation of Enlightenment The ultimate goal of Buddhism is for us to save ourselves from cycles of reincarnation and to find permanent and long-lasting joy through enlightenment. After he was enlightened under a Bodhi tree, the Buddha spent 49 years to teach people what it takes to attain enlightenment. He taught a large group of disciples, and more importantly, he exemplified what he taught: he represented and radiated the light, and enlightened his disciples during teaching sessions, enabling them to experience worlds and realities beyond our visible world. He told them about the causes of our suffering and the ways to end it. He and his students engaged in rigorous meditation and the cultivation of virtue. They expanded their compassionate awareness to include all beings and existence. They demonstrated sheer determination and overcame incredible difficulties to elevate themselves and others to realize the Universal Self that is free from selfishness, anger, and ignorance and that lives in peace and eternity (Smith 1991).



It is through cultivation that multiverses are revealed. Today, scientists talk about multiverses, but two and a half thousand years ago, the Buddha was already talking about them extensively. Buddha talked about thousands and millions of worlds similar to Earth and about worlds of higher energy and frequencies where people live a much longer, happier, and more peaceful life. He also described dimensions like various hells for people who committed all kinds of wrong-doing. He posited different levels of reality and millions of cosmoses inhabited by beings who are pure and happy and that are accessible through one’s ever deepening levels of tranquility and development of paranormal abilities through meditation. Essentially, the world as we know it is not limited to the physical reality. How do we know the mysteries of the universes? Intensive cultivation of enlightenment is required to expand our abilities to be able to experience the higher dimensions and invisible worlds. In Buddha’s teaching, we are not merely our physical body. We have a higher Self, the immortal Self. This Self is wise, powerful, and able to travel among the universes. Pure energy and consciousness, it is connected to all that exists. It is the light that guides our life, but it can be covered up by dust and distorted by greed, anger, and ignorance. This Self must be discovered and revealed, as well as repaired and restored. Once our Self is rediscovered and restored, we glow and shine like the sun, and we can help people and other entities with the pure energy we emit. We can resonate with the world and the world can resonate with us, as this energy penetrates everything and connects everything in spirit. This Self is called the Dharma Body, or a universal energy body. So, in world religions, deities and figures are painted with auras glowing around their heads or bodies, and enlightenment in religious texts, from an energy point of view, has the literal meaning of the Pure Light, or Radiating Light. The Light may not always be physically visible through human eyes but can be captured as an energy field by current technology such as Kirlian photography or by people who have opened up their extrasensory abilities. The sutra of the Medicine Buddha describes people of such an enormous sphere of light that they can cure all kinds of sickness and wrong thoughts and deeds. In the Mogao caves, many Buddha figures are painted with immensely strong light around their head and behind them. The Diamond Sutra mentions the Heavenly Eye (天眼), which is also commonly known and referred to as “the Third Eye, which is the kind of extrasensory ability that enables one to see realms higher than this world” (Price and Mou-Lam 2004).



In different cultural and religious traditions, the life energy that is propelling all lives and existence is called qi (or ki, 气), chi, or prana (breath or breathing). The qi we breathe in and out, or the qi that moves our blood and nourishes our organs is the vital force in our life; but this qi can be refined further to become what is called zhen qi (真气) in Taoist terms, and this highly refined, powerful energy can be accumulated and preserved through meditative practice of tranquility and can be greatly enhanced by doing acts of virtue, as qi circulates among people and things and flows to those who do good (Lin 2018). It can be expended to save lives, to heal, and to affect events in the world. Cultivators can develop exceptional abilities called paranormal abilities. In a state of high energy, as the Surangama Sutra describes, the Bodhisattvas can hear things thousands of miles away, can tread on water, can know the past and predict the future, and can shine like the sun, grow multiple bodies and show up in different forms as needed. In this Sutra, the Buddha said, “Those who can move/transform things with their hearts are like a Buddha” (心能转物, 即 是如来) (The Surangama Sutra 2018). In Buddhism, at this stage one becomes a Buddha and reaches realms of permanence and bliss.

The Mogao Caves and Buddhism Buddhist scriptures (such as the Diamond Sutra) predicted that humanity would experience five stages, each lasting 500 years, in the cycle of its spiritual cultivation. In the first stage, in Buddha’s time, people could understand correctly and effectively cultivate the methods for gaining and manifesting enlightenment (or jietuojiangu, 解脱兼顾). In the second stage, people would talk a lot more about such cultivation (or douwenjiangu, 多闻兼顾) rather than doing it. Then, in the third stage, people would refocus themselves on cultivating enlightenment, resorting to methods such as Zen meditation, without relying too much on books (or chandingjiangu, 禅定兼顾). In the fourth stage, as time went by, real cultivation methods would be forgotten again and people would build temples and create sculptures that reminded humankind of the ways the Buddha and his disciples had practiced (or tacijiangu, 塔寺兼顾). Finally, in our time, the fifth stage, nearly all real methods would be lost, the world would be mired in wars and diseases, and there would be struggles for the right methods to prevail and help the world again (or douzhengjiangu, 斗争兼顾) (Yan 1995; Ding 1991). In the Diamond Sutra, the Buddha repeatedly refers to the “the fifth Five-Hundred Years,” which is our time.



He stated that in our era, some people would recognize the real teachings of the Buddha and would be determined to practice the right path and gain enlightenment (Price and Mou-Lam 2004). I propose that the Dunhuang murals and sculptures were intended to preserve the cultivation methods by the Buddha and his disciples, and that the artists intended to illustrate the process, effect, and impact of such cultivation practices. The Dunhuang murals (and the stories they portray) as well as the sculptures were intended to encourage people to cultivate themselves toward enlightenment. People of that time and future generations were reminded they should follow the examples of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, remembering the pathways of the Buddha and other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In addition, symbols and images contain energy. Those immersed in the spirit of the art can feel moved and inspired by the life of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas, and in this process, they resonate with the energy of these highly accomplished enlightened beings and quicken their process of cultivation to reach enlightenment.

General Introduction to Buddhist Thoughts and Methods The pathway to enlightenment is both internal and external. While we look at the expansive universe and marvel at the countless stars of the Milky Way, the higher dimensions of the universes are, in fact, accessed through the internal gaze, as exemplified in the experiences of world religious teachers who have meditated for extended periods of time, opening their extrasensory abilities and seeing realities in invisible dimensions. Scientists find that our world is composed of 95 percent dark matter (Ade et al. 2013; SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory 2009). The cosmos as we know it is only one dimension of many dimensions. To know the more subtle realities of the cosmos and life, spiritual seekers, like the Buddha, have engaged in long periods of meditation; they have transcended the limitations of our physical reality to delve into other dimensions of reality. According to the Chinese philosophies of Confucianism and Taoism, the universe operates on the principles of virtues (Lin et al. 2016; Culham and Lin 2016; Lin 2018). Hence understanding the universe requires adjustment of one’s mind, heart, and deeds to be connected to the Common Good and requires the cultivation of virtues. Virtue cultivation enables one to exchange energy with and resonate with all existence, including



those in the invisible realms. One must be loving, compassionate, forgiving, giving, and peaceful, as taught in world religions, if one is to seek and achieve enlightenment. Lao Tzu states that in a meditative state, which can be vague and subtle, one experiences subtle energy in “imagery, things, spirit, and information” (Lao Tzu 1989, Chapter 21. Author’s translation). All major world religions stress the cultivation of virtues. In fact, virtues are stressed as essential skills to learn and techniques to command in order to access universal energy and achieve enlightenment (Lin 2018). This is also true in Buddhism. The body is an electromagnetic field (Oxford et  al. 2018; Schwartz 2007); the learning place is a heart-field of love (Brown and Miller forthcoming). Furthermore, the body has the ability to perceive, as Bourgeault (2003) writes: In many spiritual traditions of the world, the body is viewed with fear and suspicion, considered to be the seat of desire and at best a dumb beast that must be trained and brought into submission to the personal will. But what is missed here—and it is of crucial importance – is that the moving center [body] also carries unique perceptive gifts, the most important of which is the capacity to understand the language of faith in sacred gesture. (p. 28)

Qi is the vital life energy that penetrates and propels all lives and existence (Lin et al. 2016; Culham and Lin 2016; Lin 2018). Many traditions hold qi as the fundamental energy. Lao Tzu (1989) said in Tao Te Ching (Chapter 42. Author’s translation) that “the ten thousand things carry Yin on their backs and wrap their arms around Yang. Through the blending of the qi they arrive at a state of harmony (wanwufuyinerbaoyang, chongqiyiweihe, 万 物负阴而抱阳, 冲气以为和),” which are two aspects of the qi energy. Qi as energy is invisible in our bodies. Cultivating qi can help us open our chakras, our centers of energy, and for some people, the Heavenly Eye or the Third Eye between the two eyebrows, which is the gateway to perceiving higher dimensional reality. These phenomena are discussed in Buddhist texts such as the Diamond Sutra (Jinggangjin, 金刚经), the Surangama Sutra (Lengyanji, 楞严经), and the Lotus Sutra (Miaofalianhuajin, 妙法莲华经), all of which can be found in the scriptures from Dunhuang Library Cave #17. People call the realms or worlds that they see through the Heavenly Eye “hell,” “heaven,” “the Pure Land,” and other names. While we are in a conscious state, we operate within the duality of self and others. Through cultivation, letting go, doing good for others, we



broaden our awareness and delve more deeply into the subconscious world and the invisible realms; and as our latent abilities such as extrasensory abilities emerge, we can reach transcendental realities and experience a sense of unity with all that exists. At this stage, one experiences everything as equal, and everything and every being as having a Buddha seed or a sacred seed; all that exists is interconnected. Based on this foundational equality of all existence, the Buddha taught about salvation and the cultivation of enlightenment.

Buddhist Cultivation Methods in the Dunhuang Murals and Sculptures In the following sections, I elaborate on the Buddhist methods of cultivation and their impact as depicted in the Dunhuang art. Meditation The Dunhuang murals and sculptures often show the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas as immersed in a meditative state. There are thousands of paintings of Buddhist practitioners meditating in the lotus position. They form the background of the most of the caves. The practitioners are either sitting cross-legged or standing in a meditative manner with their eyes lowered and smiles on their faces. They are gazing inward, seeming to be in a tranquil state of peace and serenity. Cave #45 has such an example: the Buddha is sitting in the middle, surrounded by four disciples who have lowered their eyes and look serene, while two protective deities with eyes wide open are guarding them. These figures look contemplative. They seem to be meditating in order to elevate their energy. In Buddhism, when practitioners become more tranquil, they begin tapping into the subtle realms of reality; in doing so, their intuition is nurtured, wisdom arises from within, and light glows from inside as the inner body becomes cleared of negative energy and the pathway to the Self, the Pure Light, is opened. With their expanded awareness and blissful experiences, they sense Universal Love as the energy that creates all existence, and compassion is fostered as the natural outgrowth of the sublime state of Oneness. At the same time, latent abilities emerge through these practices, abilities which enable them to not only see through their naked eyes but more importantly through their Third Eye and other functions of the body. They have developed a much higher ability for inner seeing, feeling,



intuiting, and deciphering. The Third Eye is in the frontal lobe, connected to subtle realms of reality and can reveal to us our past life history and future events. In this way, Buddhist practitioners gain a comprehension of the power of karma and know that we can change our destiny if we adjust our minds, hearts, and deeds to generate positive, reciprocal relationships with others and the world, and to put an end to the negative karmic forces pulling us into repeated reincarnations. Hence, the Buddha taught his disciples the Eightfold Pathways and many other ways for conducting our life. Through even further cultivation, Buddhist practitioners can experience the primordial “Self,” the permanent, perfect Self, exiting the body and traveling in the universes. This immortal body can accomplish things that are incredible and indescribable. There are 4500 flying figures in the Mogao caves, for instance, Houseal’s work (2015) provided beautiful illustrations. These vivid paintings of flying men and women may be a demonstration of the immortal Self having achieved freedom from physical restrictions. Buddhist practitioners call these figures yi sheng shen (意生身), or Manomaya-kaya. In Taoism, they are called yang shen (阳神), or the Immortal Self. In Taoism, like in Buddhism, immortality is one of the goals, at least in the beginning. In actuality, the pursuit is to find the Universal Self (or fashen, 法身) that co-­ exists with the universe. This Self is one’s permanent Self and is totally free from death and reincarnation. The worlds this Self travels into and across are of much higher energy/frequencies and of incredible beauty. Many Buddhist scriptures give detailed descriptions of these worlds and realms. The limitations of the physical body trapped in a physical reality are lifted as the practitioners transcend their earthly being to arrive at their Universal Being, the highest and complete One. The Mogao caves contain many murals and sculptures of the Buddha in meditation. He is usually sitting with legs crossed, although in a small number of sculptures the Buddha is sitting with both legs on the floor. Thousands of images of Buddhist practitioners in the Mogao caves show them sitting in the lotus meditation position. In fact, these images make up the background in nearly all the caves. The lotus sitting posture is basic to awakening the dormant Kundalini energy (qi) at the base of the spine and moving the energy up (Isaac 2010). By turning one’s focus inward, meditation shuts down the energy-leaking outlets like our eyes, mouth, and ears, and directs the energy to the abdominal area, the place a little bit below the navel area, which is called the Field of Immortal Energy (dan tian, or 丹田) in Chinese Taoist qi practices, and to the head, which makes it easier for one to calm



down and develop the extrasensory abilities of the brain. Further, the Buddha’s hands are often placed near his navel area, a gesture that strengthens one’s electromagnetic field near the dan tian area. In Taoist philosophy and practice, the abdominal area is where the original qi is housed, and it is close to the “life gate” (ming men, 命门) between the two kidneys in the back. This place is the field holding the dan (the Immortal Energy). Thus, gazing down and focusing one’s attention here strengthens the energy in this area. With breathing and visualization techniques, or “active imagination” (Jung and Chodorow 1997), one can harness qi energy and bring it up from the root chakra to the higher chakras. When the energy reaches the area between the two eyes, the Third Eye can open and visions to other worlds become possible. When energy reaches the top of the head, the crown chakra will open and a sense of Oneness and Unity can be experienced. In sum, meditation as a pathway for seeking wisdom and enlightenment can serve these functions: (1) returning energy to oneself and one’s center or core, (2) accumulating energy, (3) boosting energy, and (4) activating latent energy. Our eyes, mouth, ears, and other openings project energy outward every minute; by blocking out distractions, meditation shuts down these outlets and prevents the leaking of energy. Focusing attention on the inner body, such as on the dan tian, can stimulate energy and elevate it up the chakras. Further, observing the inner self, mind, heart, and intention can align one’s inner world with the outer world in a more effective way. Accumulated energy can eventually lead to a total transformation of oneself toward higher awareness and understanding. As I have stated, in thousands of paintings, people in the Dunhuang caves are sitting in lotus positions and meditating, for instance those in Mogao Caves #249 and #305 (Houseal 2015). These types of figures form the background in most of the grottoes. The intention, I believe, is to highlight the importance of consistent, intensive internal meditation efforts, involving energy accumulation and elevation. Hand Shapes and Forms The Buddhist figures in the Dunhuang murals and sculptures show a great variety of hand shapes and forms. An explanation is that our hands may be energy-carrying fields. The Chinese medicinal thought is that our fingers are the starting points of the six most important meridians (the heart meridian, the small intestine meridian, the lung meridian, the large intestine meridian, the pericardium meridian, and the san jiao meridian), which



connect the major organs of the body. The various finger positions can adjust the function of the internal organs and quiet the mind. Further, the hands represent yin and yang energy. The right hand for women and the left hand for men have stronger energy. The two hands together create a closed circuit of energy circulation. The hands are also connected to the energy fields of the world. Combined with visualization, practitioners’ calling on the names of deities in the universe and exerting their intention and will can intensify their energy field and elevate them and others to higher levels of consciousness. Further, the different directions and the stars have different energies. Enlightened masters like the Buddha have passed, but they still have energy in the universe. Hence, aligning one’s fingers into different shapes and forms can enable one to activate, connect with, and work with those energies. Closing the two hands not only strengthens one’s energy, it can also create a protective shield around one’s energy body. Various hand formations are richly illustrated in the Dunhuang art: for instance, two hands put together or the left hand on the knee and the right hand up with two fingers raised. These hand formations reveal the art of using hand formations by the teacher in collecting, guiding, and manipulating energy. Visual images and breathing combined with the chanting of mantras can amplify and expand the energy, which can then be imparted to the student, as we have a bio-electromagnetic energy field that can extend to other life forms and multiple realms. The subtle energy of our body, called the qi field, has been explored in several contexts, especially in the traditional Chinese medical practice of acupuncture, and more subtle levels of the frequency of the vibration energy may still lie outside the detection of modern, highly technical equipment. Lotus Flowers Many Dunhuang murals show the deities sitting on a lotus flower or with lotus flowers blossoming around them. There are tens of thousands of lotus flower patterns on the roofs of the caves in Dunhuang. A lotus flower represents purification; it represents growing the inner self out of the difficulties and trials in life. It also represents the successful cultivation of enlightenment, such as the 81 trials the Monkey King needs to go through in The Journey to the West (Wu 1980). The experience of Buddha undergoing many tests in many lives also illustrates the need to purify one’s soul so that one is of “perfect goodness,” as stated in the Confucian classic



The  Great Learning (Confucius 1992). The lotus flower also represents high energy. The fact that the structure of the lotus flower is similar to the molecular structure of uranium may indicate that the lotus flower can activate our latent psychic energetic power to transcend physical limitations and transform and create things. In Buddha’s teaching, “Heart and matter are one,” and “Those who can move/transform things with their hearts are like a Buddha (xinnengzhuanwu, jishirulai; 心能转物, 即是如来)” (The Surangama Sutra 2018). The meaning is that in a very high level of energy, thoughts/intentions can be turned into physical reality. The lotus flower is prominently featured in many religions and spiritual traditions, such as Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and the Ba’hai religion. Lotus flowers also represent beauty, purity, and youthfulness. The portrayals of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas sitting or standing on lotus flowers indicate that they have achieved a high level of integration in body, mind, and spirit. The deities in the Dunhuang murals and sculptures look serene, peaceful, beautiful, and youthful. Guanyin (观音) in Mogao Cave #3 especially is portrayed as a very beautiful youthful-looking woman. She stands on or sits on a lotus flower and never shows any signs of aging. Hence, another level of pursuit in Buddhism is immortality and youthfulness as represented by the power of purity from the cultivation of high energy. Music and Dance In the Dunhuang murals, there are paintings of men and women playing instruments or engaging in magnificent dances. The dance forms are very difficult and sophisticated while being exquisitely beautiful. For example, the dancers swirl in difficult positions or they play an instrument that is on their back. These features may depict bodies under a state of high energy, a state in which people become very serene and agile, as qi flowing in the body can guide the body to do movements that are difficult in a normal state. In a qi-guided state, softness reigns. The very well-known and marveled-­ at act of dancers playing the Pipa instrument on their back is unthinkable in an ordinary state but achievable in an altered state of awareness and energy (Cave #112). Tenderness in heart can lead to tenderness in the body. Further, in a high-energy state, when one is free of hatred and experiences joy deeply from the soul, dance movements become free and spontaneous and impossibly beautiful. Further, music and dance are also ways of contemplative cultivation. They can relax and align the body and the mind and enable energy to flow



through their meridians. Hence in ancient times, healing often involves dance and music. The American Indians and indigenous groups around the world know that one can get into an altered state of consciousness with dance and music. The rhythm of music and drums can help to induce a trance state in the participants and enable the spirit to come to the front of their being. The Dunhuang murals have vivid pictures of people profoundly and joyfully immersed in the music they are playing. A beautiful example can be found in Mogao Cave #112. In this state, their minds, hearts, and spirits are one with the music. Similarly, in Confucianism and Taoism, music and the arts are treated as important ways for cultivating spiritual and aesthetic intelligence (Lin et al. 2016; Sun and Lin 2011). Using Stories to Teach The Dunhuang murals also use paintings to tell stories and teach people to seek an end to a life of ignorance and suffering. Stories in the paintings detail how individuals and groups suffered profoundly before they found their ways to enlightenment through the Buddha’s teaching. An important teaching is about karma, that what is happening to us today comes as a result of what we have done in this and previous lives, that realities are constantly being made and remade, and new life will dawn if we learn to serve others while we also let go of greed, anger, and ignorance. The stories feature the Buddha and his students going through incredible ordeals or doing compassionate acts, including giving up their own lives to help others. To me, several stories are especially impactful. One is the story of 500 robbers who were caught and sentenced to death. Before their execution, they were saved by Guanyin, the Goddess of Compassion, and they went on the pathway to seek enlightenment under the instruction of the Buddha (Cave #285). The story features the 500 robbers on the verge of being beheaded when Guanyin’s supernatural power breaks the killer’s knife into pieces. Later these robbers were blind in the forest and being hunted down by animals when the Buddha appeared and saved them. Another story is about a woman called Wei Miao who killed the son of her husband’s concubine in a previous life. She told a lie to cover up the murder and then, to affirm that she was telling the truth, she swore that the three worst things would happen to her if she ever had another life. The story says that all the worst things became true in her later life: she suffered the loss of her husband and two sons and was twice buried alive with her second and third husbands. Finally, she found Buddhism and



went on the path to seek true enlightenment. Because of this experience, she was determined to follow the Buddha and rebuild herself through the cultivation of enlightenment, and she became one of the most accomplished female disciples of the Buddha (Caves #85 and #296). These stories told people that the only way to end suffering was to embark on the path to enlightenment and saving oneself. A third story is about the Buddha in a previous life when he was a young prince. Seeing that several little tigers would not survive because the mother tiger, who had just given birth, was too weak to nurse the little tigers, the compassionate prince jumped off a cliff and died in front of the mother tiger, who fed on the prince and regained her energy, and the little tigers survived. People revered the prince and his soul moved to a very high level of enlightenment (Caves #138, #254, #428, and a dozen other caves). There are many stories about piety in the Dunhuang murals; for example, of the Buddha cutting his flesh to save his starving parents in a previous life. The Buddha has a Filial Piety Sutra (2018), in which he taught that one could never repay the grace from one’s parents. In Chinese cultural beliefs as well as in other indigenous beliefs, we are linked to our ancestors by energy and destiny. In Taoism, one can never achieve the highest level of enlightenment and become an Immortal Being unless one is pious and connected to the energy of the ancestors. I believe there is a hidden layer of teaching about energy cultivation in the stories of piety in the Dunhuang murals. Essentially, to achieve the highest level of enlightenment, we need to inherit the energy of our parents and ancestors. It is their support and the support of many people whom we have served selflessly that we can draw on for the boundless energy to refine our “dan,” the immense field of energy that produces auras around deities. Other stories involve teachings about repentance, tolerance, and forgiveness. The most important teaching is about unconditional and universal compassion, the idea that we must want to help save others before we can become completely free and saved ourselves, that only when others end their suffering can we be truly happy, as we are all interconnected. The sense of Oneness is the tremendous force behind this great compassion. Cultivating Extrasensory Abilities: Guanyin’s Thousand Hands and Eyes One of the Mogao caves, Cave #3 is dedicated to paintings about Guanyin, the most revered Bodhisattva in Buddhism, who is shown to have a thou-



sand hands and eyes. The symbol of compassion, Guanyin is prominently featured in many Buddhist temples in Asia. She is said to have a thousand hands and eyes because she responds to calls for help anywhere and in any direction; she knows the sufferings of all people. The Buddha and many other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in the Dunhuang murals are portrayed as having a Third Eye between their eye bows. This Third Eye, which can be opened with energy raised from the root chakra to the Third Eye chakra in one’s frontal lobe, as discussed earlier, is the gateway to the other worlds. The Third Eye or Heavenly Eye can reveal to us our status as cosmic citizens. Those who have opened their Third Eye may seem to have a camera in their forehead through which they can see many realms of beings and worlds and can even play back history and move forward to have visions of the future. It is through the opening of the Third Eye that the Buddha and other spiritual teachers get to know the higher truths of the universes. They talk about paradise, lands of incredible beauty for those who do good and believe, and about hells of horror for those who do bad and generate negative karmas. Many of the teachings by the Buddha, other Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas are revelations through the perceptions of the Third Eye.1 Usually at this stage, one recognizes the universal equality of all that exists, a knowing that all beings are immortal souls, that we have lived on this earth and in the universe many, many lives, and that we are all interconnected. Also revealed is that we can elevate ourselves out of the negative cycle of birth and rebirth through the cultivation of virtues such as compassion, love, forgiveness, and repentance. A strong love for all existence propels Buddhist practitioners to want to help others and to “transport” them to the beautiful lands. Once people reach such a state of awareness and have elevated their energy to transcend the limitations of the physical world, they become Bodhisattvas, those who are willing to give up their personal desires and to give their life to help others. This compassionate mentality returns boundless energy to the Bodhisattvas, and their many abilities develop further. Guanyin, with her thousand eyes and hands, may have such strong and expansive light that she can help many people, both nearby and far away. In the higher realm of reality, when one’s Universal Self permeates the universe, there are no limits to the reach of the Bodhisattva’s energy.



Learning from Enlightened Teachers The Dunhuang murals are made with paints and the sculptures are made from straw, wood, mud, and sand. But the art coming out of these materials is splendid and majestic. The painters/sculptors poured their hearts and souls into their art. Hence, the process of painting and making the sculptures was itself a process for cultivating enlightenment. The artists resonated with the energy and spirit embedded in the deities they were creating. Through their faith, understanding, and hard work, they hoped to actualize what the deities had accomplished. Many Dunhuang murals show disciples surrounding the Buddha, listening to him. He also sits in the center with students standing by his side in various sculptures. They often sat in a circle. The Buddha emits a splendid light, which may be subtle energy that can flush out the students’ meridian systems and boost their awareness and understanding. The figures engaged in the act of teaching and learning include the Buddha, other Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and even devilish-looking figures. The devilish-­looking figures are those who have been transformed from being a negative force into being a positive force through the power of the love and transformation of the Buddha and Bodhisattvas and who have become the protectors of the Buddhist practitioners. Teachers are vital in one’s pathway to enlightenment. Not having a teacher is like riding in a small raft on the rough ocean without any guidance. The energy of the teacher is critical for the students to undergo fundamental changes in their bodies, minds, hearts, and spirits. This energy is often depicted as light around the Buddha and the students surrounding him. All the figures in the Dunhuang art have an aura around their head and back, and some, as mentioned earlier, are surrounded by incredibly shining light. The light surrounding the Buddha and his disciples, representing energy, can also indicate transmission of the Buddha’s inner teaching into the students’ subconscious minds. There are many difficulties in striving toward enlightenment, including temptations, ebbing of one’s courage, illnesses, and negative relationships, which can ­hamper the students’ endeavors; hence teachers’ guidance and support at every step in the students’ cultivation process is critical. Further, changes in physiology and energy levels are intricate and require constant monitoring by the teacher. For this reason, respect for the teacher is portrayed in the Dunhuang murals as a necessary condition to receiving the teaching of the Buddha or any spiritual teacher: the teacher is always in the most central position with the disciples surrounding him.



To be a teacher means sharing your life energy with your students. The Buddha is portrayed as emitting a strong ray of golden light, his vital life energy, to the students and the Bodhisattvas surrounding him all shine within circles of light. Their collective energy generates a strong auric energy field that imparts energy and elevates everyone spiritually. Splendid scenes such as angels throwing flowers in a mood of celebration and appreciation and everyone being in indescribable joy are portrayed in this collective meditative environment.

Educational Implications: Education as Enlightenment In the Buddha’s prediction in the Diamond Sutra (Price and Mou-Lam 2004), the last or the fifth 500 years, the age we are living in, is an era when the real teachings by the Buddha are lost, and people are mired in arrogance, cheating, indulgence, and greed. So how do we remember and recover the wisdom of cultivation for enlightenment and help shine light into the darkness of our time? The Dunhuang art, in a way, carries the mission of preserving the real teachings of the Buddha and other accomplished beings about the methods for cultivating enlightenment. The Dunhuang art teaches us that we can gain wisdom and accumulate virtues and energy and become awakened and that we all have the Buddha seed and can accomplish what the Buddha did if we have faith and put in force real effort. Buddhism is about cultivation, an education about cultivation for enlightenment. Buddhism encourages us to be virtuous, to have great aspirations and a big heart, to be selfless and compassionate. From the Dunhuang murals and sculptures, we can see that this education stresses cultivation methods such as meditation, art and dance, using stories to teach, compassion, and teachers’ transmitting energy to their students. The spirit of the Dunhuang art is to purify and to elevate our spiritual energy. We need to have great sincerity and determination in seeking enlightenment, and the truths about life and other worlds will be unveiled to us. With the guidance of teachers, the lotus flower will blossom in us, and the Diamond Body, the indestructible Self, can break free from the limitations of the physical body and travel in the universe as a cosmic citizen. The Dunhuang art reminds us that education should cultivate great wisdom and help us explore and understand these questions: What is the mystery of life? What is the mystery of the universe? How can we control



our own destiny? This art uses splendid, vivid imageries and soul-touching stories about the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas to educate the world. It also informs us that we can integrate social and educational elements in the arts and help connect external learning with internal cultivation. The Dunhuang art reminds us that the visual arts can promote active, direct, intuitive, explorative, and dialogical learning. We can embody the teachings of the great teachers like the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas if we set out on the path of a seeker, practicing, meditating, learning, doing good, and embracing others as ourselves. Students who are engaged in the process of cultivation, elevate their energy as well as their awareness and wisdom. It is gratifying to see that in our schools and universities, more and more attention is being paid to meditation, mindfulness, yoga, reflective journaling, Tai Chi, and so on. But this is not enough. There needs to be an effort to go back to the roots of these practices, which aim at understanding the truth of the universe and elevating our life energy and gaining profound wisdom. Doing so requires embodied practices of holistic and interdisciplinary investigations of learning at the physical, moral, spiritual, and energy-based levels. Schools should be treated as fields of cultivation, and teachers need to increase their wisdom and energy levels so that students are truly nurtured and “enlightened.” Hopefully we will start to engage in more systematic efforts to recover what has been lost in terms of cultivation methods. The Dunhuang art has much to offer, not only to Buddhists but to all who are seeking enlightenment.

Note 1. Eastern spiritual practitioners have always viewed the Third Eye as the house of intuition. In recent years, scientists are linking the Third Eye to the pineal gland (Keller 2018). Meditation has been known to increase alpha and theta waves in the brain, which may stimulate a pineal gland that has been dormant to be active again.

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Bourgeault, C. (2003). The Wisdom Way of Knowing: Reclaiming an Ancient Tradition to Awaken the Heart. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Brown, K., & Miller, J.  (forthcoming). Cultivating a Heart Space: The Role of Eros in Facilitating Campus Group Meditation. In J.  Lin, S.  Edwards, & T. Culham (Eds.), Contemplative Pedagogies in k-12, University, and Community Settings: Transformation for Deep Wisdom and Wellbeing. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing. Confucius. (1992). The Great Learning (C.  Muller, Trans.). Retrieved from Culham, T., & Lin, J. (2016). Exploring the Unity of Science and Spirit: A Daoist Perspective. In J.  Lin, R.  Oxford, & T.  Culham (Eds.), Toward a Spiritual Research Paradigm: Exploring New Ways of Knowing, Researching and Being. Charlotte: Information Age Publishing. Ding, F. (1991). Fojiao Da Cidian 佛教大辞典 [The Great Dictionary of Buddhism]. Retrieved from Houseal, J. (2015). Dance at Dunhuang: Part Two – The Case for the Feitian. Buddhist Global. Retrieved from dance-at-dunhuang-part-two-the-case-for-the-feitian Isaac, N. (2010). Feel Your Full Bloom: Lotus Pose. Yoga Journal. Retrieved from Jung, C.  G., & Chodorow, J.  (1997). Jung on Active Imagination. New  York: Routledge. Keller, B. (2018). Perceiving Your “Mind’s Eye: The Pineal Gland. Brain World. Retrieved from Lao Tzu. (1989). The Tao Te Ching (R.  G. Henricks, Trans.). Retrieved from Lin, J.  (2018). From Self-Cultivation to Social Transformation: The Confucian Embodied Pathways and Educational Implications. In Y. Liu & W. Ma (Eds.), Confucianism and Education (pp. 169–182). Albany: SUNY Press. pp. 169–182. Lin, J., Culham, T., & Oxford, R. (2016). Developing a Spiritual Research Paradigm: A Confucian Perspective. In J. Lin, R. Oxford, & T. Culham (Eds.), Toward a Spiritual Research Paradigm: Exploring New Ways of Knowing, Researching and Being (pp. 141–170). Charlotte: Information Age Publishing. Oxford, R., Culham, T., & Lin, J. (2018). Cultivating the Ability of the Heart: Educating Through the Pedagogy of Love. In J. P. Miller, K. Nigh, M. Binder, B.  Novak, & S.  Crowell (Eds.), The International Handbook of Holistic Education. New York: Routledge. pp. 170–177. Price, A.  F., & Mou-Lam, W. (2004). Diamond Sutra. Whitefish: Kessinger Publication. Schwartz, G.  E. (2007). The Energy Healing Experiments: Science Reveals Our Natural Power to Heal. New York: Atria Books.



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Dunhuang and Contemporary Educational Practices


Dunhuang as a Model for EthnoSTEM Education Rui Kang (康锐) and Joseph Peters

The Mogao Grottoes (莫高窟), translated “peerless caves,” and also known as the Thousand Buddha Grottoes (千佛洞), lie in the western end of the Hexi Corridor in Gansu province (甘肃) in the northwestern part of China, 25 kilometers southeast of the city of Dunhuang (敦煌) (Wang et  al. 2006). The Mogao Grottoes, constructed between the fourth and fourteenth centuries, were used as Buddhist shrines and temples (Qiu 2009). The status of the Mogao Grottoes as part of the art history of China and the world is undeniable: in 1987, United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) named them a World Culture Heritage site (Wang 2017). The city of Dunhuang, located along the Silk Road trade routes (丝绸之路), was once a magnet and cosmopolitan center for various cultures and is considered an example of archaic globalization. As maritime routes began to be included, Rui Kang (康锐) (*) Department of Teacher Education, Georgia College and State University, Milledgeville, GA, USA e-mail: [email protected] Joseph Peters Georgia College and State University, Milledgeville, GA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,




this expansion created what is now seen as a precursor to proto-globalization. UNESCO (2017) cites the importance of the Silk Road in cultural and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) exchanges as follows: Perhaps the most lasting legacy of the Silk Roads has been their role in bringing cultures and peoples in contact with each other, and facilitating exchange between them. On a practical level, merchants had to learn the languages and customs of the countries they travelled through, in order to negotiate successfully. Cultural interaction was a vital aspect of material exchange. Moreover, many travelers ventured onto the Silk Roads in order to partake in this process of intellectual and cultural exchange that was taking place in cities along the routes. Knowledge about science, arts, and literature, as well as crafts and technologies, was shared across the Silk Roads, and in this way, languages, religions and cultures developed and influenced each other. One of the most famous technical advances to have been propagated worldwide by the Silk Roads was the technique of making paper, as well as the development of printing press technology. (para. 15)

Evidence shows that Han, Tibetan, Mongolian, Indian, Central Asian, Arabic, Greek, and Italian populations all once set foot in Dunhuang, some even living there (Topping 2008). As well as being a hub for international trade, Dunhuang is famous for its splendid wall paintings, vibrant sculptures, lavishly decorated ceilings, and its rich history in the development of the Buddhist religion in China. However, Dunhuang’s rich connections with science, technology, and mathematics are often neglected. The mural art (壁畫藝術) of the Mogao Grottoes is often called “a museum on a wall” (Wang et al. 2006, p. 1077). Instead of viewing this art as a museum on a wall, our challenge is to make the rich history and artifacts associated with Dunhuang into a museum for the classroom, particularly as they relate to exploration of linkages between the past and the present and to understanding how this culturally-rich location influenced the scientific and mathematical thinking along the entire Silk Road. The educational value of Dunhuang needs to be explored and developed, especially the often disregarded connections between Dunhuang and STEM education and, in a similar manner, their interconnections with the arts. In order to begin, it is important to look at some of the history behind the caves and what was found at the site.



The Caves and a Sample of Their Contents Taoist priest Wang Yuanlu (王圓籙) is credited for accidentally discovering a hidden library in Cave #17 of the Mogao Grottoes on June 25, 1900 (Mikanowski 2013). This library contained more than 40,000 manuscripts on a myriad of subjects including not only religion, history, art, and literature, but mathematics, science, medicine, and economics as well. For instance, among the manuscripts is an exquisite set of 13 panels, dated AD 940, representing a Tang star chart showing the entire sky of 1345 stars visible from China (Needham 1975; Rong 2013). This chart was skillfully drawn by hand on fine paper scrolls, an accomplishment that would have been impossible without advanced knowledge in mathematics (Qiu 2009). Mathematical concepts found in the manuscripts in the Dunhuang Grottoes include multiplication tables, numeric recording systems, measures of weight and distance, and sample problems in economics, military affairs, architecture, and other societal matters (Needham 1975; Rong 2013). Likewise, calculations of distances were important for navigating along the routes, as were measures of weight used in the buying and selling of goods such as grain and medicinal supplies. Another important area of knowledge preserved in the documents is Chinese medicine and pharmacology. The Shennong Bencao jing (神农本 草经) is the earliest book on pharmacology and included 365 kinds of herbs (Rong 2013). A supplement, Bencao jizhu (本草集注) by Tao Hongjing (陶弘景), includes an additional 365 herbs, an almost complete copy of which was found in the Dunhuang Grottoes (Rong 2013). The Shiliao Bencao (食療本草), first written by the Tang scholar Meng Shen (孟詵) and supplemented by Zhang Ding (張鼎), includes 207 kinds of drugs and also refers to the nutritional and medicinal value of plants and animals (Rong 2013). Other works contain diagnostic and acupuncture techniques and medicinal recipes. Many of these aspects of Chinese medicine are still used today (Cullen 2004; Rong 2013).

Modern Day Activities at Dunhuang In addition to the connections between the legacy of ancient Dunhuang and STEM, Dunhuang is a rich site for modern STEM education as well. For example, conservation of the wall paintings and sculptures of the Mogao Grottoes requires tremendous knowledge, skills, and techniques in STEM areas. In 1997, Cave 85 Project, a partnership between the



Dunhuang Academy (敦煌研究院) and the Getty Conservation Institute, established the first science-based procedure for the conservation of the Mogao Grottoes (Wang 2017). Later, the Dunhuang Academy again partnered with the Getty Conservation Institute and the Chinese government to launch an initiative to preserve the rich artistic history of the Mogao Grottoes by digitizing the artwork (Topping 2008). This project serves as another innovative model for cultural heritage preservation. The Mogao Grottoes provide a rich context for activities in K–12 (i.e. kindergarten to twelfth grade) STEM education. In section “Culturally Relevant and Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy”, we lay out the theoretical perspectives that influence our work and demonstrate the importance of infusing culture into the activities, followed by curricular ideas for STEM education that are connected to this important historical site.

Culturally Relevant and Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy In Ladson-Billings’ (1995a) seminal work on culturally relevant pedagogy, she proposed three goals: (1) produce students who can achieve academically, (2) produce students who demonstrate cultural competence, and (3) develop students who can both understand and critique the existing social order (p.  474). In emphasizing cultural competence, Ladson-Billings advocated for students’ maintaining their heritage ways and cultural practices while gaining access to the mainstream culture (1995b). In American schools, however, success is often at the expense of cultural heritage for non-mainstream students (Paris 2012). Similarly, Abonyi et  al. (2014) believe that the dominance of Western science knowledge and norms in non-Western countries in which the STEM curriculum is based on the Western knowledge can “make us academic foreigners in our own countries” (p. 53). Culturally Sustaining Pedagogy More recently, Paris (2012) questioned whether research and practices under culturally relevant pedagogy actually achieve the maintenance of the languages and cultural practices of traditionally marginalized groups in the United States, including African American, Latina/o, Indigenous



American, Asian American, Pacific Islander American, and other traditional communities, and challenged teachers and researchers to consider a different term and stance that he referred to as culturally sustaining pedagogy. In his words, “Culturally sustaining pedagogy seeks to perpetuate and foster—to sustain—linguistic, literate, and cultural pluralism as part of the democratic project of schooling” (Paris 2012, p. 93). More than simply making culture relevant in teaching practices, or responding to culture as part of a lesson, culturally sustaining pedagogy “requires that they [teachers] support young people in sustaining the cultural and linguistic competence of their communities while simultaneously offering access to dominant cultural competence” (p. 95). In other words, it is not enough to simply use cultural traditions to help students achieve the dominant white, middle-class norms; the dualistic need is to for them to understand and promote their own individual cultures as they “explore, honor, extend, and, at times, problematize their heritage and community practices” (Paris and Alim 2014, p. 86). Culturally sustaining/revitalizing pedagogy is an extension of culturally sustaining pedagogy. This pedagogical approach is based on scholars’ work with indigenous youth in America and has been mainly concerned with disappearing languages. In culturally sustaining and revitalizing pedagogy, teachers reclaim and encourage the culture that has been “disrupted and displaced by colonization” and also sustain the once abandoned cultural and linguistic traditions (McCarty and Lee 2014, p. 103). The implementation of these cultural pedagogies has typically occurred in the context of language arts, social studies, and art education. Paris’ (2012) culturally sustaining pedagogy also considers the “dynamic, shifting, and ever-changing” (p. 94) nature of cultural practices, and therefore incorporates current urban youth culture. However, culturally sustaining pedagogy must extend beyond language learning and the arts to include the STEM areas. For us, the focus is on keeping alive the historical and cultural knowledge associated with the Dunhuang historical site. Again, our goal is to look at the Dunhuang site to find ways to make this vast, rich collection of important resources into a museum for classrooms. Place-Based Education The heterogeneity of human cultural practices and experiences is a fundamental part of our everyday lives and our processes of learning should take full advantage of them. Each culture or community provides its unique



fund of knowledge (Gonzalez et  al. 2005). Classroom “cue-based” approaches (Boaler 2000), based on applying textbook procedures to similar problems, leave little room for infusing cultural practice. Traditional Western science education tends to divide culture and science into separate domains (Harper 2017). Culturally sustaining pedagogy such as place-based education, however, embodies or situates learning within cultural practices (McInerney et al. 2011). Dunhuang provides a unique site for teaching embodied knowledge; thus, we present the Dunhuang-related context followed by a relevant activity. Doing so provides a “counter-­ narrative to [the] homogenized education” that is often found in Western classrooms and is detached from students’ “own cultural and experiential spaces” (Harper 2017, p. 363). This homogenization makes it difficult for teachers to adapt curricula to sustain the culture of disenfranchised students. Designing high-quality curricular materials that give non-Western STEM knowledge and practices their due is a daunting task. Although beautiful examples such as Zaslavsky’s (1973) sample of Africa Counts do exist, such materials are scarce. The same scarcity of materials and culturally relevant instruction can be found in university teacher preparation programs (Kraieski 2014; Skepple 2014). Although many preservice programs include the history and philosophy of science and mathematics as a component, it is often considered a fringe topic. Thus, we write our curricular materials to show how validating indigenous knowledge can expand students’ learning, empower traditionally marginalized students, and advance multiculturalism and multilingualism. One way to approach curricular materials is through an extension of the ethnomathematical perspectives provided by Zaslavsky (1973) in the form of ethnoSTEM.

EthnoSTEM Research has revealed a distinction between Western and non-Western approaches to knowledge production, or ways of knowing (Allen and Crawley 1998; Harper 2017). One example is the relationship between nature and culture. Western science often emphasizes control, dominance, and overpowering nature, whereas indigenous ways of knowing often seek harmony with nature, emphasize connectedness, and promote interactivity and reciprocity (Harper 2017). In other words, indigenous practices are often aimed at preserving their social, cultural, and environmental ­sustainability rather than taking control of nature to maximize production (Allen and Crawley 1998).



In order to sustain and revitalize indigenous knowledge and practices, Harper (2017) argues, we must de-settle the expectations of science knowledge, or, in other words, reject the notion that science knowledge is produced only by Western scholars or that only Western science is worth learning. Our stance is that there is no single correct way of knowing and that the scientific method espoused by Western communities is not always superior to the symbolic, intuitive approach typically adopted by indigenous communities (Abonyi et al. 2014). Rather, Western and indigenous ways of knowing are complementary and can potentially enrich each other (Hess and Strobel 2013). Authentic learning experiences associated with ethnoSTEM require that school programs be designed to allow students to experience the hybridization of concepts through enriched curricula that represent the diversity in human experiences (Harper 2017). Ethnomathematics Ethnomathematics originally referred to the study of the mathematical practices of non-literate people to show that their mathematical ideas, albeit different from Western ideas, are as sophisticated. However, the “ethno” concept has been significantly broadened to include all culturally identifiable groups (François and van Kerkhove 2010). This shift means that ethnomathematics is now relevant in every classroom setting as traditions are associated with modernity (D’Ambrosio 2001a). Mathematics has historically been considered almost exclusively a product of European society; ethnomathematics targets this eurocentrism, which marginalizes the contributions of non-Western cultures such as Arab, Chinese, or Indian by rendering them as exotic or inferior and either suppresses the knowledge from these cultures or completely disregards it (François and van Kerkhove 2010). Rooted in anthropology, ethnomathematics focuses on studying non-Western mathematical practices and underlying ideas and seeks to demonstrate their complexity and sophistication (François and van Kerkhove 2010). Mathematics outside of the Western tradition is evident throughout history. Much like the maritime trade associated with the Silk Road, ancient Polynesians used mathematical knowledge to make incredible voyages. Recently, the Hō kūle’a, or star of gladness, a double-hulled Pacific Island canoe associated with the Polynesian Voyaging Society, ­circumnavigated the globe without the use of modern navigational equipment and with the goal of connecting students to cultural and historical traditions, including the mathematical connections (Goetzfridt 2008).



Mathematics is a formidable subject often presented as a conglomeration of formulas, algorithms, and proofs to be memorized without a human face and without philosophical, historical, or cultural considerations (François and van Kerkhove 2010). These views of mathematics contribute to the failure of many students in this subject and to their apathy toward it. The constructivist approach sheds new light on how mathematics can also be viewed as a way of thinking and as a collective practice (Abonyi et al. 2014), a view that is consistent with indigenous knowledge and practices. Ethnoscience, Ethnotechnology, and Ethnoengineering Like mathematics, science in Western educational settings is typically viewed as a fixed body of knowledge, methods, and procedures (Abonyi et al. 2014). In contrast, ethnoscience is defined as “the knowledge that is indigenous to a particular language and culture. It approximates or reflects the natives’ own thinking about how their physical world is to be classified” (Abonyi et al. 2014, p. 52). With its roots in anthropology, the term refers to “the system of knowledge and cognition typical of a given culture. … To put it another way, a culture itself amounts to the sum of a given society’s folk classifications, all of that society’s ethnoscience, its particular ways of classifying its material and social universe” (Sturtevant 1964, pp. 99–100). Ethnoscience is seen as a way of learning about and understanding how individuals or groups interact with their environment and sustain their lives through the lens of their own words and actions (Ingold 2000). Although our current ways of explaining scientific phenomena are mostly of Western derivation, their origins are in native communities, from which they were often spread by travelers (D’Ambrosio 2001b). Chinese papermaking was shared along the Silk Road in the form of scrolls, manuscripts, small talismanic booklets (護身符小冊子), and Tibetan codices, as well as the Indian pothi, or books (Barnard and Wood 2004). Likewise, the development and spread of binding processes, including the first bound books, is an example of the influence of the science and technology of one culture being widely adopted by others. The earliest known complete printed book, The Diamond Sutra (Vajracchedika Prajna paramita Sutra, 钻石佛经), dated AD 868 is among the examples found at the Dunhuang site (Mikanowski 2013). Likewise, gunpowder and the associated weaponry shared along the Silk Road (Needham 1986) are examples of ethnoengineering that have been adopted worldwide.



Integrating STEM Education and EthnoSTEAM The push for STEM education has grown from a concern over the shortage of future professionals in STEM-related careers (Brown et al. 2011). STEM education refers to a “meta-discipline residing at the school level where all teachers, especially science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teachers, teach an integrated approach to teaching and learning, where discipline-specific content is not divided, but addressed and treated as one dynamic fluid study” (Merrill 2009, as cited in Brown et al. 2011, p. 6). This definition requires STEM education to be treated as one integrated field with connections across areas of knowledge and skills and with real-world applications, not as simply asking students to take more courses in each of the four STEM areas. The Dunhuang site also offers us unique opportunities to move from STEM to STEAM, that is to connect the content of art and art preservation to STEM techniques. An ethnoSTEM approach has its challenges in the science classroom. For instance, class activities are often detached from current or past socio-­ scientific challenges that a community may face or have faced in the past. This practice potentially causes students to interpret science as irrelevant to their lives. Real-life scientific practice is deeply rooted in community concerns. Authentic STEM education should address challenges such as energy efficiency, resource depletion, environmental quality, and hazard migration. In this way, students confront topics as future citizens. One promising strategy is to tie innovations and scientific principles with their social significance in order to promote the intrinsic value of science (Pryor and Kang 2013; Pryor et al. 2016). We believe such an integrated approach is consistent with culturally sustaining pedagogy and indigenous practices, which are often rooted in the culture and the community and are used to tackle problems facing the community. For instance, Hess and Strobel (2013) see ethnoengineering as a method of defining and solving complex issues with constantly evolving experiential knowledge of the environment while practicing resourcefulness and being contingent upon a holistic worldview (p. 58).

Curriculum Materials This section contains suggestions for ethnoSTEM activities that are formatted in a 5E model consistent with the Biological Sciences Curriculum Study (BSCS) model (Bybee et  al. 2006): engagement, exploration,



explanation, elaboration, and evaluation. The reader is encouraged to adapt the activities based on the students’ age and culture. Counting Activities In ancient China, mathematical problems were not solved on paper, rather, they were solved using rods with numeral representations (筹数一至九), as evidenced in the documents illustrating counting rods and shown in Fig.  8.1 (Rong 2013). The top row, zong (纵), or vertical rods, represented units, hundreds, and ten thousands. Placed sideways as in the bottom row, heng (横), or horizontal rods, expressed tens and thousands (Joseph 2011). The perpendicular rod represented five and negative numbers and included a numeral with a slash ( , , , …). The rods were often colored; the positive rods were colored red and the negative rods were colored black. Travelers carried rods made of bamboo, ivory, wood, jade, or other materials in a pouch; in use, the rods were placed on a counting board with compartments corresponding to the ones place, the hundreds place, and so on (Martzloff 1987). Each compartment was split into two parts with the right part for the 1–9 heng rods and the left part for the 10–90 zong rods (Ameis 1998). Needham (1975, p. 9) provides the representative example of 4716 . Early counting did not include a place for zero, but later works did leave a space, as in 405 represented as (Needham 1975, p. 9). Actual Chinese numerals written by the Tang people appear in the multiplication tables of the Licheng suanjing (立成算經), which is among the Dunhuang manuscripts (Schmidt 2013), as well as the Suanjingyijuan (Wang 2013). More recently, the daxie (大寫) system, which is more precise than the common system of Chinese numeration, is used for banking and commercial transactions in order to prevent fraud.

Fig. 8.1  Rod numerals



Engagement  The use of counting rods, suan (算), and their representation as rod numerals in early Chinese counting lasted until the rise of the abacus, also known as the suan pan (算盤) or “counting tray” (Good 1985; Ifrah 2001). Counting rods function in a way similar to the beads in an abacus in that rods are repositioned and reformed to complete calculations. Exploration  Have students use the rod numerals in Fig. 8.1 to show the counting rod number representations. Ask them to write a few numbers in the Hindu–Arabic numeral system on a piece of paper. They should include numbers with units, tens, and hundreds. Some of the numbers should include a zero between the units and hundreds. Working in pairs, students then exchange the papers with the numbers and translate the Hindu–Arabic numbers to the Chinese counting rod representation of those numbers. When the individuals complete the translations, they return the paper to their partner and discuss the results. Explanation  Ask students what they found out about the number translations. Ask them why the system cannot accurately represent a number like 303. Explain that the system eventually contained a way of representing zero, possibly an influence from another culture’s system, such as the Indian, Babylonian, or Egyptian, that was shared along the Silk Road. Also note that, in the counting box, zero was represented by an empty compartment. Elaboration  Have students research number systems used in other cultures such as the Mayans, Babylonians, Incas, Greeks, and Egyptians. Ask them about the similarities and differences. In the Hindu–Arabic system, each position in a number can have an integer value from 0 to 9, thus providing ten possibilities. Ask if other number systems were developed on a base other than the base-ten system and, if so, what is the base. Ask students how using a non-base-ten system would affect calculations when navigating or constructing a structure. Ask why different cultures might develop systems based on various schemes such as a duodecimal (e.g. 12-hour clocks, Chinese Zodiac, and limited use in Nepal and Nigeria), hexadecimal (computers), or sexagesimal (base 60; measuring angles, time, and geographic coordinates).



Using Chinese Counting Rods  Have students research how to perform calculations with the Chinese counting rods. Doing so will help reinforce the concept of place value, which is shared among various counting systems. Also ask them to research how the suan pan works. The suan pan was a technological advance compared to the counting rods. Students should compare counting rod to suan pan calculations, noting similarities and differences. What other technologies have advanced mathematics? What are their cultural or ethnic origins? Ethnomathematics  The study of mathematics practiced by cultural groups is called ethnomathematics (D’Ambrosio 1985). Have students provide examples of mathematics in their culture. Ask why it may be important to study the mathematics of a particular culture. Ask students to think about the mathematics they may use in everyday life. Do the mathematics they use, such as counting their change in the store or understanding the measurements from a tape rule, transcend cultural practices? Computers and Bases  Ask students to explain why base two (binary), base 16 (hexadecimal), and base 256 are important to modern day calculations (computers work on these bases). Students can use base 16 to complete mathematical calculations (note A, B, C, D, E, and F replace base ten 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, and 15). Have advanced students complete base-256 conversions (decimals are used instead of extra notations such as the letters in base 16). Evaluation  Ask students to explain why number systems are important to a culture, the advantages of a base-ten system, and why they think base ten was adopted by so many cultures. Students should be able to explain the advantages and disadvantages of base ten compared to other bases. Star Chart Mapping Activity The Dunhuang map of the stars, which is impressive as the first known graphical mapping of the stars, has cultural significance as well. Chinese astronomy is based on a system different from that of the Egyptians, Greeks, and Europeans (Needham 1975). The stars are grouped into 257 asterisms (星宿), or small constellations known as “officials” (Bonnet-­ Bidaud and Praderie 2004). Included are the 28 Chinese mansions, (二十 八宿) or xiu (Selin 1997), which can be likened to the Western Zodiac



signs. The main difference is that the 12 Zodiac signs follow the sun’s path over the year, whereas the xiu follow the monthly path of the moon. Engagement  Throughout recorded time people have tried to make sense of the stars. One of the oldest accurately dated star charts appeared in ancient Egyptian astronomy in 1534  BC (von Spaeth 2000). The Dunhuang Star Chart is one of the first known graphical representations of stars and is dated to the Tang Dynasty in China (618–907). Ask students what they see when they look up at the stars. Discuss with students how the 28 mansions, divided into four weeks of seven days each, might relate to today. Exploration  Provide a piece of white construction paper and ask students to graphically record the stars that they see for a period of one month on that sheet. Note that it should be the same time of day (e.g. 9:00 p.m.) and from the same location (e.g. front lawn of their yard). They do not have to go out every night, since the sky may not always be clear. Also, once they record a star, they should not record it a second time. This will require them to look for patterns of stars in the night sky to prevent duplication. Students should also record their time and location. If they live in an area where this may be difficult (such as a lot of light pollution), an alternative is to use an app to record stars. Many of these apps allow the user to set the location, time, and filter to include dimmer stars with the brighter stars. Younger groups should record the brightest stars, whereas older groups can include dimmer stars (dots can be larger for brighter stars or students can use a color scheme). Once students have a recording of stars, ask them to use pencils to connect the brighter stars to form and constellations and name the constellations based on what patterns they see in the stars. Explanation  Ask students to show their star patterns and constellations. Have students compare their patterns to those of other students, noting the time and location. Discuss why they chose specific constellations. What do these say about their culture? Elaboration  Use a printed or online constellation chart to compare students’ constellations to a Zodiac-based set of constellations. Ask students to research the origins of the Zodiac system of constellations and explain their findings.



Chinese Constellation Maps  Students can look online to find Chinese constellation maps to compare with Greek-based maps. What are the similarities and what are the major differences? What cultural differences might lead to using one system or another? Ask how a moon-based system (monthly) of star charting might differ from the sun-based system (yearly). How does the Greek system differ from the ancient Egyptian constellations or the Polynesian constellations? Modern Constellations The International Astronomical Union (IAU) adopted the modern list of 88 constellations. Which can students recognize in their night sky? Which could be linked to their culture and why? Constellations and Latitude Have students partner with students in another school in a different latitude, such as a northern latitude, equatorial region, or southern hemisphere (or use online tools). Collect a set of star observations from students’ various locations and then compare star groupings for similar days and times. Ask why the patterns are different. Why are patterns different in the same location at different times of the year? What cultural songs, artwork, or other things reflect their star patterns? Telling Time  Star charts were used to tell time and navigate. Have students research how to tell time with the “Big Dipper” asterism in the northern hemisphere or the Crux, also known as the Southern Cross, in the southern hemisphere. What are some ways to navigate using the stars? Examples may include finding North with the Polaris, which is the brightest star in the constellation Ursa Minor; measuring the angle to Polaris with a protractor in order to find your latitude; or finding your direction of travel by using stars and two stakes. Arts Integration  To integrate the arts, older students can explore the field of visual culture, such as how early scientific images are linked to the culture of the scientist. Evaluation  Have students explain why not all of the stars are the same brightness or color (e.g. size, distance, temperature). Ask whether the stars always appear in the same location each night. Older students can research the concept of apparent magnitude used to compare stars of various magnitudes and the use of the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram to classify stars.



Art Preservation Getty Conservation Institute principal project specialist Neville Agnew (2017) notes that, among the 492 caves that are preserved at the Dunhuang site, there are 45,000 square meters of murals and more than 2000 painted sculptures. The artwork illustrates various religious practices, culture and ethnic dress, medieval politics and economics, astronomy, and astrology from China and its neighbors on the Silk Road trade routes (Whitfield 2004). In an interview Mimi Gates, chairperson of the Dunhuang Foundation, Chinese art historian, and co-curator of the Getty exhibition Cave Temples of Dunhuang: Buddhist Art on China’s Silk Road, described the importance of Dunhuang as follows: A thousand years ago there were no cell phones or internet, but there was vibrant exchange along the Silk Road among merchants, monks, and lay believers going to the homeland of Shakyamuni to see the place he was born and where he had preached. You had Indian monks coming to China, Chinese monks going to India, and all the merchants selling along the Silk Road—a mix of nationalities. The Getty exhibition includes a Hebrew manuscript with Jewish prayers, a Christian manuscript, Sogdian and Tibetan manuscripts—so you get some sense of this rich diversity that was Dunhuang… (para 6) And when [I] walk in the caves … I lose my breath, I get goosebumps. Every inch is covered by wall paintings and sculptures in vivid colors. You’re surrounded by art that dates back hundreds of years. (Stephan 2016, para. 9)

This rich diversity is evident in the artwork that is described by Nevel Agnew as an “amalgamation of Han Chinese artistic tradition and styles assimilated from ancient Indian and Gandharan customs, but also an integration of the arts of the Turks, ancient Tibetans and other Chinese ethnic minorities” (2017, para. 2). The challenge is in restoring and conserving this vast, impressive collection of artwork. Engagement  Animals play an important role in culture and religion. For example, Asian elephants, symbolizing great wisdom and strength, appear in religious traditions. An example in Mogao Cave #329 shows Queen Maya dreaming of a bodhisattva entering her womb riding on a white elephant. Other animals such as a bat (蝠), a symbol of happiness and joy; a crane (鹤), a symbol of longevity; fish (鱼), symbolizing wealth; a dragon



(龙), symbolizing good fortune; and a phoenix (凤), symbolizing good fortune and opportunity, are other important images (The British Museum 2009). Ask students to select a real or imaginary animal that has cultural meaning for them. Using oil, acrylic, watercolor, ink, gouache, or another type of paint, have students draw that animal. A variety of types of paint should be used as well as different surface mediums, such as paper, canvas, clay, or other materials. Exploration  Ask students how they could preserve their paintings for future generations. Gather a variety of resins, sealants, clear paints, plastic wrap, and other materials that could potentially preserve the students’ artwork. Have students protect their images using the various materials. Students should see how the protectants actually affect the materials they used in their animal representations, as some may actually ruin them. After the images are “preserved,” try exposing the paintings to a variety of ­environmental conditions (e.g. heat, water, dust) to see if the protectants are effective. Explanation  Ask students which protectants are better than the others. Which painting materials work better with each protectant? Elaboration  Have students research the cleaning of artwork. How are scientists involved with art historians and cleaning professionals? How has cleaning changed over time? How can preservation change a painting? Time Capsule  The Library Cave #17 at the Dunhuang site contains a rich history of the customs and culture of the time, similar to a time capsule. Ask students to research how to make a time capsule that will withstand many years. Also ask students to list items that they would include in the time capsule to be representative of their culture. Chinese Dynasties  The paintings in the Mogao Grottoes show us about the civilizations of China during the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties. Ask students to research these dynasties. Looking at paintings, students should select things in those paintings that represent the Sui, Tang, and Song dynasties. Ask students to take pictures of photographs or pictures they may have hanging in their house or another familiar location. What items



in these pictures represent their culture? As an extension, compare the technology found in the Chinese paintings to the technology used today, such as the images of plowing then and now. Art Restoration and the Electromagnetic Spectrum  Art restoration relies on the electromagnetic spectrum in x-rays, ultraviolet radiation, visible light, and infrared radiation. Describe the components of the electromagnetic spectrum and why x-rays and infrared and ultraviolet light are able to help conservators see aspects of artworks that are not seen in visible light. What form of light is more useful in identifying paint pigments, multiple paintings on the same picture, or cracks in a sculpture? Preservation Challenges Research the topic of preservation challenges. Students should be able to describe the preservation challenges associated with conserving artwork. Have students discuss the ways in which chemistry is integral to the restoration challenges and processes. Evaluation  Ask students to describe some of the things that can damage artwork over time and describe ways to prevent damage in the form of fading, growth of biologics, brittle paint, weakening of paint adhesive, softening of paint, and dirt adhering to paintings. Dunhuang and Medicine An important component of Chinese medicine is the use of herbs. According to Rong (2013), “The origins of Chinese pharmacology go back to ancient times” (Lecture 15, p. 420). In this tradition, Shennong (神农), the “Divine Husbandman,” began pharmacology by tasting 100 herbs. From these beginnings came the Shennong Bencao Jing (神农本草 经) or Shennong’s medical material, which was later translated and expanded to include 365 herbs, consistent with the number of days of the year. An even later translation found in the Dunhuang Library Cave, called the Bencao jizhu (本草集注), included another 365 herbs (Rong 2013). Another of the documents found in the Dunhuang Library Cave is the New Compendium of Works on Moxibustion for Emergencies (新集备急灸 经), which contains the earliest original manuscript for the collection of acupuncture techniques (Zhao et  al. 2011). These acupuncture procedures are still used today throughout the world.



The Chinese practice of moxibustion (灸) was a popular medical technique at the time of the Tang Dynasty (Cullen 2004). Artemisia argyi, or “Chinese mugwort,” a type of herbaceous perennial plant, was burned on particular points on the body. It is believed that this process adds new energy to the body by stimulating circulation and Qi (氣) or “life force.” Engagement1  According to Eastern medicine, stasis, or blockage of Qi, is the starting point for many diseases, and can be caused by lack of movement. Being physically active is a wonderful way to resolve blockages and restore the free flow of Qi so we can run on full reserves. Tai chi (太極) is a Chinese martial art that is practiced for its health benefits. Exploration  Ask a local tai chi instructor to visit your class and perform tai chi with the students. If an instructor is not available, use a YouTubetm video showing basic tai chi moves. Explanation  Ask students how they feel after the tai chi session? They should be more relaxed. The tai chi form of exercise refines Qi and is purported to enhance physiological and psychological function. Culture is an important aspect in promoting health. Discuss with students how exercise is seen in their culture. Elaboration  Ask students to research and then describe some of the medical practices that they are familiar with in their culture. Do they rely solely on Western medical practices, Eastern medicine such as Traditional Chinese medicine, Native American healing practices, African American practice, or some combination of these methods? Acupressure  In acupressure, a deep, firm pressure is used to massage and stimulate the acupuncture points. These points lie along the meridian system (經絡), which is the path through which the life-energy, Qi, flows throughout the body. Blockage of this flow is believed to cause health problems. Have students research the meridians and acupuncture points along the meridians. Students can try acupressure on one or more of the points to relieve a headache, nausea, or other ailment and check the results. Chinese Yoga Qigong (氣功), pronounced “chee-gong,” is known as “Chinese yoga” and also develops good Qi flow. Invite a Qigong instructor



into class so students can practice the moves or use a YouTubetm video. Ask students how Qigong differs from tai chi. Have students research the differences between the yoga practiced today and the cultural roots of yoga. Evaluation  Ask students to describe some common herbal supplements used today and their proposed effect on the body. Ask them why a doctor might prescribe one or more of the supplements. Are any of these supplements common to their culture? Traveling the Silk Road Travelers along the Silk Road would go approximately 15–16 miles a day, or up to 30  miles of the up to 4000-mile trip (Lattimore 1928). Such travel is documented in the manuscripts and paintings at the Dunhuang site. Making the long treks on horseback or camels, or in some cases walking, was not as easy as it would be with today’s means of travel. Areas that were traveled through along the route, such as the Taklimakan Desert (塔克拉玛干沙漠), known as the sea of death, and the Gobi Desert (戈壁), or waterless place, are some of the harshest places on earth. Privation and suffering, such as thirst, cold, sand storms, snow blizzards, natural disasters, and attacks all threatened travelers (Lattimore 1928). Protected towns like Dunhuang were built on an oasis and were important stopping points for travelers. Lake Yueyaquan (月牙泉) near Dunhuang provided valuable water resources for thirsty nomads. In addition to towns, military outposts and fortress-like caravanserais along the road also provided security. Engagement  Today’s travelers can jump in a car, load a destination on their cell phone app and, through the Global Positioning System (GPS), easily find their destination as the narrator provides turn-by-turn directions. Prior to GPS, travelers relied on the stars, maps and compasses. In ancient times, less accurate means of navigation could easily result in travelers’ becoming lost. Exploration  Ask students to explore the history of maps in different cultures. How were they produced? How accurate have maps been throughout time? What makes older maps less accurate than current maps?



Explanation  Have students describe key map terminology such as a projection maps, grids, and compass points. Explain why it is difficult to create an accurate two-dimensional map. Discuss the various types of maps such as road maps, geographic maps, and political maps. Elaboration  As an extension, ask students to research modern approaches to mapmaking through the use of computers, satellite imagery, and global positioning. Can they find their own place of residence on a satellite image? Does travel and the use of GPS affect cultural interactions? Would the cultural exchange at Dunhuang be the same today? Measuring Distance  The li (里), or Chinese mile, has varied over time but has been standardized to 500 meters or 1640 feet. This measurement is compared to the “traditional” systems of weights and measures used in the United States, where 5280  feet equals a mile or 1609.344 meters. Ask students to see whether other types of units, such as the Arabic league and the small, medium, and big Flemish miles, are used in other cultures. How were these units derived? Using the imperial, or English, system, have students research the origin of the chain, rod, link, foot, mile, furlong, and nautical mile. What is the influence of culture in these measurement units? What other measurements are linked to culture (e.g. mouthfuls, jacks, gills, pottles)? Finding Distance Through Geometry  Surveying involves measurement and geometry. A theodolite is a precise tool for measuring angles and determining distances and is often used in road work and surveying property lines. A less accurate method is to use a meter stick and a protractor. Have students explore how to determine the distance to an unknown object through the Pythagorean Theorem by measuring a known length and angle. Evaluation  Travel along the Silk Road was difficult in ancient times. Ask students how they would have prepared to make the journey. What would they have taken with them? What they would take on the trip today? What historic, cultural, or technological changes make the journey different now? What potential future advances may help travelers?



STEM and Art The stunning artwork found in the Mogao Grottoes exemplifies the use of mathematics in art. Geometric design in this art includes aspects such as the equal division of lines or arcs and the use of diagonals, tangents, and geometric figures such as circles and squares. Engagement  Geometric designs are all around us. There are examples in every classroom, such as floor or ceiling tiles, the shape of the chalkboard or markerboard, or the shapes of doors and windows. What designs can students see in their classroom? Exploration  Ask students to look at mural paintings from the Mogao Grottoes. What geometric figures can they see? Are there examples of symmetry in the paintings? Explanation  Have students share the examples of geometric figures they find in the classroom, such as triangles, rectangles, squares, and circles. Also discuss symmetry and show examples. Elaboration  Ask students to draw a picture that represents the community where they live using only a drawing compass and a ruler. They should be able to describe what was drawn and identify any geometric aspects of the picture. Rotational Symmetry  A shape is said to have rotational symmetry when it looks the same after a rotation of less than a full turn. Have students research Tibetan Buddhist Sand Mandala and other examples of rotational symmetry. Drawing to Scale Zhang Zeduan (張擇端) is the painter of Along the River During the Qingming Festival (清明上河图). This geometrically-­ accurate work, known as China’s Mona Lisa, is 25.5 centimeters high and 5.25 meters long and shows the lifestyle and economic activities of rich and poor, urban and rural, during the Song Dynasty. Have students research the Qingming Festival and compare it to festivals that occur today in China and in their own neighborhoods. Ask students what fractional scale would be needed to accurately duplicate a



festival that they have in their neighborhood. Advanced students can make an actual scale drawing. Use of Lines The Last Supper mural by Leonardo da Vinci is a famous example of the use of lines. Leonardo da Vinci used straight horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines (windows, table, and room) as well as rounded lines (people) to arrange the Last Supper scene so that the focus is directed to the center figure. The mural is also an example of symmetry, with the right and left sides being symmetrical. Find similar examples in the Dunhuang paintings. Evaluation  Students should be able to describe the connection of mathematics to art and include specific examples such as the use of lines, symmetry, and basic geometric shapes.

Conclusion Although the curricular materials are provided in a 5E approach, it is not necessary to follow that approach if a school or college has a specific required format. In teaching the lessons, we would like to offer a few recommendations. First, we encourage teachers to collaborate. Collaboration has been shown to increase student achievement and teacher effectiveness (Killion 2015). Second, we encourage teachers to look at applicable national and state standards when planning their lessons and to include a focus on fostering the skills needed for a twenty-first-century citizen, such as non-routine problem solving and communication skills (Bybee 2010; Partnership for 21st Century Learning 2007). In addition, our modules are intended to be implemented authentically, often through independent research, hands-on inquiry, and incorporation of technology and other innovative procedures. We hope that our work here has laid some foundations or bases for promoting ethnoSTEM education and for crystallization of culturally sustaining and revitalizing pedagogies in the context of STEM education. Finally, through our work, we hope to contribute to the sustaining and revitalizing of the historical and cultural knowledge and practices of “the only civilization on the planet that has survived intact through the ages” (Topping 2008, p. 166). The modules offer a way to explore culture and make comparisons to students’ own cultures.



Note 1. Students should check with their doctor before taking any herbs or engaging in acupressure or strenuous exercise.

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The Significance of the Dunhuang Mogao Frescoes for Universal Education Today Su Xiaojia (苏晓佳) and Zhou Hongtao (周洪涛)

Introduction The name of Dunhuang (敦煌) is often associated with the images of dense sand obscuring the sky; the desolate and endless Gobi Desert; the barren Mt. Sanwei (三危, “Three Perils”); flying apsaras (female spirits in Buddhist mythology); and the ancient Buddha and Bodhisattvas in the Mogao Grottoes. With the passage of time, Dunhuang’s past glory was mostly buried in its historical ruins, but its indisputable beauty and magnificence have survived till today. The word Dunhuang first appeared in the Dawan Commentary of Shiji 《史记·大宛列传》 ( ). Ying Shao (应劭) from the East Han (approx. AD 153–196) noted, in the Geography Records of the Han 《汉书.地理志》 ( ), that “‘Dun’ means grand, and ‘Huang’ The chapter is translated from Chinese and rewritten in English by Xu Di. Su Xiaojia (苏晓佳) (*) Beijing Royal School, Beijing, China e-mail: [email protected] Zhou Hongtao (周洪涛) College of Design and Innovation (D&I), Tongji University, Shanghai, China © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,




means prosperous” (Ban 2018, p. 801; Dunhuang Academy 2002, p. 6), showing that Dunhuang was a flourishing and renowned place. The famous Sino scholar Feng Jicai (冯骥才) wrote: In the diverse, rich, and colorful history of humanity, there were four civilizations, which reached the farthest territories in their sovereignties, and formed incredible and sustainable cultural systems of their own with lasting and radiating light and power. They were the Greek, Islam, Indian, and Chinese civilizations. There was only one place on Mother Earth in the past, where these four cultures intersected and interacted beautifully and manifested their synergy powerfully, that is Dunhuang, the sacred site of rich cultural heritages in China. (Feng 2005, p. 18. Editor’s translation)

The primary reason for Dunhuang’s glorious past and the unique and significant place it still holds in the world’s cultural heritages is its critical geographic location. Historically, Dunhuang is situated at the middle point of the Silk Road, the center of Chinese commercial trade to the West, leading to areas in South Asia, Central Asia, West Asia, Europe, and North Africa. It was a military post as well, often serving as the gathering or meeting place for neighboring tribes and nations. Human activity and residence in Dunhuang was already documented more than 4000  years ago. Before the Qin and Han Dynasties (approx. 300  BC), the Yuezhi (月氏, or Rouzhi, 300 BC–AD 100) and the Wusun (乌孙, or Wusu 乌苏) (300–500 BC), nomadic tribes, lived in the region (Sima 2018; Ban 2018; Fladmark 2002). During the period of the Three Kingdoms (AD 220–280), Dunhuang was established as an administrative prefecture, or Jun (郡), and remained so until the end of the West Jin Dynasty (西晋, AD 316). In the fourth year of Longan in the East Jin Dynasty (东晋隆安四年, AD 400), Li Hao (李暠) established the Xiliang Kingdom, with Dunhuang as its first capital. Then in AD 439 during the North Wei Dynasty (AD 386–534), Dunhuang became one of the twelve counties along the Chinese national border that had the same administrative ranking as the 113 states nationally at the time. In AD 526, the State of Gua (瓜州, Guazhou) was established with Dunhuang as its administrative capital (Ning and Hao 2010, p. 15). Despite constant wars among the various nations in the region during the Han and Wei Dynasties (AD 206–BC 265), Dunhuang was growing, with prosperous trade and businesses. Chinese cultures from the Central Plains were widespread and flourishing in the area, and Buddhism started emerging. Dunhuang served



as an important cultural center during the Wuliang Period (五凉, AD 304–539), which consists of five kingdoms: Qianliang (前凉, Early Liang), Houliang (后凉, Late Liang), Nanliang (南凉, South Liang), Beiliang (北凉, North Liang), and Xiliang (西凉, West Liang). The Mogao Grottoes started in the second year of the Early Qin during East Jin (AD 366). In the early Sui Dynasty, Dunhuang Prefecture was abolished and then was reestablished in the third year of Da Ye (大业三年, AD 607). In the second year of Wu De (武德二年, AD 619) in the Tang Dynasty, the imperial court established Sha State (沙州), which led to Dunhuang’s most prosperous period (She 2011). In Western China, in the middle of the endless Gobi Desert, Dunhuang is a most precious oasis in the desert, holding a significant strategic location along the Silk Road, which connects the East and the West. Therefore, throughout its history Dunhuang was the coveted place for both western and eastern powers in the middle plain. Its political significance also nurtured important and famous scholars. Among them were the Confucian scholar Liu Bin (刘昞), who wrote the first historical records in ancient China titled Dunhuang Records 《敦煌实录》 ( ) and the “Five Dragons of Dunhuang”: Suo Jing (索靖), SuoJie (索介), Suo Yong (索永), Fan Zhong (泛衷), and Zhang Han (张甝). In addition, there were calligraphers Zhang Zhi (张芝) and Zhang Chang (张昶) and the erudite senior monk Gobharana (竺法护), who was proficient in 36 languages of the western region (Fang 2012). The teachings of Buddhism had already spread in China from land travel under the rule of Emperor Han Ming (AD 28–75) (Fang 2012). Scholars traveling along the Silk Road eastwards toward the Chinese Central Plains had to pass through Dunhuang. As a result, it was one of the areas that encountered Buddhism first. The famous monks Kasyapa-­ Matanga (迦叶摩腾) and Gobharana (or Zhu Falan, 竺法蘭) came from Darouzhi (大月氏). Later other senior monks also arrived from the western regions. The Mogao Grottoes were constructed mainly during the period of the Sixteen Kingdoms (AD 304–439). According to the historical records from the Tang Dynasty, in the second year of Jianyuan in the early Qin Dynasty (AD 366), Le Zun (乐僔), a traveling monk, came upon Mt. Minsha, suddenly seeing golden light shimmering in all directions, as if ten thousand Buddhas were surrounding him. So, he dug a cave for his meditation. Then other Buddhist monks and priests such as Faliang (法良) started to build



grottoes for their spiritual practices, and called them the “Mogao Grottoes,” describing the grottoes “on the mountain overlooking the ­ desert” (Dunhuang Academy 2013, p. 3). During the Northern Wei, Western Wei, and Northern Zhou, when the rulers believed in Buddhism, the construction of grottoes flourished with the support of the kings, autocrats, and the wealthy, who became sponsors. The Mogao Grottoes were the most prosperous and popular in the Sui and Tang Dynasties because of the riches that the Silk Road brought. During the rule of Empress Wuzetian (武则天) in the Tang Dynasty (AD 624–705), there were over a thousand grottoes. Based on its prominent role in geography, culture, and religion in the Chinese past, Dunhuang, with its splendid art, scriptures, and scholarly works in education, has established a solid foundation as irreplaceable in China and now in the world.

Dunhuang’s History and Its Universal Quality for Education Based on Su Xiaojia’s 24 trips to the Mogao Grottoes for observation and research between 2004 and 2016, and on the historical literature and records as well as interviews among the locals, it is clear that the value of Dunhuang’s art, especially its frescoes, is primarily due to its educational functions over the centuries. These functions include three areas: (1) education for humanistic and social development, (2) education for art and aesthetic development, and (3) education for people’s transformation. These functions, which are illustrated in the frescoes, are universal qualities of education, and thus the frescoes play a significant role in connecting Dunhuang’s past with the contemporary world. This was most evident in the frescoes between the Northern Way and mid-Tang Dynasties (AD 386–835). When we discuss universal qualities, we are focusing on values that are fundamental and applicable to all areas and nations. Not all cultures and values, including religion, are universal; many are unique to that culture and region for historical and geographic reasons or are confined to a certain time. Universal qualities play a cultivating and guiding function in the cultures, customs, rituals, and habits of humans, and are often manifested through religions, which provide human caring, comfort, and connections among such practices, making them more easily accepted. The universal qualities illustrated in Dunhuang are primarily reflected in the values the frescoes convey. The remaining relics and treasures of the Mogao Grottoes



carry significant weight for religion, arts, history, sociology, and h ­ umanities. Dunhuang’s cultural values and heritage are recognized around the contemporary world even though debates on how to uncover and utilize such values and heritage may remain. In this sense, the study of Dunhuang can be compared to the study of the fourteenth-century Renaissance Movement in Italy and the rest of Europe. The values of Dunhuang art are deeply rooted in the historical expansion and development of Buddhism in China. An envoy from the Chinese Imperial Court, Zhang Qian (张骞, 164–114 BC), was sent on a diplomatic mission to the western region during the second year of Jianyuan (建元二年) during the Han and the third year of Yuanshuo (元朔三年) (139–126  BC). In Da Xia Kingdom (大夏, Tukhara or Tochari, 247–226 BC) he observed the trading of cloth and bamboo canes from India, which shows the established commercial trade between the nations. This commercial trade opened the pathways for Buddhist teaching and for cultural exchange as well. Emperor Hanwu (汉武帝) connected China with the eastern coast of India by sea. Recent archaeological findings have revealed statues of Buddha in the graves of Pengshan, Sichuan Province (四川彭山) from the East Han Dynasty (AD 25–220). The Buddhist sculptures in Mt. Kungwang, Lianyu Harbor in Jiangsu Province (江苏连 云港孔望山), have been traced back to the same era (Shi 1980; Kunwangsha Stone Carving 2018). Traditionally, scholars marked the event of Emperor Hanmin’s (汉明帝) sending of an envoy to the West to obtain the 42 Buddhist Scriptures in the period of Yongping (永平, AD 5–75) as the official introduction of Buddhism into China. However, recently, there has been an intense debate regarding the accuracy of such an account because, at that time, the roads and passages to the West were seriously blocked and impassable because of warring states and they were not reopened until the sixteenth year of Yongping (永平十六年). Therefore, we can only estimate that Buddhism began to reach China roughly 4 BC– AD 33, around the time of Christ. It spread first around Changan (长安) and Luoyang (洛阳), radiating to neighboring areas such as (彭城), now Xuzhou (徐州). At the time, some people regarded Buddhism as a mystic practice, and Emperor Heng of Han (汉桓帝, AD 146–168) worshipped Buddha together with Emperor Huang (黄帝) and Laozi (老子). Buddhism was treated as part of a local tradition, custom, or ritual. Ban described people in those times, “citing the wisdom of Huangdi and Laozi, and fashioning the Buddhist mercy and compassion” with such mixed practices (Ban 2018).



During the Three Kingdoms (AD 220–316), Buddhist monks such as Tankejialuo (昙柯迦罗, Dharma-kāla, approx. AD 200), Tandi (昙谛, AD 347–411), and Kangsengai (康僧铠, or Saṃ ghavarman, approx. AD 400), who lived in Tianzhu (天竺), Anxi (安息), and Kangjiu (康居), moved to the capital of Wei, Luoyang (洛阳) to translate the Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and teach Buddhism.1 At the same time, Zhiqian (支谦, approx. AD 300) and Kangzenghui (康僧会, AD?–280) and others went to the capital of Wu, Jianye (建业, now Nanjing in Jiansu Province) to preach Buddhism. Zhiqian was well received by the Emperor of Wu, Sunquan (孙权, AD 182–252), who revered him as an erudite Master, and built a temple tower for Kangsengai. Both Tankejialuo and Tandi had expertise in law and translated the Buddhist laws, Zendijiexin (僧祗戒心), also known as The Monk Only Way in English, to advocate and emphasize the strict disciplines for all Buddhist disciples. This translation established the basic Buddhist rules, laws, and regulations in China, and started the tradition of an official initiation ceremony for Chinese monks and nuns with vows and commitment to firm disciplines. During this time, Tandi translated Dharmagupta-vinaya 《昙无德羯磨》 ( or 《四分律》) in the White Horse Temple in Luoyang, and Kangsengai also translated four Buddhist scriptures including Uqradatta 《郁枷长者所问经》 ( ) and Immeasurable Shoujing 《无量寿经》 ( ). This translation wave of Buddhist scriptures started in Wuchang (武昌) and reached its height in the capital of Wu Kingdom, Jianye (建业). The translation of Buddhist scriptures into Chinese and the teaching and study of Buddhism during this period formed a basic foundation for the development of Buddhism in China during the Wei (魏, AD 220–266), Jin (晋, AD 265–420), and South and North (南北朝, AD 420–589) Dynasties and established a systematic, philosophical, and religious structure and practices (Ren 1985). The construction of temples and towers and the recreation of Buddhist sculptures and images at the time occurred frequently and on a large scale; however, few have survived. Most of the rulers in the South (AD 420–589) and North (AD 386–581) Dynasties believed in Buddhism. For instance, during the South Dynasties, the emperors of Song (宋, AD 960–1279), Qi (齐, AD 479–502), Liang (梁, AD 502–557), and Chen (陈, AD 557–589) were all Buddhist disciples. Emperor Wu of Liang (梁武帝, AD 464–549) was most pious: he described himself as the “Disciple of Three Treasures,” referring to Buddha, Buddhist law, and Buddhist servant-hood. He entered the temple officially as a monk four times, and the royal court paid



large donations each time to get him to return to the throne. During his reign, he sponsored and built many temples, taught Buddhism personally, and regularly held grand Buddhist ceremonies and rituals for his ancestors. As a result, Liang Dynasty had 2846 Buddhist temples with over 82,700 ordained monks and nuns. Approximately 700 of the temples were in its capital, Jiankang, with tens of thousands of monks, nuns, and disciples. During the North Dynasties, the founding Emperor Taiwu (太武帝, AD 408–452) of the Northern Wei and Emperor Wu (武帝, AD 560–578) of the Northern Zhou (AD 557–581) banned Buddhism. However, overall the majority of the ruling emperors supported Buddhism and promoted its development. For instance, Emperor Wencheng (文成帝, AD 440–465) of the Northern Wei built the Yugang Grottoes, and Emperor Xiaowen (孝文帝, AD 467–499) started the construction of the Longmen Grottoes (龙门石窟) in memory of his mother after he moved the capital to Luoyang. At the end of the Northern Wei, there were 415 Buddhist scriptures and 1919 volumes in circulation, more than 30,000 temples and over two million monks and nuns. In the Northern Qi, the Buddhist Official in the Imperial Court was in charge of four million monks and nuns and 40,000 temples. Many foreign monks and priests came from the West to teach Buddhism in China during the South and North Dynasties; among them were the famous Gunavarman (有求那跋摩, AD 367–431), Gunabhadra (求那跋陀罗, AD 394–468), Paramārtha (or Zhendi, 真谛, AD 499–569), Bodhiruci (菩提流支, AD?– 537), and Ratnamati (勒那摩提, AD?–approx. 515) and many renowned Chinese monks such as Faxian (法显, AD 337–420) and Zhiyan (智严, approx. AD 400–500) went to Northern India on pilgrimage and to study, and they brought numerous Buddhist scriptures back to China (Nan 2008, p. 75). Buddhism experienced its most thriving period and rapid development in the 500  years between the Northern Wei (AD 386–581) and Tang Dynasties (AD 618–907) (Ren 1985). At that time, Buddhism in China was able to compete with local beliefs such as Daoism and Confucianism, forming with them a triangular metaphysical foundation. It played a significant role in the ancient history of Chinese religion and politics. In the Hexi (河西) region, where Dunhuang was situated, Buddhism became the primary and dominant religion. Dunhuang and its surroundings, the Hexi corridor, became a constant battleground after the West Han Dynasty, coveted by both Chinese dynasties and nomadic tribes in the western region. Although the region was rich with resources, the frequent wars and rapid turnover of rulers created deep and prolonged suffering among the people, who longed for spiritual



delivery, and for the ability to transcend the bitter and harsh reality. The Silk Road provided a wonderful opportunity for Buddhism and its teachings to be spread throughout the Chinese community in such time of need. Therefore, Buddhism was quickly established and developed as the main religious belief system in the Dunhuang region. It is important to point out that, in addition to its religious nature, the expansion of Buddhism included educational and intellectual development that was made possible by the passionate and persistent scholarly efforts of numerous students and experts, many of whom were Buddhist priests. Such an expansion showed the involvement of earnest study, from all in the imperial court to the common people, and was often intertwined with the political, social, and cultural forces at the time.

The Universal Qualities of Dunhuang for Education Although the frescoes, works, and artifacts at Dunhuang illustrate many universal functions as well as qualities for education, this chapter focuses on three major ones: (1) education for humanistic and social development, (2) education for art and aesthetic development, and (3) education for people’s transformation. The Educational Function for Studying Humanity and Society In the Mogao Grottoes of Dunhuang, many of the Buddhist-themed frescoes that decorate the walls and ceilings depict the events and activities of people’s work and life in the region during ancient times. They offer valuable evidence to document the convergence and migrations of the various nationalities in the past and the people’s daily activities. In the fall of 2012, Su Xiaojia, one of the authors, went on a research tour focusing on the frescoes in the Mogao Grottoes. On the northern wall of Cave #323 is a painting illustrating Zhang Qian’s envoy to the Western Region. It tells the story of General Huo Qubing (霍去病), who won a victory against Xiongnu (匈奴) in 212 BC and brought back two Jitianjinren (祭天金人, Golden Idols, actually made of bronze) to the Emperor for a ceremony in the worship of heaven. Han Emperor Wu built a Palace of Sweet Springs (甘泉宫) to house these unique treasures and worshiped them daily as a ritual. But since he did not know anything about them, he dispatched Zhang Qian to the West to find out more about the legend of the Golden Figures.



In the painting, Emperor Wu is on a horse, bidding farewell to Zhang Qian, and the court officials, under the parasols, are following. Zhang’s envoy has traveled a long way through mountains and almost reached the kingdom of Da Xia. The capital, with its numerous temples and towers, is in view and monks and nuns are lined up outside the city to welcome Zhang’s envoy. The painting seems to a present free interpretation of the historical events and may not be accurate based on the actual records. However, it captures the historical significance of Zhang’s diplomatic efforts while traveling along the Silk Road. The fresco is extremely valuable to the study of the history of the Silk Road and the cultural exchange between China and foreign tribes and nations in the West. In May of 2015, one of the authors, Su Xiaojia, joined the field research in Dunhuang that was organized by the Institute of Art Renaissance of Remin University, Beijing, China. The numerous sets of hunting frescoes were the primary focus and were chosen for in-depth analysis to learn about the life style and activities in ancient Chinese society in that region. Figure  9.1, the fresco on the northern ceiling in Mogao Cave #249, is from the Western Wei (approximately AD 535–556) and depicts a typical hunting scene. Two hunters riding on horses are shooting wild deer with bows and arrows (see Fig. 9.1).

Fig. 9.1  Mogao Cave #249—Northern Ceiling, Hunting. West Wei (AD 535–556). (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy)



A study of the painting reveals that the ecosystem in the region was quite different from what it is today. Mt. Qiliang (祁连山) and the surrounding region were covered with greenery and had an ample water supply. An anonymous ancient Xiongnu poem from Xi Han (西汉) reads, “When Mt. Yanzhi (焉支山) was lost, our women lost their beautiful complexions. When Mt. Qilian was gone, our animals could not survive” (Li and Liu 2004, pp.  105–106). Here “Yanzhi” and “Qilian” mountains refer to different mountains in the same mountain range. This poem and the habitat for deer clearly indicate that the weather, ecology, and environment in the region then were drastically different from today’s barren Gobi Desert. The research offered insights into the customs and lifestyle of people in and around Mt. Qilian, including Dunhuang, during the West Wei Period (AD 535–556). These records provide valuable resources for ethnic and sociological studies regarding the formation of the diverse social structure. Review and analysis of Dunhuang’s frescoes show a combination of nomadic and agricultural lifestyles in the Dunhuang area. There are a large number of farming and agricultural frescoes, most of which were created during the Northern Wei and High Tang periods (AD 386–766). The frescoes in Mogao Cave #23, created during the High Tang, are the most representative. They follow the teaching and stories in the Saddharma Puṇḍarı̄ka Sūtra (or the Lotus Sutra, Fahuajing, 《法华经》), one of the most important classics in the Mahāyāna school of Buddhism (大乘). The sutra included and synthesized the essential Buddhist teaching from both Mahāyāna and Hı̄nayāna schools and used mythical and figurative stories to explain the spiritual and moral teachings in layers so that people could understand them and apply them to their own lives. The Metaphor of Medicinal Herbs portrays farmers working and tilling in the rain. The entire picture is full of life and at the same time dark clouds and pouring rain present a sense of tension. The peasant women are delivering tea and food, and a few children are playing nearby. A close look at the field formation and the plowing method for planting clearly shows that the farming approach originated in the China Central Plain. However, the clothing of the peasants and the picture composition bear the characteristics of the Sogdians (粟特), a minority tribe in the region. Meanwhile, in the cloud there is a dragon image, the typical Chinese totem. This fresco not only reveals valuable information about the social and economic patterns of life in Dunhuang then, but also illustrates the harmonious synergy and relationships among the various nationalities (Fig. 9.2).



Fig. 9.2  Mogao Cave #23—West side of the North Wall, Farmers Working in the Heavy Rain. Mid-Tang (AD 712–781). (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy)

Tribal Man Training a Horse, a fresco above the alter niche west of the central column in Cave #290, was created during the Northern Zhou (AD 557–581). It depicts a foreign tribal man, dressed in Western shirt and tights, who is training a tall horse. According to historical records, Dunhuang, situated in a key position along the Silk Road, was the main route for travel between the Chinese Central Plain and the western regions and nations. This fresco shows that in addition to the tradesmen passing through Dunhuang, people from various nationalities actually migrated, settled, and brought their expertise to establish their livelihoods there. They provided the skills and resources that the Chinese in the Central Plains lacked. Even today the lifestyle in that region reflects the historical fusion. For instance, people in Dunhuang have the Han customs of drinking tea, eating pork, and using irrigation in their land cultivation, and at the same time, they follow traditional ways of living from the western regions such as roasting beef and mutton, making wheat pancakes, and



herding. The unique characteristics of the two lifestyles merge and complement each other, resulting in a long and gradual harmonious integration. These valuable frescoes reflecting the ancient lifestyle of people in the Dunhuang region offer important and valuable documentation for scholars in sociology and anthropology. They also illustrate the social structure and hierarchy in the dynasties at that time, for example, the Grotto Sponsor, Wife of the Capital Supervisor Mrs. Wang (High Tang 705–781) in Mogao Cave #139. Further inventory and analysis of the Mogao frescoes reveal that they include and document a large variety of additional human activities in many areas. More than 80 farming frescoes ranging over one thousand years, from the North Dynasty in the fourth century to the Yuan Dynasty in the fourteenth century, depict the entire agricultural process with over a dozen production activities from sowing the seeds to harvest. In addition, they show more than 20 farming tools; for example, a plow with curved shafts from the High Tang (AD 712–781) in Cave #445 and a three-legged seed plow for sowing from the Five Dynasty (AD 907–960) in Cave #454. Over 100 grottoes portray ancient health and medical practices such as Chinese qigong practices, sports, and the prevention and treatment of illness. Among them are pictures of cleaning and brushing the teeth in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907), the earliest documentation of Chinese dental care. All these rich materials provide invaluable resources for the study of sociology, history, culture, and agriculture. They offer hard evidence of human progress and interaction over a thousand years, which forms a unique foundation for critical, analytical, and interdisciplinary studies. Educational Function of Aesthetic Development and Art Education The Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes are an art treasure trove, housing an excellent collection for aesthetic development. Von Goethe (2018) rightfully commented that “true works of art are a manifestation of the higher laws of nature.” The frescoes here break away from the bondage of the traditions and regulations of the Chinese Central Plains and clearly show the influence of Buddhism and Western painting techniques. The painters and artisans displayed their creativity as well as their religious piety with freshness and freedom: the lines, colors, and forms in each fresco are vivid, bold, and flowing. The artists utilized the principles and rhythms of nature



and manifested their originality and their sense of ideal beauty. In their works, the beautiful forms and composition provide their aesthetics, which also embody the deeper feelings and meanings inside the hearts of the artists. Thus, they offer a wonderful opportunity for art education and aesthetics study today by helping us learn about the infinite creativity in art and fostering a strong appreciation of art as a window of human inner soul. Aesthetic education plays an important role in art education today, which is important not only for students of the arts or professional artists and educators, but also for the general public and in our daily lives. Each period in history has a different understanding of, criteria for, and appreciation of beauty. For instance, in modern Chinese society, a slim human figure is considered more beautiful, but in the mid and late Tang Dynasty, full figures were considered more beautiful, as seen in all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in Dunhuang Grottoes. Paintings embody the historical characteristics of aesthetics and the colors of the clothing and the decorative accessories in the pictures of Dunhuang frescoes changed during the different dynasties. The aesthetic views of the artists displayed and reflected through their paintings capture the passage of time and the cultural development. At the same time, art is always intertwined with the social and economic conditions of the time. The paintings of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas showcase the highest aesthetic values and religious reverence then, and the paintings of the sponsors show the fashions of beauty and the social construct, especially of the wealthy and those in power. The Tang Dynasty was a rather open society in Chinese history, as is reflected in Dunhuang’s Mogao frescoes of Buddha, Bodhisattvas, apsaras, and sponsors. The characteristics of the art during the Tang Dynasty are reflected in the clear forms of the human figures and the fashions of clothing and its decoration. The lines are typical Lanye style (orchid leaf stroke, 兰叶描), using the middle of the paintbrush to provide a round, full, and rich presentation that is soft on the edges and strong in the center. The human figures are in an appropriate ratio, with a full body, a healthy body, and varied and realistic fold lines in their clothes. The artists used a variety of lines such as drafting, structuring, and uplifting to adapt flexibly to each person depicted. They skillfully paid attention to the relations between the main and supporting lines, to the balance between painted and empty spaces, and to the color density. Their painting displays a flowing rhythm of rising and falling similar to a musical cadence. The frescoes in the late Tang Dynasty developed and mastered the “bone style brush” (gufayongbi, 骨法用笔), which creates an organic and natural blend of the human



skeletal structure, muscles, and complexion. During this time, jinbian (经变画) became a mature format in fresco composition and structure, and the painting techniques led to sophisticated expression and illustration. A wide range of Lanye drawing techniques produced a variety of images, some firm and strong, others soft and gentle, matching the qualities of the objects or subjects. The gold and rainbow colors together with the new fused dye, gave the Bodhisattvas, heavenly generals, and apsaras a three-­dimensional, real-life effect. Many portraits and sculptures boldly borrowed Persian colors, clothing design, and decorations, creating an obviously Persian appearance and flavor. Dunhuang’s frescoes are known for their bright colors and expensive and exotic color materials such as gold and turquoise. All this indicates an inclusiveness of diversity and self-­ confidence during that era. Such art expression and style offer excellent examples for art education today. The frescoes in the Mogao Grottoes clearly display the co-existence of both imported foreign and traditional Chinese drawing techniques. “While the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas had a foreign appearance, the scenery surrounding them, in contrast, was all the original creation of the Chinese artists” (Wang 2010, p. 113. Authors’ translation). The different features in the images of Buddha during the different time periods show the influence of the foreign and local cultures. The backgrounds in the Dunhuang frescoes are frequently natural scenery of mountains and rivers, laying the foundations for the Chinese paintings of scenes from nature in later dynasties. Although the Chinese culture and spirit are fully manifested in the frescoes, the synergy created by the infusion of foreign cultures into the Chinese artistic mainstream made them fresh and new. For instance, a systematic analysis shows that the composition and the prospective drawing in the frescoes created in the Tang Dynasty came as a result of the influence of Persian and Western paintings. This influence is not seen in the earlier frescoes or other Chinese art. In addition, the ceiling in Cave #423 (Fig. 9.3) presents “a unique design of Vimalakirti (维摩), which means that the artists broke away from the tradition to innovate in new forms. This gives our contemporary painting insights for our creation in form and composition” (Jiang 2005, p. 57). Therefore, the innovative paintings in the Mogao Grottoes continue to offer insights for creative development in the arts now and they are valuable for our contemporary studies as well. This inspires us to adopt and adapt in our learning and to create through innovation in modern art education and study.



Fig. 9.3  Mogao Cave #423—Vimalakirti, AD 581–618 (Dunhuang Academy 1984, p. 212). (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy)

Educational Function for the General Public The main themes and topics of Dunhuang’s frescoes are the portraits of Buddha, gods, goddesses, ghosts, legends and stories, jinbian, Buddhist history, sponsors or devotees, and wall or ceiling decorations. The majority of the frescoes are based on stories and teachings from the Buddhist scriptures. Zhang Yanyuan (张彦远, AD 815–907) in the Tang Dynasty opened his book Famous Paintings of The Dynasties with the following statement: Painting can cultivate and transform people, help and guide humans to follow ethical principles, study the mythical changes of spiritual and godly beings, and examine the micro and macro heavenly destiny. Art has the same function and purpose as the six classic Buddhist scriptures.1 (2016, p. 21. Editor’s translation)

The art of painting begins and develops naturally like the four seasons,2 which inevitably leads to creativity and originality. It does not result from



copying others’ works nor is it created from thin air or sheer abstraction. Drawing on Zhang’s insightful comments on art and education, this chapter illustrates the role of Dunhuang’s frescoes and their impact on transforming people and in educating the public. Dunhuang and the surrounding region experienced turbulent times through numerous wars during the first half of the fifth century—wars which opened a unique opportunity for the expansion of Buddhism. People who had suffered endless conflict at the time longed for the emergence of Maitreya or Mile Pusa in Chinese (彌勒菩薩), a Buddha to come, to stop the wars and bring peace. Under these circumstances, Buddhism was easily accepted because it represented the hopes and desires of the people who lived in the region. After Le Zun and Faliang dug the first few grottoes on Mt. Mogao, more monks followed to establish their own caves for meditation, and, as a result, Buddhism started to spread among the general population. The grottoes created a unique and magnificent Buddhist religious world. When people entered this world, they learned Buddhist teachings and beliefs consciously and gradually absorbed them subconsciously as well. Even today, a noticeable transformation in people’s facial expressions, from sightseeing tourists to pious Buddhist pilgrims, can be observed. Based on estimates from the historical records, the number of Dunhuang’s long-term residents ranged between 30,000 and 60,000 (Ning and Hao 2010, p.  18), with about 120,000 visitors traveling through (Ning and Hao 2010, p.  77). Among the population, only approximately 20 percent were literate (Ning and Hao 2010, p.  113); therefore, the paintings served as effective, realistic, and powerful educational tools. The classic Buddhist scriptures were entirely inaccessible to illiterates and those with only elementary reading levels; therefore, in order to share the profound and complex Buddhist beliefs and practices with the general public, it became necessary to use a variety of practical pedagogies. To touch people’s souls and convert them into disciples, the abstract and complicated Buddhist metaphysics and laws had to be translated into simple, clear, and vivid formats. The frescoes in the Dunhuang Grottoes clearly include profound philosophical beliefs, vivid images, joy, fear, and artistic appeal, which led to an interesting engagement in ethical and religious teaching and learning. People who studied the frescoes were gradually transformed and became more likely to accept and believe the salient teachings of Buddhism.



For instance, in Mogao Cave #254, the fresco of Jataka of Mahasattvas (North Wei, AD 386–534), depicts the story of Buddha’s early life when he was the youngest prince of Gandhara (乾陀尸利国). One day he went hunting with his two brothers and saw a tiger with seven cubs dying of hunger. His two brothers went to look for food for the tigers, but the prince lay down to offer his own body to the tigers as food. The tigers were too weak even to eat him, so he slit his own throat with a sharp stick and jumped from a cliff. The tigers drank his blood to revive themselves and then devoured him to the bone. His brothers and his parents, the King and Queen, were completely devastated and built a tower in his memory. The apsaras showered flowers around the monument. In the ancient times, people usually believed in “self-cultivation for personal preservation” (Mencius 2004, p. 386) instead of caring for or interfering with the larger world.3 There was a lack of willingness to sacrifice oneself for the sake of righteousness. However, the tale of Jataka and many similar Buddhist stories taught people differently. Gradually the Buddhist influence led to a paradigm shift in Chinese philosophical thinking, from a narrow, focused self-cultivation to the belief in noble sacrifice for a higher cause and righteousness. Another fresco in Mogao Cave #254 describes the story of the Five Hundred Robbers Converted to Buddhism (North Wei, AD 386–534). The fresco has eight scenes, starting with heated combat and ending with the robbers converted to monks. The cruel battlefield and extreme suffering from torture after their betrayal and defeat served as a warning to those who might contemplate such a path. The peaceful ending of the robbers who became monks shows an alternative to war and treachery. The entire story from this fresco provides life teaching and moral education that are relevant to the journeys and choices of all human beings even to the present (Fig. 9.4). In this sense, Dunhuang’s educational value goes far beyond sociology, aesthetics, and arts; the frescoes, scriptures, and artifacts show a deliberate and persistent effort to educate the general public in ethics and social norms and values. The Dunhuang Grottoes were a place not only for worship and ritual, but more importantly they were also a setting in which to learn, socialize, and live through daily activities and life events. Therefore, they became a place facilitating spiritual connection and transformation for a clear purpose and direction.



Fig. 9.4  Mogao Caves #254–500 Robbers Become Bodhisattvas. (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy)

Implications of the Mogao Frescoes for Chinese and Global Education Buddhism reflects one of humanity’s spiritual pursuits. Historically speaking, any human being, no matter how rich or poor, needs spiritual support and a belief system. As a metaphysical belief system, Buddhism was established from its very beginning on the foundation of this human necessity. It has continued to evolve with the development of societies over time. The fusion of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism in the Dunhuang art showcases the persistent pursuit and effort in ancient times to achieve the highest wisdom. The Dunhuang frescoes, with their Buddhist themes and teachings, expressed deep educational meanings for humanity. This powerful educational function reached its peak in the prosperous times of the Mogao Grottoes, but more importantly their power continued to play a very important educational role in the history of China, and they are still relevant and universal for education today. Currently, under the new initiative of the One Belt and One Road in China, the universal and educational function of the Dunhuang art is becoming even more significant. The study of the Dunhuang frescoes can inspire the Chinese people to learn Chinese history and to value the diverse



contributions of all nationalities in the past and the present. Dunhuang’s rich art, manuscripts, and documents offer valuable sources for various social and scientific studies and research in ethnic history, sociology, anthropology, and other interdisciplinary fields. Dunhuang offers Chinese artists a unique window through which to see the beauty and value of traditional Chinese art, which has been long neglected and underrated. The exploration of the vivid and meaningful art development in Dunhuang also provides Chinese contemporary artists with great insights and inspiration for new aesthetic creations. As Chang Shuhong (常书鸿) once pointed out, Dunhuang presents us a living art history. It is a grand art museum with numerous masterpieces of Chinese art in the ancient glorious days. The magnificent art captured and reflected the very spirit of China, Han and Tang, which is what we are searching for and earnestly trying to grasp. (Yao 2006, p. 30. Editor’s translation)

This is indeed the very essence of the frescoes in the Mogao Grottoes. Su Xiaojia, one of the authors, often witnessed the following situation in Dunhuang during his research tours there: while the foreign visitors were moved to tears by the beauty of the Mogao frescoes and works, some Chinese visitors were complaining about how boring it was to look at the dull pictures on the walls in the dark caves. The foreigners and the Chinese visitors displayed completely different and contrasting attitudes toward this world heritage site. The casual comments of the Chinese visitors actually reflect the lack of teaching in China about traditional art and values and the obvious loss of aesthetic appreciation and culture, a situation that calls for serious reflection on the preservation and sustainability of Chinese traditions, culture, art, and education. The Dunhuang frescoes not only provide a focus for scholarly research, they also play an important role in teaching and learning. As art educators, we reflect on this role in two aspects: first, learning the art of painting; and, second, understanding the importance of the geo-culture and environmental context in art and education. Relevance for Learning the Art of Painting During the development and evolution of the Dunhuang frescoes, their creators absorbed many foreign painting techniques and artistic forms, especially from Persian and Gandara art. The fusion of various artistic



techniques and approaches formed a unique Dunhuang style with specific characteristics that are seldom known, accepted, or grasped by Chinese artists or art students today. However, it is extremely important that contemporary artists and art students understand and learn them. Such knowledge and ability can help them integrate these traditional art techniques and approaches into contemporary art creation and develop multi-­ layered artistic insights and capacities. Therefore, we bring Dunhuang fresco art into our teaching curriculum. For instance, on-site expeditions and fieldtrips are essential. Each spring, one of the authors takes a group of art students to Dunhuang. We visit the workshops of the Dunhuang Academy to learn about the preservation, repairing of art pieces, and the materials used in the frescoes. More importantly we study the environment around the Mogao Grottoes and the large area in and around Dunhuang. In ancient times, most of the materials for the frescoes came from the local area. The foundations of the frescoes consisted of the land of Dunhuang and the treasures of Mt. Three Perils: the clay of the high mountains, the yellow hue of the Dunhuang soil, and a mixture of regional minerals and colors. As well as forming the foundations, these materials were also an important reason for the particular painting style and techniques. Only when students grasp and experience all of this can they understand the real meaning of great art: that the most magnificent paintings come from the most simple and humble materials. Copying the works of great masters is a common practice in art education, and it applies to learning about Dunhuang fresco art as well. Because of the recent intensified protection of the Dunhuang Grottoes, nowadays such practices can happen only with replicas of the original works. Although it is not the same as when the original frescoes in the grottoes were used, the on-site copying practices still provide a rich and meaningful experience. Students can have deeper connections to and understanding of the mountain formations, tree shapes, and nature, as well as the changes and characteristics of the city’s composition. These fieldtrips help students learn and understand the impact of culture and history on art and s­ timulate innovative creation, and progress in their self-learning, reflection, and transformation. Geo-Culture and Environmental Context in Art and Education Current art education in China is drastically different from that in the past. During the Chinese feudal dynasties, art education consisted of traditional ink and water painting with vigorous study of literature, poetry, and calligraphy.



When the first Chinese republic was established (1911), art education began to include Western oil painting along with traditional Chinese painting. There was a constant debate about which style, Chinese or Western, was superior as an art form. Since 1949 and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, Chinese art education on the mainland has taken another turn, adopting the Russian art education model and being influenced and shaped by Western contemporary art education. As a result, art education in China has become oriented toward European and American art and adopts its criteria and perspectives regarding aesthetics. The study of and research in Chinese traditional art has been largely neglected. Many Chinese artists, especially the young ones, have grown up in such an environment and follow this trend. One of the authors went through a similar course in his pursuit of art; however, through numerous fieldtrips to Dunhuang and new reflection, he has gradually changed. In the world today, each country and culture must sustain and develop arts with its own culture and characteristics. Together we create a beautiful global mosaic of human artistic expression and aesthetics. There is no superiority or inferiority for any culture, region, and nation compared to its counterparts. There is only rich diversity, uniqueness, and infinite manifestations. The cultural and art heritage of each place generates an organic and artistic life force and expression of that region, culture, and nation, and their sustainability is essential for art education, research, and study. Dunhuang is a typical example. It documents the growth of Chinese culture and civilization over the course of history through art and education. The frescoes and sculptures in each grotto serve as evidence of the fusion of culture and art and the recreation of Chinese and Western art in ancient times. Such changes in art philosophy and perspectives, in turn, shape and influence the teaching of art. Although all the students in our school plan to study art in Europe or America, our curriculum does not include only Western art nor consider only the Western criteria for aesthetics. Instead we have deliberately strengthened Chinese art, especially the arts that have unique cultural and regional characteristics, as part of the focus. The Mogao Grottoes have thus become a prominent part of the content of our programs. With this new perspective on art education, we use three strategies or steps to facilitate students’ learning and find them most effective and meaningful for students’ holistic development as artists and educated beings: reality, research, and re-creation.



Reality  First, is on-site field trips and practice. Real life observation, exploration, and learning are significantly better than isolated learning in the ivory tower or classroom. In Dunhuang, students receive an overwhelming experience in the natural and cultural environment and they are profoundly touched by the artistic creation in their own cultural heritage. As a result, they cannot help but develop a sense of cultural pride and social responsibility. As they have been taught and are familiar with Western art, they can find connections between Dunhuang art and Western art as well as art from other foreign regions. This observation of the traces of artistic association helps students develop a curiosity about the deeper human connections. Research  Next, students are guided to read, research, and study the historic works and artifacts of rich and related fields, including history, sociology, the migrations of various ethnicities, ancient cultural exchange between China and the West, religions and their development, wars, and trade. These seemingly unrelated fields and subjects from art actually can guide students to “connect the dots” and uncover the reasons for cultural interactions and to understand the deeper roots of humanity and the driving forces of our metaphysical and artistic expressions and creations. Such study also enables the students to understand the characteristics of the Dunhuang frescoes: their composition, formation, design, and the use of materials. The interdisciplinary learning gradually helps students break down the walls of compartmentalized learning and views on art and the world, giving them a bird’s eye view and perspective of geo-culture and art as a global being. Re-creation  The final stage is application through re-creation. Students are encouraged to apply their observation, learning, and research in their own painting or artistic works. For instance, the students may integrate the characteristics of the Dunhuang frescoes into their abstract, Westernstyle painting, adopt the striking Dunhuang colors in contemporary designs, or use modern materials and their own milieu to re-create the Dunhuang frescoes. Theoretically, they compare and contrast the religious paintings of Christianity and Buddhism, and evaluate and critique the deeper reasons behind the similarities and differences between Chinese and Western art. Such teaching and learning helps students understand the context and values of a geo-culture and integrate, broadly and deeply over time, the geo-cultures of the past with those of today. Students are able to widen their horizons with global vision and perspective instead of being limited to one place, country, or culture.



This 3R approach to art education creates a rich, inclusive, and infinite study of art and art research that is trans-ethic, trans-civilization, trans-­ historic, and trans-time, and that in turn manifests the aesthetics of humanity, the earth, and beyond.

Conclusion In modern China and the global world today, real Chinese art is that which embodies the aesthetics of Chinese culture. Mogao’s frescoes, with their rich and diverse characteristics, form their own unique style and are an organic and representative part of traditional Chinese art over a long history. Dunhuang’s art integrates consciousness, aesthetics, ideologies, and the synergies of diverse nationalities and combines the painting methods, expressions, languages, and techniques of all. Therefore, Dunhuang’s frescoes are not only magnificent treasures of Chinese art from the past, they still offer the essence of the Chinese spirit. More importantly, they exemplify the fusion of foreign arts and cultures in Chinese recreations. The study of Dunhuang will bring insightful and inspirational forces in the renewal of Chinese art and art education. From a cultural perspective, the Dunhuang frescoes are the culmination of the Chinese art of multiple nationalities in the ancient dynasties and have also pushed the frontier of traditional Chinese art. Most importantly, they have showcased the fusion and synergy of the Chinese culture with other nationalities. The current study of Dunhuang art breaks away from the long tradition of ethnocentric arrogance in China that focuses narrowly on its own Chinese own art as the only sophisticated expression in the world. At the same time, it also refutes those who value Western art as always aesthetically superior to Chinese art traditions. A true scholarly approach calls for the study of Chinese art in the cultural context of the entire world and examines the relationship between Chinese civilization and those in the rest of the globe. This open and inclusive attitude will bring objectivity, accuracy, and quality in both art and scholarship. Since Dunhuang art is a cultural and religious creation from multiple ethnicities and nations along the ancient Silk Road, its study is inevitably a world affair. Similar to Ancient Greece, Rome, and the Renaissance in the West, the value of Dunhuang art for research in various fields comes from the fact that it offers and reflects universal human values and principles. Dunhuang not only provides rich resources for the study of art, but also evidence of all the connections and interactions between the East and the



West in ancient times. We can clearly see cultural exchange, fusion, and symbiosis as tribes and groups migrated and commercial trade expanded, and we can witness the development of humanity and societies. All this activity has directly shaped the progress and development of both Asia and Europe and the rest of the world. The study of Dunhuang opens a new avenue to understanding Chinese culture and its relation to the world and humanity as a whole. Dunhuang can be instrumental in providing insights, through the past, to contemporary China and its cultures. As we accept China’s diversity, richness, and complexity both in the past and present, we can look at the entire world with a similarly transformed and enriched lens. The Dunhuang frescoes are among the greatest and most magnificent treasures of Chinese traditional culture. As we study the beautiful world heritage in this living museum, the essence of Dunhuang art inspires and informs us to transform our current education and life. There is an urgency to teach the importance of Dunhuang and integrate it into current Chinese education at all levels and in various subjects, beyond art and history. More importantly, Dunhuang belongs to all humanity. We need to study Dunhuang in the global context of the entire history of humans so as to gain a true and profound understanding of its real value. After all, underneath the glorious and magnificent frescoes are the ethics, aesthetics, and metaphysics of human consciousness, forces that generated the heart beat and living pulse of that place and time, forces that still run deep in our veins.

Notes 1. The six classics of Buddhist scriptures (Liujing, 六经) are Mahāpraj?āpāramitā-­ sūtra, Diamond Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (or the Vajracchedika-prajna-­ paramita Sutra), Vimalakirtinirdesa-Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra, Sutra of ́ raṅgamaSūtra (or Heroic March Perfect (complete) Enlightenment, and Sū Sutra). 2. Sishi (four periods, 四时): refers to four seasons—spring, summer, autumn, and winter. 3. This phrase came from a quote from Mencius (372–289 BC), “When poor, cultivate one’s self alone; When prosper, be kind to the world (穷则独善其 身, 达则兼善天).” It refers to self-cultivation and self-protection, without focusing on the world affairs. See Mencius 《孟子·尽心上》 ( 1861).



References Ban, G. (2018). Geography Hanshu. Geography Records of Han Book, 28(1 & 2). (Hanshu, Geography, 《汉书.地理志》). Retrieved from http://www.read126. cn/194c6894-51d5-4df3-a4bc-fa1282139f82!c0856342-2132-4498-921cd81450904044!eb0d93d4-cce0-430d-aea5-cb1dc2f38e1e.html Dunhuang Academy. (Ed.). (1984). Zhongguoshiku-Dunhuangmogaoku (中国石 窟-敦煌莫高窟, Chinese Grottoes: Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes) (Vol. 2). Beijing: Cultural Relics Publishing House. Dunhuang Academy. (2002). Dunhuang  – Jinian Dunhuang Cangjidongfaxian100nian (敦煌-纪念敦煌藏经洞发现一百周年, Dunhuang – Centennial Celebration of the Discovery of the Library Cave). Beijing: Chaohua Press. Dunhuang Academy. (2013). Zhongguoshiku  – Dunhuang (中国石窟—敦煌, Chinese Grottoes – Dunhuang) (2nd ed.). Dunhuang: Mogao Artifacts Press. Fang, L.  T. (2012). Chinese Buddhism & Traditions (Zhonghuofoji­ ayuchangtongwenhua, 中国佛教与传统文化). Shanghai: Shanghai People’s Press. Feng, J.  C. (2005). Dunhuangzhuiwen 《敦煌追问》 ( , In search of Dunhuang). Zhengzhou: Zhengzhou Classics Press. Fladmark, J. M. (2002). Heritage & Identity: Shaping the Nations of the North. New York: Routledge. Jiang, S.  Z. (2005). Zongjiao yishulun ( 宗教艺术论, On Religion and Art). Beijing: Culture & Art Press. Kunwangsha Stone Carving. (2018). Daoke88. Retrieved from http://www. Li, J., & Liu, D. Y. (Trans.). (2004). Gushi shijiushou yu yuefushi (古诗十九首与乐 府诗, Nineteen Ancient Poems, Melodies, and Songs). Dalian: Qingdao People’s Press. Mencius. (1861). The Works of Mencius. The Chinese Classics (J.  Legge, Trans., Vol. 2.). Oxford: Clarendon Press. Reprinted (1895). Mencius. (2004). Sishu jizhu 《四书集注》 ( , Annotation of Four Classics). Zhu Xi annotated. Changsha: Yue Lu Book Press. Nan, H. J. (2008). Zhonguo fojiao fazhanshi lueshu (中国佛教发展史略述, A Brief History of the Development of Chinese (Buddhism)). Beijing: East Press. Ning, K., & Hao, C. W. (2010). Dunhuang de yishu he wenhua, (敦煌的艺术和文 化, The Art and Culture of Dunhuang). Beijing: China International Broadcasting Press. Ren, J.  Y. (1985). Zhongguo fujiaoshi 《中国佛教史(第一卷)》 ( , The History of Buddhism in China) (Vol. 1). Beijing: Chinese Social Sciences Press. She, T. S. (2011). Lianaghan, Ji, Wei, Nanbeichao yu xiyu guanxishi yanjiu (两汉 魏晋南北朝与西域关系史研究, Historical Study of the Relations with Western Regions During Han, Wei, Ji, and South and North Dynasties). Beijing: Business Affairs Press.



Shi, S. Q. (1980). Chinese History Museum. Baidu Encyclopedia. Retrieved from %8F%B2%E5%8D%9A%E7%89%A9%E9%A6%86/4900 Sima, Q. (2018). Dawan Commentary of Shiji 《史记·大宛列传》 ( ). Beijing: China Press. Retrieved from!3ab00492-c35a-4664-b924-f7799c69eb14.html Von Goethe, J.  W. (2018). AZ Quotes. Retrieved from https://www.azquotes. com/author/5628-Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe/tag/art?page=3 Wang, Y. (2010). Sui tang fojian gezong meixue (隋唐佛教各宗美学, Aesthetics of Sui and Tang Buddhism). Shanghai: Shanghai Classics Press. Yao, J. J. (2006). Dunhuang Dialogue: Influence of Dunhuang Art on Chinese Art History. Dunhuang Research, 95(1), 30–32. Retrieved from https:// Zhang, Y. Y. (2016). Lidai minghua ji (历代名画记, The Famous Paintings of the Dynasties). Beijing: People’s Art Press. Retrieved from com/books?isbn=7534424054


A Psychological Perspective of Dunhuang Education: Heart, Soul, and Our Lives Leng Lu (冷璐)

Introduction As one of the most important manifestations and representations of China’s diverse culture, Dunhuang illustrates the cultivation of people through compassion and ethics education—a core component of the Dunhuang civilization. A close examination of aspects of the Dunhuang educational system, its teaching content, and historical development, reveals a strong connection to and the influence of the Chinese Central Plains. At the same time, the educational system also clearly displays a strong association with and the impact of diverse traditions from the Western nations on the Chinese border. Dunhuang education developed its own characteristics based on the regional characteristics and the people’s inner needs, characteristics that are primarily related to Buddhism and are particularly reflected in its mural paintings, written documents, and artifacts. The murals, inscriptions, and artifacts represent the people’s unique aesthetic tastes and their psychological state during a particular historical period (Peng 2010).

Leng Lu (冷璐) (*) School of Foreign Studies, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,



LENG LU (冷璐)

An extensive literature review shows that previous research has explored the psychological factors contributing to the design of the Dunhuang Grottoes (Hu and Hu 2005) and mural paintings (Hu and Hu 2004). However, the psychological and spiritual significance of Dunhuang educational aspirations has not been explored and examined in depth. The purpose of this chapter is to analyze the deeper psychological reasons behind Dunhuang education and their implications for modern education in an era when both spirituality and ideology are seriously lacking. The analysis of Dunhuang from psychological and spiritual perspectives as well as the connection with education is based mainly on Abraham Maslow’s (1968, 1971) five-level Hierarchy of Needs pyramid. Through this scholarly and critical lens, the chapter examines how Dunhuang’s remaining artifacts showcase its people, who strove to move beyond the self to pursue self-­ affirmation, self-actualization, and self-transcendence over the course of a thousand years in an extremely difficult habitat and challenging times.

Psychological Analysis of Dunhuang Education Dunhuang education, as seen in its art, texts, and other artifacts, consisted primarily of Buddhist teachings and religious practices. He (1990) pointed out that “Dunhuang art is religious in its function. The purpose for the art was to inspire worship, and its mission from the very beginning was to serve Buddhism” (p.  340). According to historical records, during the period of the Five Dynasties and the Ten Kingdoms (AD 815–1036, 五代 十国), Dunhuang had at least ten Buddhist temple schools. The subjects taught include literacy, enlightenment education, practical knowledge, literature, and the Chinese classics. Students in the temple schools came from both common and noble family backgrounds (Feng 2013). Although in ancient China “systematic and academic teaching and learning were very much a privilege and rarity” (Xu 2017, p. 44), the development and growth of temple schools broke the monopoly of education and knowledge by aristocracy so that the majority of people could have access to education (Yan 2009). Dunhuang education was a public-oriented education; its educational goals and content aimed at serving people’s spiritual and psychological needs. These goals differed significantly from those of the Central Plains region and government education at that time, which were for the aristocracy and elite with the goal of preparing people to rule the nation.



Dunhuang’s educational style was drastically different from that in many other areas of the Central Plains in ancient China. The people in Dunhuang created a large number of Buddhist paintings, frescoes, grottoes, sculptures, scriptures, and books. This phenomenon can be explained from the perspective of people’s psychological state, needs, and motivation. Their creativity, to a large extent, can be explained as being associated with deficiency motivation and growth needs, which are part of Maslow’s psychological theory (Maslow 1954, 1964, 1968, 1971). This well-known theory centers on a hierarchy of needs: physiological needs, safety needs, the need for belongingness and love, the need for self-esteem, and the need for self-actualization. Human beings generally move up the hierarchy from basic to complex needs. The needs function as motivators for action; as each need is met, it becomes less of a motivator and the person focuses meeting the needs on the next level. Through years of research, Maslow (1968) gradually realized that some individuals go beyond the level of self-actualization with the salient motivation being to further a cause beyond the self and to experience a communion beyond the boundaries of the self. He referred to this level as self-transcendence, as illustrated in Table 10.1 (Koltko-Rivera 2006). Table 10.1  A rectified version of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Motivational level

Description of person at this level


Seeks [a] to further a cause beyond the self and [b] communion beyond the boundaries of the self through peak experiences Self-actualization Seeks fulfillment of personal potential Esteem needs Seeks esteem through recognition of achievement Belongingness and love Seeks affiliation with a group needs Safety needs Seeks security through order and law Physiological (survival) Seeks to obtain the basic necessities of life needs Source: Koltko-Rivera (2006, p. 303) Note: [a] This may involve service to others, devotion to an ideal (e.g. truth, art) or a cause (e.g. social justice, environmentalism, the pursuit of science, a religious faith), and/or a desire to be united with what is perceived as transcendent or divine [b] This may involve mystical experiences and certain experiences with nature, aesthetic experiences, sexual experiences, and/or other transpersonal experiences, in which the person experiences a sense of identity that transcends or extends beyond the personal self


LENG LU (冷璐)

Generally speaking, for people who lived in the barren and isolated Gobi Desert and often encountered harsh living conditions, there was a stronger demand for spiritual, psychological, and emotional support in order to overcome life’s difficulties and achieve their desired life. When affected by the impact of war, poverty, and pain, people would copy and chant sutras and build grottoes to pay respect to the Buddha so as to receive blessing and deliverance. They prayed for well-being and peace for family members when the latter were ill or passing (Cui 2006). These phenomena of copying manuscripts, chanting sutras, and building grottoes echo with Maslow’s theory that people have physiological, safety, belongingness, and love needs in order to sustain physical and psychological well-being. People also have a desire for meaningful and satisfying social relationships, so they relate to their family and friends when feeling either happy or miserable. At the same time, they demonstrate higher-level needs to grow, elevate themselves, and self-actualize their current condition with intrinsic aspiration in order to transcend death or realize enlightenment. Section “Survival and Safety Needs” explains Dunhuang education from a psychological perspective based on Maslow’s theory. Survival and Safety Needs Dunhuang folk education, or the education for ordinary people, originated from the people’s daily lives and the effects of teaching and learning were enlightening (jiaohuazuoyong, 教化作用). In ancient Dunhuang, some people wanted to change their destiny for the better by taking imperial exams to seek an official career or shitu (仕途); however, doing so was beyond the reach for the vast majority. Historical records show that very few commoners or people from the business sector were able to become an official in the imperial court. For them, survival and living a normal secular life were more practical and realistic than an idealistic aspiration (Zhao 2008). Therefore, the goal of education was to teach skills useful in daily life and to cultivate good morals and character. Dunhuang folk education taught people practical principles and good virtues: the four commandments—loyalty, filial piety, chastity, and righteousness (zhongxiaojieyi, 忠孝节义); diligent study (qinxue, 勤学); making friends (jiaoyou, 交友); self-cultivation (xiuyang, 修养); and other aspects of moral education. Dunhuang folk education harmoniously combined the teachings of Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism. These educational ideas and values



penetrated the hearts of the Dunhuang community and became an organic part of the public psychology (Wang 2013). Becker (1971) suggested that culture is the highest form of human adaptation. In Dunhuang, teaching and learning Buddhism and moral conduct served as an adaptive function that made people’s survival more probable. In a way, through the years of immersion in the practice of Buddhism, the Buddhist cultural worldviews and beliefs, which suggest the value of life and the meaning of being, were accepted by diverse people in the Dunhuang region as the concepts, principles, and behaviors that must be passed down from generation to generation. Buddhist teachings provided Dunhuang people with the fortitude to strive for moral perfection and self-improvement. In this sense, faith in the Buddhist cultural worldview became a source of resilience that promoted people’s psychological safety and social well-being. Thus, families taught their children and Dunhuang educated their youth in “what has worked in the past,” that is to transmit Buddhist cultural worldviews and ways of being to increase the probability of survival. For example, the Golden Light Scriptures (Jingguanmingzuish­ engwangjin, 《金光明最胜王经》) in the Dunhuang Grottoes were made in the period when the Tibetan Kingdom prospered (AD 618–842) because people longed for a peaceful and orderly world after two decades of warfare (Sha 2006). The content of the Golden Light Scriptures covers everything from the spiritual to the material, from the big to the small. The strong idea of protecting the world is expressed in the scriptures, which echo and reflect the reality of the chaos, poverty, and pain the people of Dunhuang endured during the time of war. It was hoped that the scriptures would make the war subside, the enemy retreat, and bring peace for the whole world. The scriptures emphasized this part repeatedly, which shows that people longed for peace after years of war and being under the pressure of oppression. During that time, the promotion of peace and legality helped people remain safe. Dunhuang Buddhist paintings (佛教史迹故事画) portray many legends and stories of Buddha and the Bodhisattvas from Tianzhu (天竺), Xiyu (西域–于阗), Hexi (河西), the Central Plains (中原), and the southern areas (江南) (Zhang 2011a). Dunhuang people also used vows and pledges (发愿文), the promise or agreement to do or refrain from doing something as a Buddhist practice or in their daily life. Researchers have found that the common people strived to become a Buddha (成佛) and to attain enlightenment (成正觉), an intuitive looking into the nature of


LENG LU (冷璐)

things as opposed to an analytical or logical understanding of it (Hurvitz et al. 1996, p. 434). Through painting and copying sutras, people sought happiness and blessings for their parents, ancestors, children, siblings, spouses, and other relatives. The cultivation and practice of moral ethics, virtue, and soul enlightenment enhanced people’s psychological safety, and they generated a sense of peace and hope that eventually became an integral part of their thinking and living. The Need for Belongingness and Self-Esteem From the Northern Liang (北凉, AD 397–439) to the early Northern Zhou (北周, AD 557–581) Dynasties, when the early grottoes were formed, they consisted mainly of small divinity caves (小型禅窟), central pillar caves (中心塔柱窟), and palace caves (殿堂窟). The small caves were places for monks to live and practice. Central pillar caves had both monks’ rooms and a pagoda that provided room for more monks to sit and meditate. At the same time, they could also parade around the pillar (Dunhuang Academy 2002). The grottoes served as memorial and special community centers for commoners and family members to pray, meditate, and meet for Buddhist teachings and other worship activities (Li 2002). They helped people grow and brought further understanding to the essence of connection with others. For instance, paintings in the eastern entrance to the Zhang Yichao family cave (张议潮家窟), Cave #156, show not only the parents of Zhang Yichao (张议潮) and image of his elder brother, Zhang Yitan (张议潭), but also pictures of his military troops and of a trip his wife took (Chen 2016). The paintings helped the family gain self-esteem and self-respect from the worshippers (Li 2007). With the prevalence of Buddhism and temple education at that time, large families started to open caves for offering prayers, seeking longevity, and keeping the family safe and happy in everyday life. People derived healthy and positive feelings from their activities in the caves. This phenomenon became more popular when there were frequent wars in the region (Chen 2016). The family caves helped people stay connected with their family members, friends, religious practitioners, ancestors, and spiritual beings, which truly reflects Dreyfus’ (1972) idea that “Man, by temperament a social being, cannot easily tolerate such isolation; he wants and strives for companionship, intimacy, and relatedness—with himself and others” (p. 31).



After the Sui Dynasty (隋朝, AD 581–618), painters, builders, artists, workers, and creators in Dunhuang expressed their desires, ambitions, emotions, and ideals about the surrounding world through complex murals (Hu and Hu 2005). The Dunhuang murals can be divided into seven categories. The first category, the Buddha paintings, refers to the depiction of various gods and goddesses in Buddhism, such as the Medicine Buddha in Cave #148 (Dunhuang Academy 2005) and the Eight Great Buddha Mandala figures in Cave #25 of the Yulin Grottoes (Wei 2012). Second, the story paintings, refers to those illustrating the legends based on Buddhist scriptures, such as stories of events in Buddha’s life (本生故 事), and marriage stories. Third, traditional mythological paintings, includes mainly depictions of ancient Chinese myths such as the story of the Eastern King (Dong Wang Gong, 东王公), the leader of all gods and the ancestor of the Northern and Southern Daoist sects; the Western Empress (Xi Wang Mu, 西王母), the goddess of all female immortals, who is in charge of longevity and protects women, marriage, and childbirth; and Nu Wa (女娲), the creation goddess. The fourth category, Jingbian (经变画) murals, are those based on Buddhist scriptures, a uniquely Dunhuang creation intended to teach Buddhism and its stories through colorful paintings. Fifth is that the paintings illustrate the history of Buddhism by showing historical figures and events, Buddhist holy places, and major spiritual events. They include both true stories and legendary ones. The sixth category is portraits of the provider (gongyangren huanxiang, 供养人画像), small paintings of the sponsor of the grotto located at the bottoms of the murals. In the Tang Dynasty, this type of portrait gradually increased in size. The final category is the decorative patterns that are seen mainly on the architectural structures of the grottoes, such as ceilings, borders, and fringes (Tong 2006). The seven categories of murals display Dunhuang people’s social, religious, political, cultural, and historical lives and economic activities through painting the local school (Cave #12), marriage rituals and wedding banquet (Yulin Cave #25), people’s clothing and images (Yulin Cave #29), writing and copies of sutras and textbooks (Cave #16), and so on. The murals serve as educational materials for the common people. For instance, taking the caisson ceiling (Zaojing, 藻井) in Cave #392 as an example, students learn to appreciate the structure, arrangement, and style of the paintings and start to create their own artistic works. Studying the portraits in Yulin Cave #29, anthropologists and historians learn the clothing style, cultural relics and ritual, and religious principles at that time.


LENG LU (冷璐)

The creators imbued the paintings with their talent and spirit, deriving a sense of value and self-esteem from their works. Consequently, they hoped to offer psychological assurance so that their paintings could somehow help others, kings and the commoners alike, as well as themselves, escape suffering and transcend death. The murals not only display objects and events of daily life such as wild animals, hunting, farming, trading, burial, and family gatherings, but also the imaginative worlds of the painters—peaceful heavens, beautiful scenery after death, and Nirvanas. The painters’ and artisans’ rich imaginations and genuine creations reflect their aesthetic and religious experiences (Hu and Hu 2005). Such symbolic and religious pursuits prompted a mental transformation that gave humans an alternative view of their condition and environment and allowed them to explore it more positively. The existential concerns of the human condition engendered by the awareness of death and sufferings inspired religious practices and expressions to help the people in Dunhuang cope with the hardships. The murals in the grottoes played two important roles: one was to elaborate and promote Buddhism and the second was to attract believers through their strong decorative effects (Hu 2014). The integration of the content, art form, grotto, and statue formed a relatively complete and independent religious and educational world, so that when people entered into the “Buddha realm,” they were touched by these sensuous images, the magnificent imaginations, and experienced unexpected aesthetic fulfillment and emotional inspiration. Such integration creates an experience that transforms knowledge into thoughtful action and carries with it its own individualizing quality and self-sufficiency, which aligns with Dewey’s pragmatic theory of experiential learning and education (Dewey 2005). Hence, the Dunhuang murals ultimately enhanced the internalization of Buddhist teachings and moral self-discipline in the public without moral preaching, blunt propaganda, and serious sermons. Pinker (1997), among others, has declared that “religion and philosophy are in part the application of mental tools to problems they were not designed to solve” (p. 525). Rinpoche (1994) argued that “all the teachings and training in Buddhism are aimed at that one single point: to look into the nature of the mind, and so free us from the fear of death” (pp.  51–52). Because of the circumstances around Dunhuang at that time—war and death, the lack of basic living resources, the suffering, and other unresolved problems—the people voluntarily relinquished individual autonomy to delegated authority (Becker 1975) through connecting



to supernatural spirits, the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and other gods. This spiritual connection provided psychological equanimity (Solomon et  al. 2004) through the belief that one belongs to a meaningful universe and is able to lead a blessed life if one engages in genuine religious practices. People who had similar moral values and Buddhist beliefs came together naturally and influenced one another. The great consensus around such beliefs made these Buddhist teachings seem more authentic and thus they were more valid. This echoes with the research of Greenberg et al. (2004) that suggests the greater consensus can serve as fear-regulating psychological structures to enhance people’s connections, confidence, and holistic well-being. The Need for Self-Actualization and Self-Transcendence Self-actualization, according to Maslow (1954), represents the growth of an individual toward fulfillment of the highest levels of needs; for example, the realization of dreams and goals, the enrichment of one’s own life through selfless devotion, and, more importantly, the alignment of one’s personal development with the Dao and humanistic values. Self-­ actualization is thought to be a possibility for all creative individuals. Rogers (1961) indicated that the self-actualized person has the potential to grow, to congruently integrate the real self and the ideal self, thereby cultivating the emergence of a fully functioning person. Maslow later amended his hierarchical model of needs, arguing that beyond self-­ actualization, there exists another, higher, level of development, which is self-transcendence. A person achieves this level by focusing on goals beyond the self, such as altruism, spiritual awakening, liberation from egocentricity, and ultimately the unity of being: Transcendence refers to the very highest and most inclusive or holistic level of human consciousness, behaving and relating, as ends rather than means, to oneself, to significant others, to human beings in general, to other species, to nature, and to the cosmos. (Maslow 1971, p. 269)

Transcendent individuals often have peak experiences, in which they transcend the individual ego and become aware of ultimate truth and the unity of all things. Koltko-Rivera (2006) explained that at the level of self-­ actualization, the individual works to actualize the individual’s own potential, whereas at the level of transcendence, the individual’s own needs are


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put aside in order to seek a benefit beyond mere personal interest, to identify with something greater than the purely individual self. The ­transcendent beings often engage in selfless service to others or to some higher force or cause conceived as being outside the personal self. Li (1999) commented on the connection between Dunhuang’s murals and the people’s psychological state: If the murals of the Northern Wei Dynasty were used to describe the tragic reality and painful sacrifice needed to find spiritual comfort, then the Sui and Tang dynasties were just the opposite: the purpose of these paintings was to attain an imaginary bliss and find joy and happiness, which was the fulfillment of the soul. (p. 120. Author’s translation)

Becker (1973) argues that humans naturally seek to connect themselves with powers that transcend the individual as a symbolic defense against mortality. We are strongly motivated by a survival instinct to creatively transcend the fear of death. In Dunhuang, murals and Buddhism were used as a vehicle for death transcendence and healing. The murals are quite popular and successful in helping people develop the cultural worldview and value system associated with Buddha’s teachings. In this sense, a meaningful, or authentic life for people in Dunhuang was to adhere to Buddhist values and practices. People built grottoes to demonstrate their respect for the Buddha and to express a particular expectation and aspirational respect for and connection with the dead. For example, most of the Mogao Grottoes in the Sui and Tang Dynasties (AD 581–907) and the Five Dynasties (AD 907–960) were family grottoes that were not open to the public. The big, noble, or powerful families such as the Yin Jiazheng (阴嘉政) family, Cave #231, and the Zhang Yichao (张仪潮) family, Cave #156, built grottoes as places to pray for their parents to live longer and healthier lives (Chen 2016), to send deceased family members to the heavenly paradise of bliss, and to regenerate their souls (Wang and Feng 2017). The children wished for their deceased parents and relatives to achieve the state of immortal souls or shengxian (升仙), and enjoy heavenly enlightenment along with the Buddha. In doing so, they hoped their own lives would be impacted positively as well. In Dunhuang, people created magnificent murals, enshrined Buddhas, and appreciated and worshipped them with awe and sincerity, joining the self and the other through these artistic experiences. For instance, while appreciating murals, people’s senses were aroused and purified by the pro-



longed and cumulative interaction with the environment. The intense emotions of suspense, wonder, and awe enhanced and enriched their ­living experiences. The interpretation of the murals and sutras, on the part of the creator, the sponsor, the participants, and the audience, was a communicative activity. They are interpreted by the Self or the Other, and this interpretation is accomplished by both the artist, that is, the creator, and the audience. Essentially, the appreciation of the murals may have culminated in a dialogue between the artist and the audience, or a self-dialogue and self-realization within the artist. This self-actualization through artistic experiences enhanced people’s psychological well-being. In Buddhist practice, hand copying sutras is an important pathway to gaining virtue, purifying oneself, transcending worldly delusion, and attaining enlightenment or chengfoguo (成佛果). The copying and learning of sutras as a spiritual, psychological, and social ritual and practice became prevalent after the Northern Dynasty (北朝, AD 386–581), and its popularity was comparable to that of the construction of Buddhist statues in the Central Plains. During the latter part of the Tubo Kingdom (吐蕃王朝, AD 618–842) in Dunhuang, the Tibetan authorities initiated a massive Buddhist scripture-copying movement in Dunhuang as a specific measure to promote Buddhism. The Dunhuang scripture-copying workshop (Chaojingfang, 抄经坊) was the most basic and dynamic copying institution for Buddhist scriptures, with a copying team that totaled nearly 700 people (Zhang 2011b), from the provincial governor and military generals, down to civilians. Because of the increasing concern for the safety and well-being of oneself and one’s family, copying and learning sutras had become a common activity to earn merit. However, because of differences in social and economic status, the scale, quality, and cost of copying sutra products varied significantly. Commoners and ordinary monks and nuns could afford to donate only a small amount of money to copy sutras or have them copied as an act of worship to the Buddha. So, they usually copied only one part of the Buddhist scriptures or a few pages from a whole volume. However, the situation was quite different for the dignitaries and the Buddhist priests. They invested money in setting slaves and livestock free and copying hundreds of sutras in order to earn spiritual merit. Once the copying was completed, some people put the sutras in their family shrine or temple shrine and paid respect to them daily during the spiritual rituals (Cui 2006). The practice of hand copying reveals that the people in Dunhuang wanted to stop suffering and attain bliss and the Bodhi way. The Lotus


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Sutra says repeatedly that those who copy it will, by the copying itself, achieve supreme enlightenment. Copying is an excellent way for a person to put himself or herself fully into a state of truly sensing, feeling, and connecting with a sutra. The effort of copying unifies the person and the sutra, which is considered an expression of piety and recognized as a devotional practice that cultivates merit in one’s family, ancestors, and self by transference. While copying sutras, transcribers usually wrote their personal prayers, spiritual vows, or pledges (fayuanwen, 发愿文) in the book. Examining the contents of these vows and pledges reveals that the common people strived to become a Buddha (chengfo, 成佛) and to achieve enlightenment (chengzhengjue, 成正觉). Generally, the contents of the vows include three types. The first type is blessings for parents, ancestors, and loved ones. For example, in the Lotus Sutra (Miaofa lianhuajin, 《妙法莲花经》 ), one Buddhist disciple inscribed his wishes: to wish his parents who passed away to be free from evil and live in peace after death. Others prayers were for brothers and sisters, and husbands and wives. In Volume II of The Collection of Mahāvaipulya Dharani Sutras, (Dafangdentuoluonijin, 《大方等陀罗尼经》 ), a female disciple hoped that her husband would receive spiritual support after death. The second type of vow was related to getting rid of suffering and diseases, and solving other practical problems. For example, in the Mahayana Maha­ parinnirvana Sutra (Dabanniepanjin, 《大般涅槃经》 ) Volume 40, Zhang Bao (张檗) inscribed to express his understanding that there was no secular life, and his wish to escape from sufferings earlier (体悟无生,早[脱]苦海). The third type of inscription was prayers to become a man. Some females hoped their female body would be transformed into a male body after death, so they copied sutras as a spiritual offering and form of prayer (Cui 2006, p. 117. Author’s translation). Feuerbach (1984) believed that “the premise of religion lies between the will and the ability, between desire and acquisition, between purpose and result; it is the opposition and contradiction between thinking and existence” (p. 462. Author’s translation). From an emotional perspective, people always choose to pursue a happy life, but in fact, life is, for the most part, ruthless and full of pain. The people in Dunhuang tried to transcend the oppositions between the ideal and reality, love and hate, life and death, infinity and limits, and solve these contradictions through the worship of Buddha and Heaven (Hu and Hu 2005). These experiences gave them a sense of purpose or meaning of life beyond the needs of the self, a deeper sense of purpose to counterbalance the plight of the whole world. By con-



necting one’s life journey and happiness to the condition of others, one develops a coherent life narrative (Kenyon 2000). When pursuing ­enlightenment, a person enters into a particular altered state and reaches a special, unique level of being (Katz 1973), what Maslow (1964) described as a peak experience, in which many dichotomies, polarities, and conflicts are fused, transcended, or resolved. This spiritual realization culminates in becoming a fully functioning person (Rogers 1961). The real self and the ideal self can be congruently integrated through the practice of Buddhism and spiritual and moral cultivation. In engaging in these practices, the person connects various aspects of life (good and difficult), the different stages of life (life and death), and various times (past, present, and future) holistically and finds inner purpose, understanding, and peace.

Implications for Modern Education Current worldwide educational systems are devoted to the development of the exterior aspects of students, often neglecting their inner development—the sphere of emotional maturity, spirituality, self-awareness, self-­ understanding, values, and beliefs—that plays an important role in students’ psychological and physical well-being (Astin and Astin 2003). While students have high ambitions and aspirations for educational and occupational success, they are also seriously challenged in other aspects of their life and continually confronted with existential and spiritual questions. They are searching for ways to cultivate their inner selves, seeking to be compassionate and charitable, and looking for inward and outward security. Learners are striving to give a deeper meaning to their lives and to solve the challenging problems confronting their society and the global community. For example, adolescents become “increasingly aware of their concern with values, identity, religion, morality, politics, marriage, family, education, careers, and interpersonal relations” (Dreyfus 1972, p.  1). Leng’s (2015) study found that adolescents were interested in searching for a balanced life and in the concepts of success and happiness. These concerns can and should be addressed by spiritual, religious, and moral education and practices (Higher Education Research Institute 2003). Thus, it is pertinent to ask what lessons can be learned from Dunhuang, in terms of both Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and contemporary educational philosophy and practice.


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Maslow’s Theory and Its Relationship to Learning and Teaching Maslow’s theory provides a framework for guiding students to strive for and reach their full potential. According to Maslow (1968, 1971), before individuals can meet their full potential, they need to satisfy a series of needs. Lower-order needs must be satisfied before the individual can satisfy higher-order needs; that is, physiological needs such as food, shelter, clothing, sleep, and warmth must be met first. If these basic needs are not satisfied, students’ further needs and desires are suppressed because their concern is about satisfying physiological needs. If the physiological needs are met, students’ concern will move to realizing their safety needs. Thus, the teacher needs to ensure that students must not only feel physically safe in the classroom, but intellectually, emotionally, and psychologically as well. Students must feel free to ask questions, share ideas, and make comments without being ridiculed by other students or reprimanded by the teacher. When students feel safe in the classroom, they are able to progress to the next level of needs—the need for love and belonging. To satisfy their need for love and belonging, students should feel that they belong to the classroom community and share a strong relationship with their teachers and peers. Students must feel that they are important as individuals as well as a part of the community. The classroom interaction is instrumental in helping students become involved and engaged in their learning. When all these lower-level needs are met, students may move on to satisfying the need for self-esteem. At this level the student is more receptive to learning and develops self-esteem through achievement, encouragement, and recognition. The teacher can support students’ self-­esteem by giving them affirmative, concrete feedback and positive reinforcement. When all levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are met, students are motivated to learn, to create, and to flourish. But the current educational system often fails to help students actualize their full potential. The teaching methods and content have changed considerably, from a primarily oral tradition based on a faith or rituals and a cultural and spiritual heritage and values to an emphasis on compartmentalized disciplines (language, literature, mathematics, and science, etc.), practical knowledge, short-term gains, and professional careers. Technological advancement has led to teachers and students integrating new technology and teaching tools such as computers, multimedia, the internet, tablets, and smart phones in their teaching and learning. Yet the human race has



never before been so ­fragmented and separated from the community and family internally and physically. “At the core, there is a growing lack of spirituality, human values, and quality. Health and happiness, the basics of human life and existence are noticeably missing throughout our educational systems” (Xu 2013, p. 42). The present system of education is turning us into robots and subservient to economic profits. Though it awakens us intellectually to a certain degree, it stultifies us inwardly, leaving us incomplete, unintegrated with our emotions, intuition, and self-knowledge. Lessons from Dunhuang Education Education in Dunhuang, which emphasized inculcation in the learner appropriate attitudes and practices, a greater awareness of one’s thoughts and actions, commitment to harmony, and respect for Heaven and Earth and promoted soul cultivation, mind and heart transformation, enlightenment, and virtue, can provide some inspiration for dealing with the current predicament in contemporary education. While Xueji honors junzi (君子) (an educated teacher and statesman), Plato calls for a sage, a guide, or a philosopher king and Aristotle respects the wise man (Xu 2017), Dunhuang educators cultivated “the enlightened man” who reached “the climax of one’s cultivation as a moral and educated being” and made “positive contributions to humanity and the universe” (Xu and Lum 2012, p. 714). The teachings of Dunhuang provided concrete examples of Maslow’s Hierarchical Needs on all level. It also awakened the capacity to be self-aware, to cultivate oneself and develop self-control, and helped the students uncover the deeper layers of their being through: (1) enlightenment education (mengxue, 蒙学), which consisted of good manners in daily behavior and the development of the individual personality; (2) moral and ethical education that involved the cultivation of morals, virtue, and an orderly, harmonious social order; and (3) Buddhist education, which pursues compassion, wisdom, and spiritual enlightenment and educates for the good and kind man. The moral degradation that we are witnessing today in many parts of the world is the result of turning away from the spiritual perspectives, religious and moral teachings, and traditional values found in Dunhuang, and returning to those values is a promising way to reshape modern education and purify our human soul.


LENG LU (冷璐)

Education for Self-Transcendence The spirit of religious education embodied in Dunhuang is transcendent in essence. It transcends the suffering of society by its firm belief in the ultimate state of Buddhist enlightenment, from a pragmatic reflection on reality to the bold and creative imagination of Dunhuang art. The spirit of Dunhuang education is the unity of secular and religious, realistic and romantic (Zhu 2011). It transcends the mind and body to reach the noble spirit, transcends the tragic reality to reach the fantasy paradise. The lessons of Dunhuang demonstrated that spiritual life can be rationally explained, that is has a naturalistic meaning. It created, to use Maslow’s (1964) phrase, “peak experiences,” moments of extreme self-­transcendence among religious and secular people alike. The peak experiences helped people to see beyond the two-dimensional world of self-advancement in order to try to live a nobler life for the higher good of all. Transformative education and educational transcendence in the spirit of Dunhuang are urgently needed in today’s education. As Frankl (1969) wrote, “Self-transcendence is the essence of [human] existence. Being human is directed to something other than itself ” (p.  50). Personal growth, the desire for making meaning, and the goal of self-realization and transcendence are inseparable from students’ learning and development. As educators, are we really challenging ourselves to do the necessary work to help students transcend their current intellectual, psychological, emotional, and spiritual states to move to the next higher level? Do we leverage education to move learners from the working poor to a credentialed professional? Or do we strive for a more nuanced and full understanding of ourselves, others, and the world as ONE? Krishnamurti (1953) defined understanding life as understanding ourselves, and that is both the beginning and the end of education. Do we inspire students in their current state of mind to overcome internal fear, shame, and discomfort to break down old barriers, and move beyond where they even dreamed possible? Do we stifle them or spark creativity, curiosity, and the desire to learn? Education in Dunhuang extended learning beyond the acquisition of information and skill development to spiritual awareness, purification, and self-realization. Contemporary education can learn from Dunhuang to reconstruct a more reliable and meaningful way of knowing, as Mezirow (2000) indicated that the knowing may be different from our old habits of mind, but creates deep and lasting change in the learner with a positive, significant impact on growth.



Conclusion Dunhuang represents the highest achievement of the medieval Western Cultural Circle (中古世纪西部文化圈) and a preeminent ancient Buddhist site on the Silk Road in China (Wu 2015). It was the spiritual inspiration for future Chinese education and the world. Dunhuang is the reference point for the acculturation and nationalization of foreign art and teaching. It has played a significant role in cultivating aesthetic taste, promoting traditional culture, carrying forward spiritual and moral education, and nurturing creative thinking in learners. As discussed in this chapter, education in Dunhuang was a matter of establishing humanity, cultivating human proper nature, eradicating the improper aspects of people’s thinking and behaving, and transforming and harmonizing the social and cultural atmosphere. In order to preserve one’s root (Zhu 1983), which is the cultivation of one’s character and virtue, one needs to eradicate one’s errant heart–mind and seek an authentic heart– mind. The current crisis in education does not lie only in too much emphasis on science and not enough on humanities, but more deeply is the result of a lack of connection and awareness in our modern mode of being with ourselves internally and with the larger environment around us. This epoch, signified by the rapid development of science and technology, reveals humans’ fundamental turning far away from our essential source, tianli (天理) (Zhu 1983), and our hearts and souls. As a result, meeting our psychological needs is a serious challenge in education and in life. In order to create a better education, the strategies and forms of action of education systems will need to be modified in respect of both teaching and administration. Teaching should particularly concern the conditions for the construction of inner peace, harmony, and strength in the minds and hearts of individuals, and the ethical, philosophical, and spiritual bases of human development. Education should adopt a holistic and integrated approach in teaching and learning to nurture a sense of oneness, interconnectedness, self-awareness, awe, and wonder in students. The major strategies used in teaching may include the inculcation and clarification of the affective, social and spiritual values, the moral dilemmas, action learning, and transpersonal practices such as meditation, visioning, introspective analysis, and positive social interaction. We need to learn from Dunhuang to understand ourselves deeply, truthfully, psychologically, and to pursue a lofty ideal of life and mentality. With compassion, tolerance, self-discipline, contentment, and a sense of community, we can form a better society and cultivate better education for future generations.


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Acknowledgment  The author would like to acknowledge the payment of copy editing by a grant from Chinese Ministry of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences Foundation (#35518511).

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LENG LU (冷璐)

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Dunhuang and Contemporary Music Education Yu Danhong (余丹红)

In the history of Chinese art, Dunhuang’s existence appears rather magical. Its artifacts document the evolution of Chinese music and its transformation over a thousand years through ten dynasties: North Liang (Bei Liang, 北凉), North Wei (Bei Wei, 北魏), West Wei (Xi Wei, 西魏), North Zhou (Bei Zhou, 北周), Sui (隋), Tang (唐), the Five Dynasties (Wu Dai, 五代), North Song (北宋), Xi Xia (西夏), and Yuan (元). The collection documents the role of music in each period, including the emergence and development of musical instruments, methods of playing, orchestra formation, and music scores. The artifacts also illustrate the development and evolution of certain music, the social and cultural styles, and popularity of certain types of music. Dunhuang provides impressive and rich historical examples of ancient Chinese music. As we examine Dunhuang’s music, we cannot help but ask about the meaning and influence of the music from the past. Will it in any way affect

This chapter is translated and written partially by Xu Di. Yu Danhong (余丹红) (*) Music Education Department, Curator of Shanghai Conservatory, Shanghai, China © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,




us today in a modern society? Can Dunhuang music play a role in ­contemporary music education? How does it relate to music education now and affect the music in our lives?

Musical Resources from Dunhuang Art The study of Dunhuang, as we now know it, emerged in 1900 when the Library Cave was first discovered. The numerous medieval antiquities, which have drawn the attention of scholars from the West and in China ever since, led to the expansion of new and interdisciplinary research. Dunhuang, as an important fortress and passageway on the Silk Road, was situated in a unique position for trade, business, and military operations on the western border of China. To the west of Dunhuang is Yangguan (阳关), to the northwest is Yumenguan (玉门关), and to its south lies Geermu (格尔木) of Qinghai. Because of this special geographic advantage, Dunhuang thrived over a long time during many dynasties in the medieval age and has many magnificent archaeological heritage sites such as the Mogao Grottoes, the Yulin Grottoes, the West Thousand-­ Buddha Grottoes, and the Northern Cave Temple. The discovery of the Library Cave truly adds to the depth and breadth of this UNESCO World Heritage Site with its frescoes, sculptures, scriptures, texts, and other antiquities accumulated over a thousand years. Dunhuang’s collection of writings contains multiple languages: Chinese, Tibetan, Uyghur, ancient Yutian, Sogdian, Sanskrit, and Kustana. Like an encyclopedia, the documents cover many fields of study, from politics, economics, science and technology, and the military to religion, art, culture, and history. Dunhuang’s heritage not only preserves the records of the cultures and the society during medieval times, but also provides a powerful, creative, and transforming force through its art. For instance, the Mogao Grottoes, the largest grottoes in China and perhaps in the world, housed various designs and representations from ten dynasties.1 The 735 grottoes that remain hold 45,000 square meters of frescoes and 2415 sculptures. Most of these paintings are based on Buddhist teaching or stories, but at the same time many reflect the cultural customs: occupations such as planting, weaving, and hunting; and special events such as weddings, funerals, and holiday celebrations and festivities. Music is a prominent feature among the rich antiquities of Dunhuang. The frescoes and documents showcase ancient Chinese palace dances,



musicians, musical instruments, and music records and scores (Chang 1981; Chen 2005; Zheng 1989). They illustrate the multicultural diversity and richness of music development in ancient China. Court Dances and Musicians Chinese traditional music is an important part of the system of rituals that has evolved over the long Chinese history (Wang 2006). Primarily it consists of court or palace music,2 the Yayue (雅乐, or elegant music)3 that was created by imperial professional organizations for religious, political, and social celebrations. During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, politics, economics, and culture flourished, and large-scale court dances accompanied by court music developed and became popular. During this period, heavy bronze musical instruments were no longer in favor and the new court music system adopted many musical instruments from ethnic minorities, such as pipes and strings. As a result, the court music and dance became secular in nature and pleasant and engaging for the audience. These new characteristics promoted a highly developed musical era, which combined the impact of visual, audial, and sensual pleasure. Since the expansion of Buddhism into China over two thousand years ago, it has occupied a significant place in Chinese social and political life and has formed a unique cultural phenomenon of its own. The music and dance depicted in Dunhuang’s frescoes reflect and illustrate this religious and cultural life, as they realistically document the Yayue in the Sui and Tang Dynasties. Among the representative pieces are heavenly court music and dance in Buddha’s preaching. These frescoes demonstrate the beautiful court dances,4 and replicate the court musician formation and organization called Zuobuji (坐部伎, or sitting musicians) in the Yayue of the Tang Dynasty. This can be seen in Mogao Cave #112, Musicians in Mid-­ Tang Dynasty (Zheng 1989, p. 19). Court musicians are colorful and romantic characters in the frescoes. They have various titles, are from various classes, and perform on different court occasions. Overall, they are divided into “Heavenly Musicians (伎乐天)” and “General Musicians (伎乐人),” but within these two categories are a dozen different ranks and types (Zheng 1997). Heavenly musicians are those specializing in music based on religious or fairy legends referring to the Buddha and Bodhisattvas in Heaven who sing and dance. These heavenly musicians changed from simple male figures with the western features of high noses and deep eye sockets in the early Dunhuang paintings to full-figured and beautiful apsaras, or female spirits



with the ­complexions of the Chinese central plains, who sing hymns, worship, and scatter flowers in religious ceremonies and rituals.5 Other musicians that evolved from lotus, half-bird, and half-human musicians to custodian musicians of God appear frequently in Jingbian frescoes, which are religious paintings in Dunhuang. Many Jingbian frescoes depict large musical troupes. For instance, a fresco in Dunhuang Cave #220, the largest painting of its kind in early Tang, includes an orchestra of 28 musicians with delicate details of a variety of musical instruments (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 80). General musicians are secular beings from daily life. They appear among the grotto sponsors in events such as travel, weddings, and festivities. Both Mogao Cave #445 and Yulin Grotto #38 have Jingbian frescoes from Maitreya portraying a wedding scene that is a lively family concert and show (Mogao Cave #445 High Tang 2018). Dunhuang frescoes indicate that in ancient China a feast often included dancers and musicians as part of the celebration. Dunhuang Musical Instruments Musical instruments played a significant role in Dunhuang’s religious and daily life and occupy a large proportion of Dunhuang frescoes. The Mogao Grottoes have 4549 depictions of 43 or 44 different types of musical instruments (Zheng 1988, 1989). In the southern district of the Mogao Grottoes, more than half of the remaining 492 caves have frescoes with musical instruments. The recent count makes the total number more than 6000 (Zhang 2018). The instruments include three musical categories: wind, string, and percussion instruments. Quite a large number of these instruments no longer exist. The Dunhuang frescoes depict some unique and very unusual musical instruments, such as an odd-shaped flute, a copper horn, a flower-pedal ruan (花边阮, Chinese lute), a goard piano (葫芦琴, Naxi ethnic instrument), and a Burmese curved piano (弯琴 or Sanko). The flower-pedal ruan had “previously not [been] documented anywhere in Chinese historical records” according to research at the Dunhuang Academy (New Creation of the Ancient Music 2018). On December 28, 2013, the Dunhuang Art Exhibition in the Hangzhou Art Museum displayed 28 Dunhuang musical instrument replicas from the frescoes; among them were ruan with flower-pedal edge (Cave #220), which are different from



contemporary round ruan in shape and much more beautifully decorated. On display was also a long necked ruan, Cave #172, a hybrid between a Chinese ruan, a Uyghur boolean (弹布尔) and a sattar (萨塔尔), a multicultural fusion and creation. Another interesting instrument was a peach-­ shaped xun (埙), a wind instrument first made of clay and then porcelain (Cave #220), which has a documented history dating back more than 7000  years, since Shiji (Sima 1996) (Revival of Tang Dynasty’s musical instruments in Dunhuang 2018). Given the quantity and variety of the musical instruments in the Dunhuang frescoes, Dunhuang actually offer the best-chronicled text for the history of Chinese musical instruments, their creation, development, and multicultural and ethnic fusion. Music Research In the field of music research regarding the Dunhuang lute, the most challenging aspect is the study of its music scores, which are also called Dunhuang pipa scores. The French explorer and linguist Paul Pelliot divided these music scores into three parts, P.3539, P.3719, and P.3808 (Chen 2010), and they are currently housed in the Paris National Library (Dunhuang Scores 2018). Among the researchers of the Dunhuang lute music scores, the renowned musicologists are Kenzo Hayashi (林谦三, 1899–1976) and Rao Zongyi (or Jao Tsung-I 饶宗颐, 1917–2018) from Hong Kong Chinese University, and Ye Dong (叶栋, 1930–1989) and Chen Yingshi (陈应时, 1933–present) from Mainland China (Wang 2006, p. 48; Chen 2005; Ye 1982). They have examined the core elements of these historical musical documents, such as setting the chord to a certain pitch, translating the words in the scores, the tones, and tonal tones. Scholars from Korea, France, and the United States have also participated in the study of Dunhuang musical scores. Over years of research, the musicologists have examined the real intention of the musical scores and have experimented with the actual playing of the music (Chen 1988). In recent years, several decoded Dunhuang music scores have been published and have been played by music groups and televised on national TV stations (Revival of Tang Dynasty’s Musical Instruments in Dunhuang 2018). However, the accuracy of these interpretations is still a heated debate among scholars and is yet to be determined.



Dunhuang Music in Contemporary Music Education As we look at Dunhuang music in retrospect, our study goes far beyond nostalgia and our intention and focus are on its meaning for education and life today. How can we cherish this unique heritage and continually build on its magnificence? What role does Dunhuang play in contemporary music education? Dunhuang as Music History What is the meaning of history? How do our current students relate to it? When we look at a cross section of time, we see the manifestations of a society. When we look at the chronological development of a society, that is history. History reflects the pulse and patterns of societal changes and shifts. Through it the past, present, and future connect and interrelate. When we examine Dunhuang music from a historical perspective, Dunhuang becomes the past. However, at the same time, as we study the history of Dunhuang and its music, both become lasting and permanent. They continue to influence the present and the future, and this impact cannot be separated into fragmented pieces. This is the power and attraction of history, as Yizhuan says, “As we honor the past, we develop the knowledge of the future” (Yang and Zhang 2011. Editor’s translation). Dunhuang’s art consists of grotto construction, sculpture, painting, music, and dance; with diverse, rich, and creative content both in quantity and quality. In Dunhuang’s collection we find representative musical works throughout all dynasties, from the Six Dynasties continuously to the Song and Yuan Dynasties (Song and Li 2006). It is indeed an inclusive and complete depository of medieval Chinese music and provides rich materials from multiple ethnicities and cultures. Dunhuang’s thousand-year record of Chinese music gives us the basic evidence and facts to understand the general music development in China during that time. For instance, Dunhuang demonstrates the height of the development and creation of Chinese musical instruments. Such development has been on a decline ever since. A comparison of the musical instruments then with those currently used in China indicates that many have disappeared, and what we have is a small portion of the original. Dunhuang’s musical artifacts also illustrate that music development in China was not a linear progression, but followed a wave pattern with natural ups and downs in connection with the social, political, and economic



conditions and military operations. Zheng Ruzhong (郑汝中), a pipa expert and Dunhuang music scholar, shares his on-site research in Dunhuang in his paper “Categorization of the Musical Instruments in Dunhuang Frescoes” (1988). In the 140 grottoes with music and dance frescoes that include over 4000 musical instruments (in 44 categories or types), 50 different pipa paintings, and 500 orchestras or musical performance groups (Zheng 1988). The impressive numbers clearly portray the musical renaissance in Chinese history and show the powerful resources in these grottoes for contemporary musicians, scholars, and students alike. Dunhuang’s valuable historic records portray the entire evolution of musical instruments as well. For instance, the pipa in the Mogao Grottoes gradually changes over the one thousand years from the early short-necked pipa with four strings and facets and a round shape to the pear-shaped one we see today. At the same time, Dunhuang illustrates very charming and refreshing musical aesthetics and ideals. The designs of these instruments express free, unique, and courageous creativity, going beyond conventional boundaries. These qualities are often lacking in contemporary music production and directly refute the conventional critique from both Western and Eastern scholars, who consistently believe that the Chinese lack creativity and innovation. For instance, on the south wall in Dunhuang Cave #112, the painting of a pipa being played in a reverse pose (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p.  128), is a stunning master piece with an imaginary position beyond actual physical capacity. The imagination, creation, and aesthetics demonstrated in this painting and others are a profound heritage for all in China and the world. When we study this history, Dunhuang opens our horizons, perspectives, and creativity as we experience its art and music. While we can never repeat or simply copy the past, we can, perhaps, reconstruct it to expand into new dimension and creativity. As we look at history, we need to teach our students respect for, appreciation of, and connection with Dunhuang after thousands of years. We have yet to truly inherit the beauty and essence of its music and spirit and bring its manifestation into a new height. Dunhuang’s Testimony for Musicology and Sociology One of the main focal points and objectives for musicology and sociology is the study of the social behaviors of human groups. Traditionally, social behaviors include social classes and structures, social mobility, and



religions. Dunhuang artifacts provide the most valuable sources and hard evidence for both musicology and sociology. Dunhuang art has significant symbolic and metaphoric characteristics, as does Chinese folk art as well. Through metaphors and generalization, the common habits and customs form a certain concept, which is reflected in paintings and pictures. Then over the years it becomes an established form or symbol and a shared belief and concept. The use of musical instruments in the frescoes plays a symbolic and metaphorical role as well, and this use must be explained in music education. As metaphorical symbols, the displays of musical instruments have the mythical impact of the phenomenon of “hearing the drum without beating the drum.” The musical instruments with colorful ribbons float in the air, symbolizing celestial happiness in the heavenly palace and reverence for the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. The paintings and sculptures of heavenly generals holding pipa and warrior attendants with diamond bells indicate the majesty and power of Buddhism and are intended to evoke shock and awe, not to show their musical abilities. In the Jingbian of Huayanjing (华严经, or Avatamsaka Sutra), the small musical instrument in each circle illustrates that every drop of water serves as a mirror image of the infinite world. The musical instruments held by the thousand hands of Guanyin (观音, Avalokteshvara) (Yulin Cave #3, Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 232) showcase the blessings the Bodhisattvas spread to humanity with mercy and compassion to bring happiness and harmony. Dunhuang’s arts occupy an important place in Buddhism and its culture. Since the Han Dynasty, Buddhism has expanded quickly in China with the support of both the imperial court and the common people. As the sponsors of the Dunhuang Grottoes show, from the kings, princes, court officials, and generals to the scholars, businessmen, landowners, and ordinary people, it became a fashion to believe in Buddhism, pay respect to Buddha, and burn incense. In certain dynasties, Buddhism became a national religion. Buddhist temples are not only places to preach religion, more often they serve multiple functions in the community as centers for education, medical treatment, and social interaction. Another important reason for the attractions of the temples to the general public is the Buddhist cultural and artistic activities with music, dance, and operas. With art and music as the vehicle, Buddhism has gained a strong following and continued participation from people in all walks of life in Chinese society. The Dunhuang Grottoes are an open gallery with the themes of the Buddhist religion. They portray the idealistic realm of Heaven to generate



religious aspiration, awe, and commitment. The beautiful and lively sceneries of music and dance create joy and happiness, in contrast to the daily reality. Accompanying the scenes of the heavenly kingdom are the heavenly musicians. They were among the important images at the beginning of the Dunhuang frescoes. Then from the Bei Liang to the Sui dynasties they were replaced by apsaras. As discussed earlier, the heavenly musicians are responsible for singing, dancing, and scattering flowers in Heaven. The apsaras are the manifestations of the demi-gods Gandharva and Kinnara from Hindu mythology. Once they arrived in China, their images, clothing, and the musical instruments they carried all changed over the long history of Dunhuang. All the paintings and decorations here reflect Chinese culture and the customs of the Central Plains. The apsaras later in the Tang Dynasty transcend the original religious stories and the paintings of them become magnificent artistic masterpieces with their brilliant color, free composition, and sophisticated rendering. The construction of many of the Dunhuang Grottoes was sponsored, and these sponsors became part of the frescoes to show their beliefs and respect for Buddhism. Over time, the sponsors’ part of the fresco grew from a humble name on the edge of the fresco to large self-portraits. Some grottoes have huge frescoes of traveling processions with lively scenes of singing and dancing (Zheng 2002). These paintings portray secular dance and music, and include traveling folk musicians and various ethnic operas. The general musicians in the Dunhuang grottoes reflect the role of music in ordinary life. In the paintings, the artists balance religion, politics, and secular life to capture the activities of the time. After more than a thousand years we can still feel the impact of music in the social and cultural festivities. The frescoes of Dunhuang include many paintings that illustrate the imperial systems of rituals and music throughout history. The imperial festivities, social occasions, entertainment, and outings demonstrate music’s role in the official rituals and formality. The ritual and ceremonial function of music is a main component of musicology and sociology. Over the long history of China, music carries the strong imprint of “ritual music.” The power of music for teaching and the transformation of music and the class privilege it represented led the imperial officials, autocrats, and the wealthy to hold musical festivities. They enjoyed the serious, ceremonial, and ritual music by the heavy bronze musical instruments, which illustrate their ruling power and authority. However, such music was not very entertaining. After the Han Dynasty, folk wind and percussion



instruments that generated a lighter and bright musical style began to replace the heavy bronze instruments. During the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the secular and folk music gradually replaced the Yayue, the Elegant Court Music, in the imperial palaces. The orchestras became much more artistic, creative, and flexible, performing indoors or outdoors, full of expression and highly entertaining. The majority of Dunhuang’s frescoes capture this transformation and shift in Chinese music history, as they present few Yayue scenes in the Han Dynasty. While the musical instruments, the form of music, and style have changed drastically, the content of the imperial music performances actually remained very much the same. They praise the imperial rulers, the unification of power, and the harmony of the nation, content that continues to impact Chinese culture. In a nutshell, Dunhuang creates a universe where Heaven and Earth join as one, harmonizing religious spirituality and the secular life of humanity. At the same time, the expressions transcend religion and imperial rituals. For instance, the half-naked apsaras playing musical instruments appear so naturally and gracefully, without shocking or offending people then or now, transcending the common perspectives and conventional values, and elevating aesthetics. Multicultural Music Education and Indigenousness Multicultural music education is an important issue and trend in contemporary music education. However, how to address indigenous music while including multicultural or foreign music is an intriguing and challenging matter. Dunhuang’s frescoes provide classical artifacts that exemplify both multicultural fusion and indigenous continuity and transformation. Ancient Dunhuang, situated on the border of China, served as an important city along the Silk Road. It was under the control of various tribes, ethnic groups, and nations over time, and thus naturally bears the traces of cultural synergy and fusion. Among its multicultural influences, the strongest and most noticeable were India and other western neighboring countries. Ji Xianlin (季羡林), a famous Chinese Dunhuang scholar (1996), has commented that Dunhuang, Turpan, and other areas in Xinjiang were the primary passageways for the cultural exchange between East and West. Along the Silk Road, historical evidence and traces of cultural interactions are everywhere in grottoes, temples, and ancient city ruins. A copy of the Sanskrit Heart Sutra was discovered in one of the Dunhuang Grottoes.



A large number of Buddhist scriptures in Sanskrit were found along with classic literature texts in Turpan areas of Xinjiang. For example, famous works of the Buddhist poet Maming, (马鸣, or Aśvaghoṣa, AD 80–150) that had been long lost in India were among the discovered items, filling a gap in the history of Indian Sanskrit literature. Ji continues: In the human history of the world there have been four powerful and influential civilizations that have a long history, large territories, and their own system – China, India, Greece, and the Islamic State. There is only one place on earth where these four civilizations connected, the Dunhuang and Xinjian area. It is uniquely meaningful for the future of human development and the study of cultural synergy. It is the best area for the study of the phenomena of cultural interaction and synergy and their patterns. (1996, p. 206)

The musical instruments in Dunhuang’s rich and large collection showcase the ethnic creativity of many cultures and are the result of cultural interactions and exchanges over a long history (Liu 2014). The Buddhist musical instruments have mainly preserved their original shape and construction, such as strings of bells, the diamond bell, and conches. The dances in Jingbian show a close connection with Indian folk dances. The dancers’ outfits, corolla, bracelets, and anklets, and their flowing-hip movements, three-bend formations, and hand movements are typical of traditional Indian dances. Historically, China has continuously adopted and eliminated all kinds of musical instruments. During the North and South dynasties, regional musical instruments from the western region of China such as the konghou (箜篌), jegu (羯鼓), and other types of drums originating from Yi, came to Han. Meanwhile there was a quiet movement to modify these foreign musical instruments and localize them. The actual use of the instruments, their formation in the orchestra and their shape, were all changed according to Chinese culture and custom. In Dunhuang, we can see the changing dynamic of Chinese musical instruments and the history of stability and adaptive reform. China often changes a foreign instrument into a new Chinese ethnic instrument; a good example is the erhu (二胡), which has a history of over a thousand years and originated in the northern part of China, where it was called xiqin (奚琴). Therefore, we can see that Chinese culture is very strong both in convergence and assimilation. Although Buddhism and its culture came to



China from India, with the passage of time, Buddha’s image changed to having Chinese features, and the forms, clothing, musical instruments, and decorations of the apsaras all began to exhibit characteristics of China’s central plains. The compositions and lines of the paintings all fused with Chinese painting techniques and perspectives. In music education, Dunhuang’s arts address both multiple cultures and indigenousness and create a high level of harmony and unity throughout their constant interactions.

Dunhuang in Music Education and Cultural Heritage As we study Dunhuang and Dunhuang music today, how does Dunhuang inform us regarding our cultural heritage? How does it benefit our contemporary music education? Cultural Heritage and Music Education Everything that occurred in the past forms the historical resources and foundations of our culture today. The function of music education is to maintain a historical and social memory. Remembrance of the historical development is needed to sustain our cultural heritage as well as for continuous improvement and renewal. If a society experiences a serious catastrophe, the historical memory is severed and, as a result, the river of the culture and society changes course completely or even dries up and the culture becomes extinct. In this sense, music education in school fulfills its functions of sustaining the heritage and making connections, bridging the past life with the present to enable students to experience the joy, beauty, and aesthetics of the historical accomplishments. The music collection and resources in Dunhuang’s antiquities are rich and broad: documentation of musical instruments and their construction, historical musical scores, the organization and formation of orchestras, secular music in life, and religious rituals. They offer many examples and cases for study. Contemporary musical instruments can all be traced back to Dunhuang, whether in their shape, construction, tuning, or musical scores. Researchers can find their transformation, evolution, and ­development over a thousand years. Dunhuang’s frescoes provide reliable documentation for the organization and formation of large dance troops



and orchestras. Certainly, the paintings consist of artistic rendering and creation; nevertheless, they are valuable, especially for the scenes of secular festivities. It can be said that Chinese music history can only be complete with the inclusion of Dunhuang. When we use Dunhuang as a resource for music education, we acknowledge that particular history of Chinese music, and our study is a synthesis and continuation of that era. Dunhuang’s music can enrich music classrooms today at all levels  – primary, secondary, and college  – with the charm and beauty of thousands of years ago and thus transmit the culture and promote its sustainability. The reality is that Dunhuang is not only the past. As a cultural and musical force, it continues to inspire and expand. For instance, in 2018 Chinese composer Tan Dun (谭盾) created a new opera, Buddha Passion, and performed it at the Dresdner Music Festival (Dresdner Musikfestspiele) in Germany for the first time. The opera uses Dunhuang as its main artistic stage and focal point, and the music and performances are based on the Buddhist sutras and teachings. At the end, 1800 audience members greeted the composer and performers with a standing ovation that lasted 15 minutes. The art director, Mr. Young Slager, commented, Germany is the hometown of philosophy, and historically we have exported philosophy to the other parts of the world, from Hegel, and Marx, to Nietzsche… However, this time, we are importing Dunhuang Buddha Passion, which flies to Germany with music as its wings. It shares the Eastern wisdom through profound Chinese traditional culture. This is why I had to rush to get it to have its premier show in Germany and I hope it returns to its homeland soon. (Xiao 2018. Editor’s Translation)

The song lyrics of Buddha Passion are in both Chinese and Sanskrit. The young singers from the Music & Art Club that fosters the cultural exchange between Austria and Asia (Musik & Kunst Verein zur Förderung des Kulturellen Austausches zwischen Osterreich und Asien), despite coming from all over the world, sang with precise Chinese pronunciation and intonation. The Russian singers stated, “Our tears roll down uncontrollably as we listen to the Heart Sutra. We hear Pushkin and Tchaikovsky!” (Xiao 2018. Editor’s Translation). Clearly Buddha Passion has generated a synergy that bridges the East and the West, and its musical aesthetics ­transcend ethnicities and the space of time and geography. By doing so it leads to a state of lasting beauty.



In order to compose the piece, Tan Dun visited Dunhuang 15 times, living in the grottoes, listening to and connecting with the voices of the past. In this solitude and search he came to understand the connection between music and Dunhuang’s frescoes. In composing his work, he wishes to replicate and revive the spiritual life force of thousands of years ago on the modern stage through music, dance, and technology. Thus, the musical performance connects the historical river of the past to the present and inspires it to flow continuously to and beyond today. In Dunhuang’s frescoes, the musicians are often playing musical instruments and dancing at the same time. However, in contemporary education, the performers’ abilities are compartmentalized or separated. The dancer cannot play the pipa, and the pipa player does not know how to dance. In reconstructing Dunhuang’s frescoes, Buddha Passion dancers were trained as music players and vice versa (Xiao 2018). This unique artistic and creative experience connects with Dunhuang’s past and spirit, recreates Dunhuang’s art, and carries the essence of our historic heritage into the present and future. The Responsibility of Music Education The purpose of music curricula in schools is multifaceted. First, it aims to foster students’ understanding of their own cultural tradition and history so as to lay a solid foundation. At the same time, it aims to widen their international horizon to experience and understand the music of multiple cultures and backgrounds from various contexts in order to accept diversity and develop aesthetics. Recently, Dunhuang’s music has been integrated into music education in China. For instance, in Chinese high schools, the Silk Road Flower Rain 《丝路花雨》 ( )6 and Big Dream 7 Dunhuang 《大梦敦煌》 ( ) have often been selected as part of the music education curriculum. Yo Yo Ma, the world famous cellist has connected with Dunhuang’s roots to develop his project, the Silkroad (2018), and new music, The Music of Strangers: Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble (2016), which extends Dunhuang’s inspiration to the world with a group of international musicians. Currently in Chinese high schools, Ma’s work is also used to teach students and develop their cultural appreciation and understanding of beauty, meaning, hope, and the joy of human life. Dunhuang is a very special component of Chinese traditional culture. It records a long and extended culture, manifesting over a thousand years,



which profoundly influenced the world and continues to do so in the development of a global culture. Our study of Dunhuang regarding music education reveals that it is a special case that integrates indigenous music preservation and multicultural and global transcendence. In this border city in the remote western region of China, many ethnic and cultural creations and energies were fused, while at the same time conserving the beauty and essence of indigenous music and tradition. Through these dual processes, Dunhuang converted and assimilated what was foreign into organic components of Han culture. In doing so, Dunhuang teaches us a major principle of music education: the unification of indigenousness with the richness of multiple cultures. The responsibility of our school and music curricula is to teach Dunhuang arts and help students understand the magnificent history and accomplishments of the people of Dunhuang. More importantly, it is to guide students to learn the history, build their self-esteem, and expand the cultural heritage hidden beneath the art. Thus, they can value and appreciate the rich cultural heritage and seek greater insights for global development.

Conclusion Clearly, from our perspective of music education, Dunhuang is definitely not merely historical. With its rich artifacts of music and art performance over ten dynasties spanning a thousand years, Dunhuang teaches us the role and significance of music in ancient lives from spiritual practices, ritual ceremonies, and imperial orders to education, festivities, and common lives. Through music, Dunhuang provides much value and insight into morality, aesthetics, creativity, and the meaning of human existence. Our reconnection with Dunhuang enriches our deeper understanding and appreciation of our heritage and ancestors’ creativity. Through Dunhuang’s music and art, East and West are integrated and become one. More importantly, Dunhuang provides a profound artistic and creative source for us all to create a bridge from the past to the present and the future. The music flows, from the past, to the present, and beyond. Without the past, there will be no foundation and roots for further inspiration and creation. This is as true in music education as it is in any field of study.



Notes 1. Dunhuang’s frescoes contain paintings from ten dynasties: Beiliang (北凉, North Liang), Beiwei (北魏, North Wei), Xiwei (西魏, West Wei), Beizhou (北周, North Zhou), Sui (隋), Tang (唐), Five Dynasties (五代), Song (宋), Xixia (西夏, West Xia), and Yuan (元). 2. From the historical records of Chinese conservatories (乐府, yuefu), music departments (乐署, yueshu), offices of music (教坊, jianfang), and operatic troupes (梨园, Liyuan) are all imperial organizations and groups under the court for the purpose of court ceremonies, performances, and rituals. 3. Yayue (雅乐) refers to the traditional music of the Chinese imperial court. It is the music created for special court celebrations and rituals for worshipping Heaven and Earth. The early Chinese Yayue system was developed at the beginning of the West Zhou (1066–771 BC) and became the standardized system according to social and cultural status in official rituals. The Yayue can still be found in Japan and Korea to this date. 4. Please note that the Buddhist mudras in the Dunhuang frescoes are not part of the traditional dance. They have religious and spiritual meaning and implications and are not dance movements. 5. Generally speaking, apsara include the eight demi-gods and demi-devils (天龙八部), heavenly musicians in Indra and Brahma who serve Buddha, and the Bodhisattvas. Narrowly speaking, apsaras are the Gandharva (Gadapo, 乾达婆 in Chinese) and Kinnara (Jinaluo, 紧那罗) and their manifestations in Hindu mythology. The latter two belong to the eight demi-gods. 6. The Silk Road Flower Rain is a large-scale song and dance drama created in 1977 by Gan Su Folk Dance Troupe. It used Dunhuang and the Silk Road as its context and story and showcased Chinese folk song and dance. It has been performed over 1000 times worldwide, with over 1.6 million viewers. 7. The Big Dream Dunhuang is a legendary dance drama that premiered on December 20, 2008. It is a love story between a painter, Mogao, and a general’s daughter, with Dunhuang treasures as its background.

References Chang, R. X. (1981). Sichouzhilu yu xiyu wenhuayishu (丝绸之路与西域文化艺术, The Silk Road and the Culture and Art of the Western Region). Shanghai: People’s Press. Chen, Y.  S. (1988). Dunhuang yuepu xinjie (敦煌乐谱新解, The New Interpretation of Dunhuang Music Scores). Music Art, 1, 10–17. Chen, Y.  S. (2005). Dunhuangyuepujieyibianzheng, (敦煌乐谱解释辩证, The Interpretation and Verification of Dunhuang Music Scores). Shanghai: Shanghai Music Conservatory Press.



Chen, Y. S. (2010). On Notation of Dunhuang Music Scores (In Chinese). Studies in Culture & Art, (5). Retrieved from CJFDTOTAL-PWHY201005008.htm Dunhuang Scores. (2018). Early Chinese Music. Retrieved from Ji, X.  L. (1996). Dunhuangxue Tulufanxue zai zhongguowenhuashi shanged zuoyong, (敦煌学、吐鲁番学在中国文化史上的地位和作用》, The Place and Function of Dunhuang Study and Turbo Study in Chinese History of Culture). In Collected Works of Ji Xianlin: Chinese Culture & Eastern Culture (Jixianlin wenji, 《季羡林文集》  – 《中国文化与东方文化》) (Vol. 6, pp.  206–213). Nanchang: Jiangxi Education Press. Liu, R. (2014). Silu duoyuan yinyue wenhua zai Dunhuang bihua zhongde chengxian (丝路多元音乐文化在敦煌壁画中的呈现, The Demonstration of Multicultural Music and Culture of the Silk Road in Dunhuang’s Frescoes). Symphony, 1, 36–41. Ma, Y. Y. (2016). The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble. Directed by Morgan Neville. Ma, Y. Y. (2018). Silkroad. Retrieved from Mogao Cave #445 High Tang (莫高窟 第 445 窟 盛唐, Mogao Grottoes Cave #445 shengtang). (2018). Dunhuang Research Academy. Retrieved from http:// New Creation of the Ancient Music. (2018). Dunhuang Research Academy. Retrieved from Revival of Tang Dynasty’s musical instruments in Dunhuang. (2018). The Art Center of Qianjiang Evening Paper. Retrieved from cn/s/blog_7fd00d5d0101bkwl.html Sima, Q. (1996). Records of Grand Historian (B.  Watson, Trans.). New  York: Columbia University Press. Song, B.  N., & Li, Q. (2006). Xiyueyinyueshi (西域音乐史, The History of the Western Region Music). Urumqi: Xinjiang People’s Press. Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes. (2002). Hong Kong: Polyspring. Wang, Y. H. (2006). Zhongguo chuantong yinyue yuepuxue (中国传统音乐乐谱学, The Study of the Musical Scores of Traditional Chinese Music). Fujian Education Press. From Xiao, X. (2018, August 31). Dunhuang cibeisong – Tan Dun xinchuang quanqiu huobao liangxiang 《敦煌慈悲颂——谭盾新创全球火爆亮相》 ( , Dunhuang Buddha Passion  – Tan Dun’s New Opera Global Premier). WeChat: Ganlangudianyiyue (Olive Classic Music). Retrieved from com/a/251266633_99893257 Yang, T.  C., & Zhang, S.  W. (Trans.). (2011). Zhouyi 《周易》 ( , The Book of Change). Beijing: China Press. Retrieved from gudai/yijingshuji/yichuan/



Ye, D. (1982). Dunhuang qupu yianju, (敦煌曲谱研究, The Study of Dunhuang Music Scores). Music Art, 1, 1–13. Zhang, Y. J. (2018, July 12). Guqu xinchuang yong liuxinyinyue chanshi Dunhuang wenhua (古曲新创 用流行音乐阐释敦煌文化, Recreation of the Ancient Music: Use of Popular Music to Translate and Explain Dunhuang Art). Xinhua Net from Zheng, R. Z. (1988). Dunhuang bihua yueqi fenlei kaolue, 《敦煌壁画乐器分类考 ( 略》, Categorization of the Musical Instruments in Dunhuang Frescoes). Dunhuang Studies, 8(4), 10–25. Zheng, R.  Z. (1989). Dunhuang bihua yueji 《敦煌壁画乐伎》 ( Musicians in Dunhuang Frescoes). Dunhuang Studies, 9(4), 14–24, 33. Zheng, R. Z. (1997). Dunhuang yuewu bihua de xingsheng, fenqi, hetushi, (敦煌乐 舞壁画的形成、分期和图式, The Formation, Period, and Picture Type of Dunhuang Music and Dance Frescoes). Dunhuang Studies, 17(4), 26–39. Zheng, R. Z. (2002). Dunhuang behua lewu yanjiu, 《敦煌壁画乐舞研究》 ( , The Study of Dunhuang Music and Dance). Gansu: Gansu Education Press.


The Textbooks of Basic Dunhuang Education: Implications for Teaching and Learning Leng Lu (冷璐)

The Chinese ancient word tongmeng (童蒙) refers to children who have just started school. The Chinese ancients referred to the education of the childhood stage as the “enlightenment stage” or beginning period (蒙养 阶段, mengyang jieduan), and the place of teaching was called the “enlightenment pavilion” (蒙馆, mengguang), which is the equivalent of today’s primary school. The first textbook used was called “enlightenment book” (蒙书, mengshu) or “children’s texts” (小儿书, xiaoershu). Dunhuang’s mengshu is a very special part of the ancient Chinese children’s textbooks. So far, about 300 volumes of ancient books and prints related to basic education have been discovered in the Dunhuang Mogao Grottoes, the Earth Temple, and the Han Great Wall Site, northwest of Dunhuang. They span the Sixteen Kingdoms (十六国, AD 304–439), Northern Dynasty (Beichao, 北朝, AD 384–581), Sui (隋, AD 581–613),

Leng Lu (冷璐) (*) School of Foreign Studies, Jinan University, Guangzhou, China © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,



LENG LU (冷璐)

Tang (唐, AD 613–907), and Song (宋, AD 960–1279) Dynasties (Yang 2006). Mengshu is an important curriculum and knowledge carrier of the content of childhood education in ancient China (Qu 2011). In ancient times, basic education was received by children aged 7–15 years, which is roughly equivalent to the current primary and junior high school age (Xiao and Wang 2009). The purpose of enlightenment education is to “help children eliminate ignorance, observe and learn all the elements in the world, know etiquette, and to be educated” (消除蒙昧, 使之察万物, 知礼仪, 明教化, xiachumenmei, shizhichawangwu, zhiliyi, mingjiaohua) (Xiao and Wang 2009). The meaning of “enlightenment” in China was first derived from the Book of Changes (易经, I-Ching), which said that “it is the most sacred accomplishment to teach and enlighten the young to be good human being[s].” (蒙以养正, 圣功也) (Xiao and Wang 2009). The Chinese enlightenment education began in the Xia Dynasty (2070–1600  BCE), during the slavery system, and was able to develop continuously during the Qin (221–206  BCE) and Han (202  BCE– 220 CE) Dynasties. “After Qin and Han Dynasties the mengshu had developed into a unique style and form systematically” (Qiao and Cheng 1989, p. 15. Author’s translation). Then, during the Tang and Song Dynasties, the education system and procedures became relatively standardized. The main tasks of basic education were to teach children to recognize Chinese characters, read, and write, so that they could attend official schools or academies to prepare them for imperial exams. Most of the basic educational schools were private in nature. The teaching content of Chinese basic education then was mainly based on literacy, writing, and reciting. Its purpose was to educate children in basic cultural knowledge and moral behaviors through learning literacy. Mengshu played a fundamental role in the cultivation and development of individual intelligence, ability, habit and morality. In ancient China, the classics of Chinese literature were highly revered and studied, and children’s basic educational curricula were not considered to be important. Therefore, there was and is a lack of historical research and investigation of Chinese ancient mengshu. In addition, there were no established rules and regulations from the imperial court for the curriculum of basic education, which resulted in a great variety and a wide range of approaches. Therefore, the teaching process, along with the content and form of Dunhuang basic education texts, showed great flexibility and unique characteristics (Wang 2008a).



This chapter describes the content, characteristics, and functions of four types of representative mengshu discovered in Dunhuang first. It goes on to summarize the general characteristics of Dunhuang mengshu. Finally, the chapter points out the implication of Dunhuang basic education for today’s education.

The Classification and Representative Works of Dunhuang Mengshu Wang Fanzhou (1993) divided Dunhuang’s mengshu into three categories, namely, literacy, education, and application. A total of 36 texts were recorded. Among them, a total of 13 texts are for literacy, teaching children Chinese characters in terms of reading and writing. They can be further divided into three subcategories. 1. The texts that teach characters via individual words or phrases, such as: Character Books 《字书》 ( , Zi shu), Newly Collected Important Words—One Thousand and Three Hundreds 《新集时用要字壹千三 ( 百言》, Xinjishiyong Yaozi Yiqiansanbaiyan), The Complicated and Difficult Words 《诸难杂字》 ( , Zhunan Zazi), Difficult Words 《难字》 ( , Nanzi), One Thousand Characters 《千字文》 ( , Qianziwen). 2. The texts that teach the Chinese characters related to enlightenment, including: Important Trainings of Enlightenment《开蒙要训》 ( , Kaifen Yaoxun) and Li’s Search for Enlightenment 《李氏蒙求》 ( , Lishi Mengqiu). 3. The texts that teach Chinese characters through Chinese family names, such as: One Hundred Family Names 《百家姓》 ( , Baijiaxing), A Survey of Surnames 《姓望书》 ( , Xingwangshu), Family Names of the Kings and Court Officials 《郡王姓氏书》 ( , Junwang Xingshishu), A Book of Last Names 《姓氏书》 ( , Xingshishu), A Record of Last Names 《姓氏录》 ( , Xingshilu), and Miscellaneous Writings of Family Names 《姓氏杂写》 ( , Xingshi Zaxie). A total of seven texts fall into the category of education: Grandfather’s Teaching 《太公家教》 ( , Tigongjiajiao), A Hundred Rules for Conduct 《百行章》 ( , Baixingzhang), New Collection of Nine Poems 《新集文词九经 ( 抄》, Xinjiwencijujingchao), New Collection of Teachings from a Strict


LENG LU (冷璐)

Father 《新集严父教》 ( , Xinjiyanfujiao), Confucius’ Words to His Family 《孔子家语》 ( , Kunzijiayu), The Analects 《论语》 ( , Lunyu) and Filial Piety 《孝经》 ( , Xiaojin). These texts provide moral guidance and rules and regulations for children’s social conduct and behavior. The category of application consists of six texts: Auspicious and Ominous Etiquettes 《吉凶书仪》 ( , Jixiongshuyi), The Mirror of Etiquettes 《书仪镜》 ( , Shuyijing), The New Mirror of Etiquettes 《新定书仪镜》 ( , Xindingshuyijing), The New Collection of Auspicious and Ominous Etiquettes of Tang Dynasty 《大唐新定吉凶书仪》 ( , Datang xindingjixiong shuyijing), The New Collection of Family Rituals 《新集诸家九族尊卑书仪》 ( , Xnjizhujianjuzuzunbeishuyi), and The New Collection of Auspicious and Ominous Etiquettes 《新集吉凶书 ( 仪》, Xindingjixiong shuyijing). These texts are used to teach, conduct, and preserve divination, family and imperial court rituals and ceremonies, and social ranking structures. In addition, Wang (1988) outlined ten additional mengshu texts. Three of them are mathematic texts: Nine-Nine-Multiplication Songs 《九九乘法歌》 ( , Jujuchengfage), Multiplication Book 《立成算经》 ( , Lichengsuanjing), Multiplication & Explanation 《算经并序》 ( , Suanjingbingxu). Three are Chinese–Tibetan bilingual texts: The Han and Tibetan Character/Word Translation 《汉藏对译字书》 ( , Hanzangduiyizishu), Thousand Characters in Han and Tibetan 《汉藏对译》 ( , Hanzangduiyi Qianziwen), and Characters of Buddhist Study in Han and Tibetan 《汉藏对译》 ( , Hanzangduiyifoxuezishu). Then there are four other texts teaching the challenged characters in Buddhist scriptures and studies: Difficult Characters in Mahā Ratna Kūṭa Sūtra 《大宝积经难字》 ( , Dabaojijingnanzi), Difficult Characters of Mahāprajāpāramitā-sūtra 《大般若经难字》 ( , Dabanruojingnanzi), Difficult Characters of Mahāparinirvāna-sūtra 《涅槃经难字》 ( , Niepangjingnanzi), and Treasured Characters 《字宝》 ( , Jibao). These texts are used as tools during children’s early study of arithmetic, Chinese or Tibetan languages, and Buddhist sutras. Zheng Acai (1991) divides the Dunhuang mengshu manuscript into three categories: literacy, knowledge, and virtue. A total of 25 texts with 250 transcribed versions and copies have been recorded. Among them, nine texts and 106 transcribed copies belong to literacy books. In addition to the examples given already, there are also Important Terms in Daily Life 《俗务要名林》 ( , Suwuyaominglin), Miscellaneous Collection of Important



Characters 《杂集时用要字》 ( , Zajishiyongyaozi), Common Characters or Fragmented Gold 《碎金》 ( , Suijin), and so on. Books on morality rank second in types and frequency. There are ten texts with 110 transcribed copies. They vary from family teaching and sage instruction to poetry, for instance, Wuwang Family Teaching 《武王家教》 ( , Wuwangjiajiao). Confucius’ Words to the World 《夫子劝世 ( 词》, Fuziquanshici), A Hundred Rules for Conduct 《百行章》 ( , Baixingzhang), Mrs. Cui’s Teaching to Her Daughter, 《崔氏夫人训女 ( 文》), and Wang Fanzhi’s poetry 《王梵志诗》 ( , Wangfanzhishi). Besides the literacy books, there are six texts with 34 transcribed copies for knowledge. These include books on history, literature, writing, and other special subjects or fields; for example: Miscellaneous Copy of Classics 《杂抄》 ( , Zachao), The Questions Confucius Answers 《孔子备问书》 ( , Kunzibeiwenshu), Ancient Sages 《古贤集》 ( , Kuxianji), and Lu Yuan Ce Fu 《兔园策府》 ( ). Based on the contemporary education system, this chapter focuses on Dunhuang mengshu and texts of language, natural sciences, humanities and social sciences, and bilingual education. It selects, highlights, and discusses the most representative or most popular children’s teaching materials in Dunhuang in the Middle Ages. Literacy: Language and Literature Education Literacy Education Through One Thousand Characters (《千字文》, Qanziwen)  “The goal of ancient basic education is to recognize characters in the first place” (Zheng and Zhu 2007, p.  22). So far, the most popular and widely used literacy textbook is One Thousand Characters, which was edited by Zhou Xingyu (周兴嗣) during the Great Year of Liang Emperor (AD 535–545). The book has a rich content, covering Chinese characters in astronomy, geography, literature, art, history, famous people and deeds, self-cultivation, country governance, etiquette and rituals, and so on. Although it is short in length, it helps students to gain extensive knowledge and helps them to read and remember the characters and content easily. One Thousand Characters is a comprehensive textbook for literacy education. It is a combination of feudal ideology and common sense at that time. Its content organizes commonly used words into fluent sentences


LENG LU (冷璐)

that can express certain meanings that learners can relate to. The form of these thousand frequently used words is neat and beautiful. The rhythm is natural and melodious. For instance, the first chapter reads (Wang 1993, p. 11. Editor’s translation): The Heaven and Earth are profound and yellow, the universe is forceful and vast. The sun and moon rise in the east and set in the west, the stars and galaxies spread. The cold weather comes and summer goes, the fall harvests and the winter gathers. 天地玄黄, 宇宙洪荒。 Tiandixuanhuang, yuzhouhonghuang 日月盈昃, 辰宿列张。 Riyueyinze, chenshuliezhang 寒来暑往, 秋收冬藏。 Hanlaishuwang, qiushoudongzang.

One Thousand Characters includes the basic structure and strokes of Chinese characters with the calligraphy of the famous calligrapher Wang Xizhi (王羲之). It serves as a dictionary for beginners in both Dunhuang and Chinese Central Plains. One Thousand Characters tells us that since the beginning of Heaven and Earth, there have been season changes. Then human beings were born. With the changing times, there have been holy kings and civilizations. The book reminds us to love and be respectful to our parents. A woman must pursue chastity and a man should be an excellent person. We should correct ourselves if we make mistakes as soon as we realize it. We should have a good heart, and be creditworthy as well. We must also be diligent and eager to learn, be loyal, filial, friendly, and tolerant. We should speak well, and excel in learning in order to become an official. The book has descriptions of the bustling scene of the capital city and the crowds. It also describes the country’s vast territory and spectacular scenery, explaining that people enjoy their lives peacefully in agricultural societies. Obviously, the book teaches far beyond the Chinese characters and it connects literacy with the rich historical, cultural, social, and moral context. Therefore, after being compiled, One Thousand Characters quickly became the best mengshu, with its function for literacy education, and its featured content and form. “Until the end of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1912), The Thousand Characters was always the most widely used children’s textbook in Chinese history” (Wang 2017, p. 121).



One Thousand Characters was extensively used in all regions of China, by people at all levels and in all ethnic groups. According to the nature of the existing Dunhuang manuscript, One Thousand Characters is roughly divided into four categories: “literacy, calligraphy, annotation, and Chinese and Tibetan translation” (Zheng and Zhu 2007, p. 119). The book contains children’s sloppy handwriting, the real and cursive writing of famous masters, the notes and sounds of characters as well as the characters in Chinese and Tibetan, Manchu and Mongolian languages. The book even spread far away to Japan, South Korea, and other countries, becoming their main literacy textbook for learning Chinese. Writing Practice (习字教育, cizijiaoyu) Among many discovered basic educational texts in the Dunhuang Grottoes during Tang, Five Dynasties, and Northern Song Dynasties (AD 618–1127), there is one particular textbook, with only 25 words in total, which a well-known mengshu Shang Da Fu 《上大夫》 ( ) for the practice of Chinese character writing. Although the text is very short in length, it is well designed, ingenious, and interesting. From the existing artifacts and the historical records, the Shang Da Fu spread from the Tang Dynasty to Qing Dynasty (AD 618–1912), until now, and circulated from the Central Plains to the Western regions, and also from the Chinese mainland to Taiwan. The compilation of children’s mengshu was limited in time, space, and context. Usually the circulation time for each text was extremely short-lived, but Shang Da Fu had been a popular book for literacy for about 2000 years. As a textbook to help children to learn and practice characters, it won the highest praise of the respected Confucian scholars and was popular among learners from all walks of life. Shang Da Fu was often quoted and referred to in popular literature works, such as novels and operas, Buddhist and Taoist books (Zheng and Zhu 2007). Shang Da Fu is composed of eight phrases, 25 words, three words per phrase; except the last one, which has four with a “也” (ye) word for the conclusion. The full text reads: Shangdafu, quyiji, huasanqian, qishishi, erxiaosheng, bajuzi, kezhiqiliye. 上大夫, 丘乙几, 化三千, 七十士, 二(尔)小生, 八九子, 可知其礼也。. (Liu 2007, p. 189)


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Because Chinese characters have many strokes and complex structures, in ancient teaching, recognizing words was the first thing to learn and was separated from writing practice. Since Shang Da Fu contains the very basic strokes and structure of the characters, it is easy to learn and remember. For instance, the first phrase, Shangdafu, presents three characters starting with the same simple and easy stroke, adding one or two different strokes, and showing the relation of these characters in formation. It is a teaching material that helps learners to deeply understand the characteristics of Chinese characters and their writing structures and formations. This simple approach and scope to practice enables students to learn both reading and writing at the same time with ease. In the late Song and Yuan Dynasties, Chen Yuanzhang’s book Shi Lin Guang Ji 《事林广记》 ( , Comprehensive Records) pointed out that when practicing words, “one needed to first start practicing ‘Shang Da (上大)’ two words and only practice these two words for the whole day” so as to have quality of learning and lay down a solid foundation for writing (Zheng and Zhu 2007, p.  16). This advice is exactly derived from Shang Da Fu and illustrates the importance and effectiveness of the pedagogies. Recognizing Words  The text One Hundred Family Names 《百家姓》 ( , Baijiaxing) is an anthology that records Chinese surnames, with 568 characters in total. Since the Song Dynasty (AD 960–1279), it became a masterpiece and quickly spread across the whole country due to its practicality. In One Hundred Family Names, four family surnames form a phrase, and two phrases form a line. Every line rhymes for easy memorization and melodic effect. The format is as follows (Zheng and Zhu 2007, p. 38): 赵钱孙李, 周吴郑王。 (zhao qian sun li, zhou wu zheng wang). 冯陈褚卫, 蒋沈韩杨。(feng chen chu wei, jiang shen han yang) 朱秦尤许, 何吕施张。(zhu qin you xu, he lu shi zhang) 孔曹严华, 金魏陶姜。(kun cao yan hua, jinwei tao jiang).

The text is easy to learn and remember. The whole text collected 507 surnames, including 446 single surnames and 61 compound surnames. This text is composed of single words, with only the last names that are not repeated, thus is suitable for use as a literacy textbook. When children see their own or familiar surnames while reciting, they will be more passionate



about learning this mengshu (Zheng and Zhu 2007). Lu Kun, a scholar in the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644) once said: If you are a student who is under the age of eight, you should read the Three Character Jing 《三字经》 ( , Sanjijing) first in order to expand knowledge, read One Hundred Family Names 《百家姓》 ( , Baijiaxing) for daily use, and read One Thousand Characters 《千字文》 ( , Qianziwen) to be righteous. (Wang 2008a, b, Preface. Author’s translation)

The emergence of the text of One Hundred Family Names is a unique cultural phenomenon in China. It has been passed down to the present day and its influence is extremely profound. The record and the learning of family names reflect Chinese people’s strong sense of social and cultural identity and reverence for their ancestors. Mathematics and Science Education Mathematics Education  The Nine-Nine Multiplication Table is a song that was recited, without exception, when ancient children learnt to count. The method of the multiplication of number nine first appeared in the Qin and Han Dynasties (221  BCE–220  CE), and became widely popular. In the Dunhuang manuscripts, scholars found the ninety-nine tables of Tubo (Ancient Tibetan), which shows that the spread of the nine-nine multiplication song transcended the nation and time and space. The nine times nine table is the most important and basic mathematical knowledge in people’s daily life. It is composed of the rhythm beats, which are not only short and concise, but also convenient for memorization. It is also conducive to application for school-age children and the general public in real life. Dunhuang artifacts have shown that these recitation practices were not limited to verbal and pen-and-paper ones. The teacher also used simple physical or manipulative items such as stacking stones, and activities like buying and selling things to guide children to understand the principle behind the nine-nine multiplication. After students learned to remember the multiplication table, they would be challenged to do simple mental arithmetic without using tools or materials. This was to develop their further thinking and practical capacities (Zheng and Zhu 2007).


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Natural Education The Questions Confucius Answers 《孔子备问书》 ( , Kunzibeiwenshu) was compiled in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) with extensive content. The book is divided into three parts, the first one is natural knowledge, consisting of astronomy, chronology, calendar, and geographical knowledge. The second is human knowledge, including literature, history, etiquettes, rituals, general knowledge of life, and so on. The third is religious beliefs. The whole book, in the form of a question-­ and-­answer format, provides answers to the questions people desire to know in their daily life. The language is easy to understand. Like a small encyclopedia, this book contains questions such as “what is heaven and earth?”, “what is the sun and moon?”, “what is twelve hours?”, “what is four seasons?”, “what are five sacred mountains?”, “what are five grains?”, “what are five fruits?” and “what are the five classics?” and so on. For example, the first volume of The Questions Confucius Answers begins this way: Mr. Zhou asked Confucius, “What are heaven and earth?” Confucius answers, “When there was no division in energy of the universe, it was all dark and intertwined. No up and down; no shadow nor shape; nothing clear or muddled. The qi had no separation or distinction prior to the formation of Heaven and Earth. The light qi flowing upwards becomes the Heaven, the heavy qi descends form the Earth. The latter is yellow and the former green. The separation of the light and heavy qi becomes yin and yang, which further divides into wuxing (五行, five forces). As yin yang interacts all beings are born. We are the continuation of all this, so regard them as our roots and origin” (Author’s translation). 孔子周公曰:何谓天地? 答曰:运气未分, 幽幽冥冥, 上下蒙洪, 无影无形, 不浊不清, 难分之气, 天 地得成。清气上浮为天, 浊气下沉为地。一黄一青, 清浊之气分为阴阳, 阴 阳之气变为五行。阴阳交错万物得生, 吾今为从, 以为之根本。. (Zheng and Zhu 2007, p. 56)

The Questions Confucius Answers contains the fundamental thoughts of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism regarding the ideological knowledge and cultural structure, and mixes them with Chinese folk beliefs (Wang 2008a). A close review of the content of this book reveals its similarity to many primary school books in the Chinese Central Plains. It uses a question-and-answer format to interpret and teach the knowledge of Heaven, Earth, people, and other things one by one. Many contents, such as the sun and the moon, are also explained in Buddhist terms.



Humanities and Moral Education The Epic Education  Ancient Sages 《古贤集》 ( ) is another book commonly used to teach children. It is a popular historical epic, which prevailed in the middle and late Tang Dynasty. Through the example of the behaviors, deeds and accomplishments of historical figures, Ancient Sages teaches children to read, memorize, and internalize the historical knowledge and qualities of diligence, loyalty, filial piety, and righteousness. From the style point of view, the whole text of Ancient Sages uses the phrase “Don’t you see…” (君不见, jun bu jian) repeatedly to start each section to involve the reader as a close witness and observer of a role model and historical figure. The structure of each section has a seven-­ character line, 80 lines, 40 rhymes, and 560 words. The poem is a collection of ancient sages’ deeds and accomplishments. For example, Kuang Heng made a hole in the wall to borrow light from his neighbor in order to study (匡衡凿壁偷光学), Dong Zhongshu used spiritual amulet to defeat hundreds of devilish offenses (董仲书符去百恶) (Zheng and Zhu 2007, p. 49). Through these exemplary models, the text encourages children to study hard and become sages that will be known and respected by the future generations. The role of Ancient Sages is to popularize historical knowledge, just like a historical compendium. For a long time, the book has exerted more influence than the official imperial history records and other scholarly books, and it has dominated the people’s view of Chinese history. The book opens a window to part of the traditional Chinese culture of the masses (Zheng and Zhu 2007). The Family Education Classic In addition to the literacy books of One Thousand Characters 《千字文》 ( , Qianziwen) and Important Trainings of Enlightenment 《开蒙要训》 ( , Kaimengyaoxun), Grandfather’s Family Teaching 《太公家教》 ( , Taigongjiajiao) was the most popular in Dunhuang mengshu with the largest number of versions and copies and the widest distribution. Grandfather’s Family Teaching was a commonly used textbook in the village school of the Tang Dynasty, and it educated children with the motto of the elders. The Taigong refers to the elderly residents who taught in the villages. Since the Six Dynasties (AD 222–589), almost every scholarly or bureaucrat family had compiled various kinds of family rules to teach their children and descendants. Grandfather’s Family Teaching was the most popular text for private family tutoring in the Tang (AD 618–907) and Five Dynasties (AD 907–979) in the Dunhuang area. It continued to


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prevail in Song (AD 960–1279) and Yuan (AD 1271–1368) Dynasties and even spread as far as Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and other countries adjacent to the China, who are often called Confucius Cultural nations or circles. It has become one of the important teaching materials for learning Chinese culture and literacy in these countries (Zheng and Zhu 2007). The content of The Grandfather’s Family Teaching is based on the traditional Confucian ethics, emphasizing the principles and attitudes of self-­ cultivation, family harmony, good behaviors in social relations, and peace of the world. It also reflects the norms of modesty and tolerance, prevailing in the Tang Dynasty. For example, “Yi is the basic rule, letting others first (立身之本, 义让为先, Lishenzhiben yirangweixian);” “Don’t touch those who are strong and don’t bully those who are weak (他强莫触, 他弱莫欺, Taqiangmochu, taruomoqi);” “Anger accumulated would become evil, and one must learn tolerance (愤能积恶, 必须忍之, fennengjier, bisurenzhi);” and “One is not human if he does not have and pay back gratitude (有恩不 报, 岂成人也, youenbubao, qichengrenye)” (Wang 2008a p. 50). There is also the cultivation of general living etiquette, such as: “Do not eat first when eating with others … do not block the way of others when walking … The young must pay respect to the elder first upon returning home” (Zheng and Zhu 2007, p.  67. Author’s translation). These etiquette norms have become the most practical guiding principles in the daily life of the people of Dunhuang. Grandfather’s Family Teaching is very approachable for children to read, offering a familiarity, as if they were their parents’ teachings. It encourages children to learn by saying “Diligence is the priceless treasure and study is the sacred pearl that brighten our eyes. Storing tens of thousands of wealth is not as valuable as understanding one book or scripture. Practical skills are better than owning a thousand acres of land” (Zheng and Zhu 2007, p.  68. Author’s translation). These brief excerpts help us catch a glimpse of the content and the essence of this particular text and the basic education at the time. Bilingual Education in Dunhuang The Hexi Corridor has been the active area of Yue (月氏), Xiongnu (匈奴), Qiang (羌族), and other ethnic groups since ancient times. Emperor Wudi of the Han Dynasty (AD 202–220) opened the Western regions and vigorously managed the Hexi Corridor. Wuwei (武威), Zhangye (张掖), Jiuquan (酒泉), and Dunhuang (敦煌) were set up successively to open the passage way between China and the West. Dunhuang, with its important geographical



position, became the passage of communication and commercialism between China and the West, and rapidly developed into a metropolis of the Western regions. The diverse ethnic groups and multiculturalism was a major feature in Dunhuang. As a result, bilingual communication naturally became a necessity. Hence, language education was essential, especially during the period of the Tubo rule in the Middle Tang Dynasty (AD 766–835) and the period of Western Xia’s occupation of Dunhuang in the early Northern Song Dynasty (AD 960–1127). Although the main focus was still on learning Chinese language and culture, bilingual teaching became an important part of Dunhuang education (Zheng and Zhu 2007; Wu 2015). The Tibetan Translation of One Thousand Characters In 1900, a large number of Tubo (ancient Tibetan) documents were found in the Mogao Scripture Cave #17 (藏经洞) in Dunhuang. The number of Tubo artifacts is second only to the Chinese literature, and they also have a considerable variety. At that time, One Thousand Characters appeared in bilingual texts of Tibetan and Chinese, Manchu and Chinese, and Mongolian and Chinese. During the period of Tubo’s rule over Dunhuang, the Han and Tibetans lived together in the area. Tibetans followed the traditional Chinese method of basic education, using the literacy textbook One Thousand Characters. There are 43 volumes of One Thousand Characters circulating in the Dunhuang area, of which the volume P.3419 is the Chinese–Tibetan contrastive translation of the book. This form of this bilingual version of One Thousand Characters shows that it was a textbook used by children of the Tubo (Tibetan) in the Tang Dynasty. Both Tibetan and Han children used the book as the basic text due to its rich content, including astronomy, geography, history, common customs, ethics, diet, and so on. More importantly, the text also provides practical teaching material to guide people on how to live in daily life. The P.3419 artifact presented the Chinese version, which was followed by Tibetan translation. By studying the text, the Tibetan children are able not only to understand the contents of the subject taught, but also to learn the history and common k­ nowledge of the Han people. This naturally helps to cultivate the cultural communication and bonding between the Tibetan and Han children (Zheng and Zhu 2007). The West Xia (西夏, Xixia) Texts  Before the Northern Song Dynasty to the Mongol rule in the Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271–1368), Dunhuang was dominated by the Western Xia regime (AD 1038–1227). The Chinese–Tangut


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bilingual version of Miscellaneous Characters 《杂字》 ( , Zazi) was widely circulated in society. It addressed the need for the middle and lower classes to learn to be literate, keep accounts, write letters, read popular novels, and sing songs in order to cope with daily needs of both Chinese and Tangut people. In addition, much of the Western Xia literature was found in the caves of the northern part of the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, including the residual pages of the engraved version of The Pearl—A Handbook of Tangut and Chinese 《番汉合时掌中珠》 ( , Fanhanheshizhangzhongzhu). This book is a dictionary for the interpretation of the Tangut and Chinese vocabulary. It is a basic textbook for studying both Tangut and Chinese characters, and serves as a communication bridge between Tangut and Han ethnic groups. The preface of this book describes the inseparable relationship between Western Xia culture and Han culture, and the necessity of bilingual education at that time. Now people need both Tangut and Chinese for daily affairs. Without leaning Tangut, one could not function among Western Xia people. Without knowing Chinese, one cannot interact with Han people. Han people would not respect the wise among Tangut people and vice versa. All this is due to the language barrier (Zheng and Zhu 2007, p. 112. Editor’s translation) 今时人者, 番汉语言可以俱务, 不学番言, 则岂和番人之众; 不会汉语, 则岂入汉人之数。番有智者, 汉人不敬; 汉有贤士, 番人不崇。若此者, 由语言不通故也。(Zheng and Zhu 2007, p. 112)

All these examples showcase the richness and variety of Dunhuang basic education texts, from literacy, mathematics, and sciences, to humanity, ethics, social behaviors, and bilingual education. The Dunhuang artifacts also indicate that the core texts lasted through various dynasties, across ethnicities, and remained rather stable. These basic education texts formed the very foundation of Chinese literacy, education, literature, and social development then and in the years that followed.

The Characteristics of Dunhuang Mengshu Over a thousand years, Dunhuang’s basic educational texts for children and beginners remained rather constant and stable, and they demonstrated consistent features and characteristics in terms of content, focus, and pedagogies.



Pragmatic Orientation In ancient China, the official academics and education were under the control of the imperial courts and there was a high emphasis placed on elite education to select officials. They determined all written rules and regulations, documents and books, sacrificial rites and other rituals, which ordinary people had no access to. However, for the civilians of Dunhuang at that time, what they needed most was not to pass imperial examinations and the skills to write lofty essays, but the knowledge and ability to live their daily life well and understand the basic rules and social conducts (Hei 2011). Over time, the texts illustrated their practical orientations and gradual development. The establishment of the basic curriculum occurred in the Han Dynasty, according to the written historical records we have so far. The rise of private schools in the Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25–220) led to the prosperity and development of such schools in the Tang Dynasty, both in scale and sophistication. Education began to be popularized among the general public; cultural knowledge continued to move from the imperial court and the elites to common people; and children’s basic education became further valued in people’s daily lives (Wang 2008a). As it can be seen in the historical records, the popular textbooks of the Tang Dynasty were not only numerous in quantity and variety, but also rich in content, which showed the development and popularization of the basic education of children at that time. The content of Dunhuang mengshu developed from merely teaching literacy and writing skills to include morality and comprehensive knowledge. Then, their further compilation led and prepared children for the imperial examination. From the development perspective, the traditional Chinese textbooks of enlightenment were mainly written between the Zhou Dynasty (1046–256 BCE) and the Sui Dynasty (AD 581–618) for literacy education. After the Sui and Tang Dynasties (AD 518–907), there gradually appeared classified texts of enlightenment, which integrate literacy, subject knowledge, development of thinking, and virtue. “The Tang Dynasty (AD 618–907) was a critical period of mengshu development, and an epoch-making stage of children’s education in China” (Qu 2011, p. 256). Since then the mengshu texts transformed the esoteric and obscure classics of high-texts for elites and official books into the language and content that the public understood and were familiar with. The secularized mengshu related to common people’s daily life, making it easier to learn and comprehend, more practical, and more convenient than the Confucian classics.


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The popular mengshu was rooted deeply in people’ hearts, and thus embodied the spirit of Chinese traditional culture more directly, closely, and concretely than classical works (Huang 2006). These popular and influential reading materials at home, in schools, and in society generally reflected people’s daily social life. The mengshu was full of life, as illustrated in the previous sections. Their contents combined Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist teachings seamlessly (Hei 2011). Mengshu’s Focus on Moral Education Ancient Chinese books on enlightenment were dominated by Confucianism and emphasized the cultivation of the people’s mind. They believed that the value of education lies in providing a foundation to support human existence and development. Considering that children “are free from the material and human world influence” (物欲未染, wuyuweiran) and “their consciousness is yet to open” (识性未开, shixingweikai) (Hei 2011, p. 74. Author’s translation), if they are taught ethical principles and their personalities are nurtured as soon as possible, they should get twice the good result with half the effort. A solid early education will bring permanent positive thoughts and behaviors in a person’s life. Dunhuang basic education texts strongly reflect this Chinese belief and practice. The texts focused on ethics and morality outnumbered those of other subject matters significantly. For example, a total of 42 copies of Grandfather’s Family Teaching, 18 copies of New Collection of Nine Poems, 16 pieces of Wang Fanzhi Poetry, and ten other moral books were among Dunhuang’s artifacts. This suggests that Dunhuang’s education places great importance on ethical and moral education (Huang 2006). In almost all Dunhuang mengshu, regardless of subject and content, one can find something more or less related to moral teaching and codes of conduct (Wang 2008a). The Importance of Family Education In ancient Dunhuang, family education or home schooling plays a prominent role in children’s basic education (Liu 2016). In the Dunhuang artifacts, there are quite a number of texts, which were developed as the result of family education. Grandfather’s Family Teaching, Wuwang Family Teaching, and Biancai Family Teaching 《辩才家教》 ( ) are exemplary ones, and they were also used most frequently in history with many remaining copies and versions. Since the Han Dynasty, some of the nobles began to write their



own family precepts. Grandfather’s Family Teaching, a book written in the Tang Dynasty in Dunhuang, followed the tradition of family education in ancient China. The Dunhuang texts of Grandfather’s Family Teaching and Biancai Family Teaching are generally derived from the Confucian classics, such as Analects of Confucius, The Book of Filial Piety, The Book of Rites, and so on, emphasizing traditional filial piety and family values. “Influenced by thousands of years of Chinese traditional Confucian culture, Dunhuang mengshu highlights the special significance of family education” (Huang 2006, p. 19, Author Translation). For example, in the Yan Family Precepts (《颜氏家训》), a chapter on “family management” (治家) is set up to discuss “family ritual” (家礼). Grandfather’s Family Teaching also teaches children’s etiquettes, women’s etiquettes, and keeping good relationship with relatives, and so on (Zhu 2008). Wang Fanzhi Poetry attaches importance to family rituals as well. The poems in this collection use people’s living experiences to teach children correct moral conduct, such as “when guests are talking, you should stand by and listen. You shouldn’t move forward, interrupt, or make noise. (尊人共客语, 侧立莫 旁听。莫向前头闹, 喧乱作鵶鸣。” (Wang 2013, p.  90). The text also teaches modesty and humility. “Respect people when drinking together, do not say many words. Even if you have a talent for writing, you should talk about it elsewhere.” (Wang 2013, p. 90. Author’s translation) This evidence showcases the important roles that families played in basic education in ancient times. Families were the initiators of their children’s basic education, the curriculum developers, behavior role models, and daily supervisors. What was taught in the classroom was also practiced and reinforced in the family home and in daily life. Such a familyoriented education continues to serve as the foundation to Chinese education today. The Importance of Loyalty and Filial Piety The moral emphasis and the strong role of family in Dunhuang basic education naturally lead to the prominent role of loyalty and filial piety in these texts. The comprehensive mengshu often use historical stories and anecdotes to teach such concepts and as role models of the desired behaviors. Ancient Chinese education emphasizes loyalty and filial piety and regards them as one of the major purposes of education. In Dunhuang mengshu, the ideas of loyalty and filial piety can be found everywhere, whether in literacy textbooks or educational reading materials (Wang 2008a).


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Loyalty is key is social relationships among family members, friends, and with the imperial ruler. The filial piety is a necessity toward one’s parents and elders in the family. Together they provide harmonious and peaceful social structure for human relations. For example, “When serving your lord, be loyal. When serving your father be filial. Respect the elders and love the young. Be compassionate to all and be reverent to the wise. Do not exploit the poor. Do not be arrogant because of your wealth” (Wang 1993, p. 78. Author’s translation). The first chapter, titled “Filial Piety,” in One Hundred Rules of Conduct clearly points out that: The filial piety, is the foundation of the hundred deeds and the foundation of virtue and righteousness. Being an official is a matter of personal integrity. The official should care about the public and be unselfish. The official should be compassionate to the poor and the elders. (Wang 1993, p. 78. Author’s translation)

Since the Han Dynasty, whether it is in formal or informal education, Chinese tradition has integrated ethics into general education. The main focus of classics education is to place emphasis on morality so as to provide peaceful social and human relations for stability. The Concept of Holistic Education The review of Dunhuang mengshu has revealed an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary concept of holistic teaching. As has been mentioned already, they are “based on the cultivation of human virtue, the shaping of ideas, the imparting of knowledge and the cultivation of skills” (Qu 2011, p.  4). At the same time, mengshu texts cover a wide range of subjects, including literacy, mathematics, astronomy, humanities, geography, history, philosophy, traditional culture, and so on. Dunhuang mengshu combines the educational content of the Central Plains with that from the Western region, mixing the thoughts of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. The objects, places, and forms of education are complex and diverse. On the one hand, it reflects the dissemination of traditional Confucian knowledge. On the other hand, it shows the influence and infiltration of foreign knowledge and culture (Wang 2008a). While spreading Confucianism, the book also infiltrated many contents related to Buddhist thoughts. In Questions That Confucius Answers, for instance, the answer to



the question “who made the sun and moon?” was “Bodhisattva made the sun and moon” (see artifact P.2581  in Zheng and Zhu 2007, p.  58). Similarly, under the headings of artifacts P.2581 and P.2594, there is a note made by Zhougong (周公), which shows the integration of Buddhist religious beliefs and popular ideas in Dunhuang basic education. In Wang Fanzhi’s Poetry, there are many comments on the Five Precepts of Buddhism, such as persuading people to eat as vegetarians, not to commit bad deeds or adultery, and to talk politely and sensibly (Huang 2006, p.  20). This shows that Dunhuang’s basic education used an interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary approach to design and compile texts. It integrated the contents of classics, people’s daily practices, religious beliefs, and multicultural knowledge well in the mengshu texts. The basic education texts in those days aimed to cultivate children morally, academically, socially, and practically in a holistic and inclusive manner.

The Implication of Dunhuang Basic Education on Contemporary Education The review of Dunhuang’s basic education for a thousand years and over a thousand years ago has shed much light on the development of Chinese basic education and its curricula through the course of history. The characteristics of practicality, moral emphasis, the role of the family, and holistic nature manifested in Dunhuang were not accidental and they reveal the important and fundamental components in basic education and education in general. The Dunhuang basic texts not only provide a strong evidence of our historical roots and development, but also point out the direction for contemporary education as we move into the future. Education Based on Children’s Characteristics In ancient times, Dunhuang paid attention to the literacy education for children. When developing the texts, the children’s age, developmental capacity, and characteristics were taken into account. The selected Chinese characters were organized meaningfully into rhymed ballads to enhance the children’s interest and memory while reading the mengshu. The contents of the mengshu and teaching methods are suitable for the children’s age and physical, psychological, and mental development.


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The textbooks for children’s education in Dunhuang during the Tang and Five Dynasties have various styles, such as the format of questions-­ and-­answers, prose, and rhymes. The rhymed verses also vary from poetry, lyrics, and mixed idioms to literary essays (Zheng and Zhu 2002). In order to make it easy for children to understand and memorize, most of them used rhymes and couplet arrangement. For example, the earliest text of the literacy mengshu, Quick Learning 《急就章》 ( , Jijuzhan), had been circulated for two thousand years because of its catchy composition and rich knowledge. According to the meanings and categories expressed, the 2144 characters involved in the book are divided into three parts. The text has three types of rhymes—in three, four, or seven words. For example, the surname part has more than 400 words and adopts three-word rhymes to summarize more than 100 family names: “Song Yan Nian, Zheng Zi Fang, Wei Yi Shou, Shi Bu Chang (宋延年, 郑子方, 卫益寿, 史步长)” (Wang 2017, p. 120). The second and third words in each name also have special meaning related to life. The part on literary jurisprudence uses seven-word rhymes, which build on the previous learning and develop into more advanced teaching (Wang 2017, p. 120). According to the psychological characteristics of children, Dunhuang teachers emphasize the encouragement of children in their teaching methods. For example, in the artifact S.2703 at the end of the text Sha Da Fu, there is a comment “Make progress gradually, accumulatively rewards can be gained (渐有少能, 亦合甄赏, jianyoushaoneng, jihezhenshang)” (Huang 2015a, p. 16). This approach to basic education in many ways is still important and relevant in today’s education. The effectiveness of education would rely on an educational design that aligns with children’s needs, interests, and developmental characteristics. In today’s educational systems, it means to consider both the general traits as well as culturally diverse needs. The one-size-fits-all Westernized educational model will need to be diversified to meet fast global educational development. Cultivating Children’s Character as the Goal of Education (蒙以养正) China has a long history of enlightenment education, from as early as Zhou (1064–256 BCE) and Qin (221–207 BCE) Dynasties. Through the educational concept of mengyiyangzheng (蒙以养正), it emphasized the cultivation of children’s moral, ethic, and behavioral characteristics from a young age as being a solid foundation for children’s life. The Book of Change states,



“Beginning education refers to the fact that junzi uses his role modeling to teach virtue (蒙。君子以果行育徳。Meng. Junziyiguoyude)” (Li 2017). Dunhuang’s mengshu views this function as the main purpose of education and its basic education texts integrate ethical knowledge and life knowledge with all teaching materials and subjects. Dunhuang mengshu cultivates children’s attitude of tolerance and acceptance, and they also promote harmonious relations among family, community, and society. (Zhang 2005, p. 168)

In contrast, the contemporary basic education has moved toward subject knowledge and life skills instead of character building and ethics teaching. While literacy is one of the major components of basic education in all cultures and languages, the move away from the character building and personal development is detrimental and dangerous to say the least. Knowledge without a purpose and ethical guidance can destroy humanity as our history has shown again and again. Dunhuang’s teaching of morality embedded within the basic literacy texts provides us with an effective model as we address the serious gap in today’s education in the global context. Recitation and Calligraphy as Teaching Pedagogies Reading, or recitation to be precise, is an important teaching and learning method in ancient basic education as Dunhuang’s menshu, frescoes, and artifacts have indicated. Another approach in teaching children literacy is through calligraphy—copying the Chinese characters repeatedly. In traditional Chinese teaching, often a teacher recites a text or classic at the podium, and the students sitting at their desks, follow the teacher, reading aloud or reciting the text. Many people in modern times have ridiculed such styles of classroom teaching and learning and dismiss them as out-of-­ date practices and ineffective technics. However, in fact, this is a teaching and learning pedagogy with significant reasons behind. The recitation practice reflects the charm of Chinese language and literature, and demonstrates the subtlety, delicacy, and beauty of Chinese (Xiao and Wang 2009). The classical children’s education in Tang and Five Dynasties paid more attention to recitation, which laid a good foundation for children to learn and understand the meaning of Confucianism and Taoism when they grew up. Recitation is also an important method of examination in the Tang Dynasty. The children’s imperial examination requires that they should have a thorough command of the scriptures, and be able to write. A Chinese proverb says, “Reading a book a hundred times, its meaning is


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self-evident (书读百遍, 其义自见, dushubaibian, qiyizijian).” Through recitation, together with their teacher, the children can learn the pronunciation and the meaning of the text correctly without the fear of making mistakes. The teacher can monitor their progress and make any necessary corrections. The recitation also helps children to grasp and enjoy the melodic rhythm of Chinese poems, prose, and literature, and helps them to remember the words and texts. Today we call these approaches multiple intelligences: audial, visual, and kinetic holistic. Through this process children are nurtured by aesthetic charm and high-quality traditional culture when they read One Thousand Characters 《千字文》 ( ). The practice also helps the learners to be fully engaged and focused. Calligraphy is an important part of basic education in the ancient Chinese education. Chinese calligraphy is not an act of simple copying. It is an art as well as a spiritual practice and a character-building exercise. The practice of calligraphy not only helps children to learn to write the Chinese characters and reinforce their literacy learning but also teaches the formation, structure, and reasons behind Chinese writing system. Calligraphy develops learners’ observation, focus, and disciplines, cultivating their senses, diligence, and imagination. More importantly, the calligraphy also provides aesthetic appreciation of learning and individual style and creativity. On the highest level, it is an energy and spiritual practice to connect with one’s innate capacity and natural source and flow with the cosmic forces. As the result of this multiple significance, the Chinese imperial examination system required every aspiring scholar to master calligraphy well and demonstrate his or her highest ability in this art. This was also one of the most important qualifications of a scholar or an official. However, the contemporary Chinese education pays little attention to the practice and habit of writing calligraphy. The popularization of computers reduces children’s practice of calligraphy and writing significantly. With computer typing, the learners’ ability to write the Chinese characters is diminishing. Their understanding and appreciation of Chinese language are negatively impacted and the development of holistic abilities through calligraphy is lost as well. From this point of view, the practice of children’s calligraphy and the tradition of handwritten Chinese characters need to be rebuilt in order to inherit and maintain the cultural treasures (Xiao and Wang 2009). We need to understand the deeper reasons behind educational pedagogies in the past in order to appreciate and utilize them to benefit contemporary teaching and learning, not only to discard or copy the past but to build on top of it and expand it creatively and continuously.



Family and Community as Educational Partnerships Dunhuang’s educational system pays close attention to the integration of school education, family education, temple education, and social education. There are not only local government-run primary schools, but also private schools in the form of home schools, community schools, and temple schools (Huang 2006). In Dunhuang, temple studies are different from the traditional monastery practices. The content of learning includes Confucianism and Buddhism. The distinctive teaching method of Buddhism and Confucianism retained the tradition of Han culture, while spreading Buddhist beliefs among the Dunhuang people (Huang 2015b). This fourin-one education system relies on different educational partners to invest in education, spreading educational activities into all aspects and corners of social life. The inclusive partnership in education has practical significance for contemporary education. Instead of educating learners in public schools only, a combination of all the partners and stakeholders in education such as parents, community, non-government organizations, and religious institutions can work together in such a way to work in alignment in the development of basic education. This is especially needed in places where resources are limited and in areas where there is new development such as preschool and early childhood education.

Conclusion The ancient Dunhuang basic education focused on children’s holistic and moral education, paying attention to the spiritual and cultural inheritance, and cultivating children’s spirit in the unification of knowing and doing. In Dunhuang mengshu, there are many excellent teachings and traditions of the ancient times. While teaching children to read and copy Chinese characters, children’s education also consciously imparts principles of living and ethical conducts in the process. The purpose of education is focused more on social, cultural, personal, and intellectual development so that learners can grow up to be a junzi (君子), an exemplary person and a role model for society. The broader view of Dunhuang enlightenment education that aims to improve personal life, family unity, human condition, harmonious relationships with the Heaven, Earth, and other beings has practical implications for today’s education.


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First, despite the criticism of the traditional model of education, such as copying, memorizing, and strict family or school rules, this kind of teaching practice in the past has specific advantages that explain the reasons for its wide use in ancient times. In fact, the mengshu helped society to preserve, maintain, and upgrade its social equilibrium. Many children benefited from and thrived in this form of education. Based on these profits, contemporary education can draw inspiration and nourishment from the ancient education, such as inculcating sound morals in teaching, educating for life, and emphasizing family education. The great ancient cultural heritage—for example, calligraphy, scriptures, poems, singing, or chanting when reading—should be re-evaluated, preserved, and transmitted from generation to generation through the system of education instead of being simply criticized, neglected, or discarded. Second, the mengshu was very elaborate and inclusive, embracing all aspects of human life and development. These ranged from moral principles, social adjustments, interpersonal interaction, and mind opening, to cultural awareness and knowledge obtainment. Today’s education needs to integrate multiple traditional and modern subject areas, teaching to develop an individual student’s ability to become well-rounded person, and encouraging learners to apply these practices in daily lives. Third, it is important to note that most of the successful features of traditional basic education are applicable in the contemporary education system. That is in teaching and learning the children must be connected meaningfully to their daily life. These relevant texts will provide the learners with the motivation, wonder, persistence, and joy in learning and applying for the rest of their lives. This is the true empowerment of any basic education, and it is the beginning of all our human enlightenment in a marvelous and intriguing universe.

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Huang, J. D. (2015a). Tangwudashiqi dunhuang tongmen jiaoyu de zuoyong jiqi qishi (唐五代时期敦煌童蒙教育的作用及其启示, The Function and Insights of Dunhuang’s Basic Education During Tang Five Dynasties). Shanxi Early Childhood Normal College Report, 31(1), 119–123. Huang, L. (2015b). Lianji nanbeichao shiqi jibin laihua zenren yu fojing changyi (两晋南北朝时期罽宾来华僧人与佛经传译, The Buddhist Monks Visited China During Two Jin Dynasties and Northern and Southern Dynasties and Their Scripture Translation). Lanzhou Academic Journal, 2, 118–123. Li, H. (2017). Zhouyi (周易, I-Ching). Beijing: China Commerce and Trade Press. Liu, C.  D. (2007). Lun zhongguo gudai de xizi mengshu—yi Dunhuang xieben Shang Da Fu deng mengshu wei zhongxin (论中国古代的习字蒙书——以敦煌 写本《上大夫》等蒙书为中心, On the Chinese Characters and Words in Ancient Times—Taking the Dunhuang Manuscript as Example). Social Science Research, 2, 188–194. Liu, S. (2016). Dunhuang xieben jiaxunlei mengshu de yanjiu zongshu (敦煌写本 家训类蒙书的研究综述, A Review of the Research on Dunhuang Manuscripts). Appreciation of Famous Works, 30, 27–29. Qiao, W. P., & Cheng, P. J. (1989). Zhongguo gudai youer jiaoyushi (中国古代幼 儿教育史, The History of Early Childhood Education in Ancient China). Hefei: Anhui Education Press. Qu, Z.  M. (2011). Dunhuang xieben Yingjin xiliexulu jiyanjuhuigu (敦煌写本 《籯金》系类书叙录及研究回顾, A Discussion and Study of Dunhuang’s Version Ying Jin). The Journal of Dunhuang Study, 1, 153–165. Wang, F. Z. (1988). Dunhuang de tongmen duwu (敦煌的童蒙读物, Dunhuang’s Basic Education Texts). Historical Knowledge, 8, 104–107. Wang, F. Z. (1993). Dunhuang rujia menshu yu yiyi luelun (敦煌儒家蒙书与意义 略论, Dunhuang’s Confucian Mengshu and Their Meaning). Confucian Study, 1, 71–78. Wang, J. (2008a). Dunhuang banben kunzi beiwengshu yanju (敦煌版本孔子备问 书研究, A Study of Questions That Confucian Answers—A Dunhuang menshu. Doctoral Dissertation, Northwest University, Lanzhou. Wang, J. E. (2013). Dunhuang junben wangfanzhishi rushixiangxiede jiaohuatedian lunxi (敦煌一卷本《王梵志诗》儒释相谐的教化特点论析, On the Educational Characteristics of Harmony between Confucianism and Buddhism in Wang Fanzhi Poems, a Volume of Dunhuang). Guangsu Social Science, 2, 88–91. Wang, R. A. (2008b). Sanzijing xiangjie—zhencangben (三字经详解: 珍藏本, A Detailed Explanation of Sanzijing: A Special Collection). Chongqing: Chongqing Press. Wang, J. E. (2017). Dunhuang cangjingdong souchu shizilei mengshu luelun (敦煌 藏经洞所出识字类蒙书略论, A Research on Questions That Confucian Answers—A Dunhuang menshu). Chinese Study, 37(5), 119–126.


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Wu, X. (2015). Dunhuang yishuzhong de menxue wenxian (敦煌遗书中的蒙学 文献, The Mongolian Literature in Dunhuang Artifacts). The Journal of Nanchang Educational College, 5, 19–21. Xiao, X. Y., & Wang, Z. H. (2009). Dunhuang mengshu dui dangdai yuwen jiaoyu de yiyi (敦煌蒙书对当代语文教育的意义, The Meaning of Dunhuang menshu for Chinese Contemporary Chinese Education). Hundred Arts, 25(6), 225–229. Yang, L. (2006). Zhongguo gudianwenxian jiqi liyong (中国古典文献及其利用, Chinese Classic Literature and Their Usage). Beijing: Peking University Press. Zhang, Y. P. (2005). Dunhuang gudai jiaoyu sixiang zouyi (敦煌古代教育思想刍 议, A Beginning Discussion on Dunhuang’s Ancient Educational Thoughts). Gansu Cross-Section of Science and Technology, 34(2), 167–168. Zheng, A.  C. (1991). Dunhuang mengshu tanxi (敦煌蒙书探析, Analysis of Dunhuang menshu. The Proceedings of the 2nd Dunhuang International Conference. Taipei: Chinese Study Center. Zheng, A.  C., & Zhu, F.  Y. (2002). Dunhuang mengshu yanju (敦煌蒙书研究, Dunhuang menshu Study). Lanzhou: Gansu Education Press. Zheng, A. C., & Zhu, F. Y. (2007). Kaimengzhengyang—Dunhuang de xuexiao jiaoyu (开蒙养正:敦煌的学校教育, Beginning Enlightenment—Dunhuang’s School Education). Lanzhou: Gansu Education Press. Zhu, M.  X. (2008). Zhongguo jiaxun lungao (中国家训史论稿, The History of Chinese Family Teaching). Chengdu: Sichuan Press Co./Ba Shu Press.


Dunhuang and Lifelong Learning in the Global Context Zhang Jianhui (张建慧)

The Dunhuang Grottoes, a major heritage site in China, have drawn much attention from Buddhists, historians, archaeologists, and artists in the past century. However, questions remain. How did these grottoes affect the lives of people in Dunhuang in the past? What were the impacts? How would they connect with our contemporary life? This chapter aligns with the previous chapters in emphasizing the role of education in Dunhuang and focuses on its relationship with lifelong learning in the past and the lessons it has in the global context for the present and the future.

The Idea of Lifelong Learning Lifelong learning as a concept does not have a single and finite definition because of differences in the understanding of what constitutes learning. A glance at the explanation in the Collins English Dictionary might help to offer a general idea: “The use of learning opportunities throughout

Zhang Jianhui (张建慧) (*) Department of Educational Foundations, College of Education, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,




people’s lives … to foster the continuous development … of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfillment” (Lifelong Learning 2018). This definition seems to focus more on the individual and how one enriches oneself through obtaining knowledge and skills. However, according to the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning (2014), lifelong learning is not only about the betterment of an individual but also about the prosperity of the society as a whole, a belief that has become common among modern people. That is why so many primary schools and even kindergartens worldwide have included it as one of their educational goals. For example, the Education Bureau of Hong Kong has categorized its early childhood education as one of the foundations toward lifelong learning (Education Bureau 2018). The definition of lifelong learning that is used in this chapter combines both individual and social purposes. That is to say, while gaining knowledge and skills throughout one’s life, an individual not only improves the opportunities for employment and personal fulfillment but also enhances the development of the society with his or her efforts and intelligence through interactions with the living environment. As shown in Dunhuang (Peng 2007), the small grottoes inside the caves were constructed for monks to meditate—to learn and grow throughout their lives. Inside the grottoes there were living quarters and kitchens as well. The monks combined learning with their life in these small caves. Through meditation, emphasizing spiritual and holistic enlightenment, they gradually developed into role models of virtue and were able to influence others with their moral behavior. They led people to improve their society together.

Dunhuang and Lifelong Learning As shown by Dunhuang’s illustrations, lifelong learning involved people of all ages and in all occupations. The paintings, sculptures, and even the grottoes all represent the idea of lifelong learning. The statue of Buddha in Grotto #158 depicts Nirvana (or Nie Pan Xiang—涅槃像), Buddha has his eyes half closed with a smile on his face. On the wall beside the Buddha, a group of monks look at him peacefully. The whole picture represents calmness and tranquility, as if the Buddha was just falling asleep. To our surprise, the Buddha is not sleeping. In fact, he has just passed away after lecturing his followers. Everyone surrounding him is very calm as the Buddha journeys on. Death is not the end; in fact, it is believed to be the beginning of another journey. The combination of the



paintings and the statue in this grotto tells people that the Buddha is at peace and at ease when, finally, he is able to achieve the highest virtue that he taught in the Buddhist doctrine—enlightenment and Nirvana (Lai 2007). To reach the highest level of virtue, the person needs not only to learn and become a sage but also to help others to become enlightened beings. Sculptures in Grottoes #44 and #428 and paintings in Grottoes #280, 295, and 427 all emphasize this important belief about the “Nirvana” of Buddhism (Lai 2007). In addition, the grottoes themselves present people’s positive attitudes toward death and the importance of lifelong learning at that time. Evidence found in the Dunhuang Grottoes indicates that Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism all emphasized lifelong learning within the context of moral and ethical development. According to Johnson (2010), meditation and other deliberate mindful practices of Buddhism are all useful approaches to lifelong learning. Promoting kindness, Buddhism believes that all humans are born pure and kind. However, materialism and capitalism cultivate greed and cruelty. Humans have to learn to become pure and kind again after being influenced by the chaos of the world, in which people chase fame and fortune. This process is not at all easy. In Chinese, it is called Xiu Xin (修心), which means cultivating the heart. The heart, the inner world that people rarely look at in daily life, is translated as xin (心, or hin). Many Chinese scholars believe that people’s behaviors originate from xin. Thus, the xin inside the body has to choose the right things in order for the person to live a happy life (Li 2018). Practicing Buddhism means cultivating the xin (San 2008) throughout one’s life. Those who do not have a pure heart will not be able to reach the highest level of enlightenment. Here it is important to point out that the lifelong learning emphasized in Dunhuang is quite different from the contemporary understanding especially in Western countries. In Dunhuang and Buddhist tradition, lifelong learning is not so much about knowledge or skill obtainment, but the emphasis is on moral and ethical development and holistic cultivation of human beings through life or lives continuously. Daoism and Confucianism also emphasize lifelong learning for moral and ethical development. Daoism believes that nature has rules and people should learn its rules rather than disturbing and manipulating nature. Zhuang Zi, a famous scholar of Daoism, once said that there is an end to human life; however, learning is endless (Zhuang Zi 2016). Confucius, who emphasized the morality and ethics of human behavior, has a famous



saying: “Daxuezhidao, zaimingmingde, zaiqinmin, zaizhiyuzhishan (大学 之道, 在明明德, 在亲民, 在止于至善, The greatest and highest knowledge teaches people to manifest virtue, to influence people, and to accomplish the highest kindness)” (Confucius 2016, p. 6). All these actions require that people learn and think throughout their entire life. Even though Confucius did not say anything directly about lifelong learning, he indeed practiced lifelong learning, which set an exquisite example for his followers (Zhang 2016). Although the concept of lifelong learning is discussed more in the modern era, ancient people simply practiced lifelong learning. In this case, lifelong learning in ancient China was similar to “critical thinking.” Because the term critical thinking originated in the West, there is no agreement on its correct translation in Chinese (Chen 2017). However, the lack of such a term does not mean that Chinese students do not have critical thinking skills, as is the perception of some Western and Chinese scholars. Scriptures, scholarly books, and artifacts excavated from the Library Cave #17, in the Mogao Grottoes have recorded the efforts made by ancient people to facilitate lifelong learning and have offered ample examples. The subjects of these books range from astronomy, mathematics, history, medicine, politics, humanities, and religion, to language, metaphysics, arts, music, and dance, with varied versions of the documents for each subject. In addition, the texts and learning materials cover all age groups and people with different occupations: the young and the old, emperors, professionals, businessmen, and commoners. Even thieves are included. The goals for lifelong learning of people at different levels were similar, which were to become moral role models and then to influence and facilitate others becoming the same. According to Peng (2007), the grottoes also helped the monks spread knowledge about Buddhist history and beliefs. Documents found in the grottoes, such as Zi Zhi Tong Jian (资治通鉴, History as a Mirror), are not only for the reference of the rulers, but for any people who have an interest in the history of the nation. For the younger people, there are books such as San Cai Za Zi (三才杂字, The Mixed Chinese Characters) and Sui Jin (碎金, Fragmented Gold), which teach not only the Chinese characters through literacy education for beginners, but also ethics and rules. While meditating and thinking, many of the monks spread this knowledge until they died. They set good examples of lifelong learning for “outsiders” or laymen to pursue virtue.



The Population for Lifelong Learning Some may wonder who lifelong learning is for. Is it for Buddhist monks and nuns only, or for scholars, court officials, or rulers? The best answer is that, as mentioned earlier, lifelong learning is for everyone in the world, from the top rulers to those living on the bottom of the society, from the young to the aged, both women and men (Mocker and Spear, 1982). Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism all recognize that the society in which humans live constantly influences people’s thoughts and behaviors. Thus, it is essential for people to reflect on their behaviors every day until their last day on earth, or even beyond. Only through doing so can they rid themselves of bad desires and become cultured beings, who can contribute to a peaceful and harmonious world. Lifelong learning in Dunhuang was not limited to formal schooling but included all kinds of people in all conditions and through various means, both formal and informal, with its focus on developing the heart and soul and building character and morality. In addition, it included long-term learning, even beyond one’s lifetime. In the Buddhist notion of Nirvana, after death, the Buddha began a samsara, a cycle of death and rebirth, and continued to have powerful and endless influence on believers. Dunhuang’s grottoes provide ample illustrations of lifelong learning through a wide range of real-life examples, for emperors, for both “good” and “bad” people, and for the uneducated. The emperors, as the top leaders, had extensive power in managing the military and tremendous authority in front of their people. However, as humans, they also had flaws. The lifelong learning of the emperors focused on learning to become kind and to manage their countries with patience, goodness, and justice. Greed, for instance, was one of their possible temptations and flaws. Even though they already had plenty materially, there was often a human desire for more land and power. Thus, if the neighboring country was small and powerless, they killed the people and took their possessions. The cruelty of the emperors brought more wars and deaths; their arrogance and vanity might ruin a country because the rulers did not want to take anyone’s advice even though there might be flaws in their management. The failures of the kings at this time can be found in many historical documents, such as Feng Huo Xi Zhu Hou (烽火戏诸侯), excavated from the Library Cave #17, and translated as History as a Mirror. The King of the Western Zhou Dynasty lit a beacon tower to play a trick on his army in order to make his concubine happy (Sima 2016). This



behavior led directly to a national defeat because the King lost the people’s trust and none of the army came to save him when his enemies arrived. When reading the event today, it may seem funny that a ruler could make such a ridiculous mistake. However, the defeat of a country is no laughing matter because it brings death and devastating suffering to its people. Thus, the rulers have to improve themselves constantly to avoid tragedies due to improper decisions caused by the weaknesses of the xin. The original function of Zi Zhi Tong Jian was to teach the emperors to manage the country properly, humanely, and wisely. The intention of the book was to help a new emperor to avoid similar mistakes by knowing what mistakes the previous emperors had made and their consequences. In Dunhuang’s grottoes, lifelong learning is not only about “good” people, those who have never committed crime; they also include stories to teach “bad” people, those whose behavior harms others. Paintings in Cave #285 tell the story of Five Hundred Robbers Become Buddhas (Cai 2015). In ancient India, 500 thieves occupied people’s land in order to rob and kill them. The King was angry about their notorious behavior and ordered the army to arrest them. The robbers lost the battle and were captured by the soldiers. As punishment, the King sent them to a remote forest after taking out all of their eyeballs and cutting off their noses and ears. They cried out desperately. Buddha Shakyamuni heard them and came to cure them. The Buddha Shakyamuni revealed to the robbers that it was the evil that they had done that made them suffer and guided them to abandon their evil desires, be kind, and convert to Buddhism so that they would be able to redeem themselves and enter the world of happiness. The thieves all agreed and started to learn from Buddha. Many years later, the 500 robbers finally became 500 arhats, those at a level of Buddhist enlightenment who can save others (Cai 2015). This story tells people that no matter how atrocious a person used to be, as long as he or she truly has the desire to be kind and devotes himself/herself to cultivating the heart to be pure again, there will still be opportunities for enlightenment. It offers the insight that lifelong learning is not only for those who are commonly known as “good” but also includes those who have made serious mistakes in their previous life journey. Thus, the story brings hope to both “good” and “bad” people. The items in the Dunhuang Grottoes have presented ways to facilitate the learning of uneducated people. Jingbian (经变), a way to turn scriptures and written materials into paintings and stories, is common in these grottoes. Many stories, like the story mentioned above, are about the



­ rigin of Buddha and his life experiences. For instance, the Nine-Colored o Deer (jiuselu, 九色鹿) and the Shipi King Cuts the Flesh to Save the Pigeon (shipiwanggeroujiuge, 尸毗王割肉救鸽), in both jingbian frescoes and scriptures, instruct people to be honest and kind and to respect not only humans but also all other living creatures. Similarly, other stories talk about the consequences of one’s actions in life, which means the person will eventually be punished if he or she allows the bad desires to control his or her behavior. When the written scriptures were transcribed into pictures and stories those who were illiterate had the opportunity to learn and then to act properly to develop a higher moral standard. To summarize, Dunhuang’s artifacts show that all the people were included in lifelong learning despite their occupation, age, gender, ethnicity, and so on. Teaching all people to be moral role models for others for the prosperity of the world is the essence of the philosophies and practices discovered in Dunhuang. This is also the essence of lifelong learning. To encourage people to achieve the highest virtue is an important contributing factor for Dunhuang survival and prosperity for a thousand years. This emphasis is also the component that is still attractive to people today.

Global Application of Lifelong Learning The UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning has done an excellent job of explaining why lifelong learning is important for us today: Lifelong learning is integral to sustainable development. It represents a paradigm for continuous, seamless, multi-faceted learning opportunities and participation that deliver recognized outcomes for personal and professional development in all aspects of people’s lives. Current education systems are not entirely sustainable with respect to current human development. On the one hand, knowledge and skills (of all kinds) can “decay” over time if they are not enriched, renewed and practiced; on the other hand, those who could not—for whatever reasons—participate in or complete initial education and training must invest disproportionate resources (time, effort, money) to catch up in adult life. Values-led lifelong learning plays a vital role in securing lasting peace and tighter social cohesion by supporting the continuing acquisition and practice of active democratic and responsible citizenship. This increasingly takes place in formal education curricular provision, but non-formal youth, community and adult education also have crucial roles to play. (UNESCO 2014, p. 5)



Under the current capitalistic and materialistic systems, the values of people are becoming increasingly skewed, as the amount of wealth or money has become a singular indicator of success in life and death. To a large extent, contemporary education is no longer the same as when the great scientists and scholars advanced human knowledge dramatically. In addition to the increasing use of technology in the classroom, the number of college major subjects and fields of study has multiplied. By 1998, Chinese higher education institutions had a total of 249 majors (Guo 2013). The majors range from religious studies, humanities, and social sciences to engineering. However, when students select majors, it is no longer surprising to hear questions such as “which major will help me earn more money in the job market?” The expected future earnings have become a focal motivation and purpose of one’s learning and life (Arcidiacono et al. 2012). It is understandable that under the pressure of fast-growing property prices and increasing living expenses, students and parents have to think about money and their economic affairs. However, what is left in life in addition to money? Where is our intrinsic value for and wonder at life? What is our passion or interest? Why are we not following the xin? When money and financial success are the only criteria, motivation, and basis for satisfaction in life, the results can be ominous. Money presents a twisted value that the amount of money rather than the level of virtue becomes the measure of success. It is noticed that graduates from social science major tend to make less money than business majors or engineers (Chang and Xie 2016). According to the statistics of the Boss Zhipin, an online recruitment platform in China, graduates majoring in engineering had the highest staring salary in 2016, while the starting salary of graduates with majors in history and philosophy ranking the lowest among the 13 categories studied (Chang and Xie 2016). A famous Chinese film director, Gao Xiaosong (高晓松), once said in an interview that life is not only about the struggles people are facing; there is also poetry and a kingdom far away (Liu 2012). The kingdom he mentioned rests at the bottom of everyone’s heart, where there is a place of serenity and purity. Thus, no matter how hard life is, there is always hope. However, in reality, people put tremendous emphasis on the importance of money. Majors that have higher expected future earnings become popular, while the others, such as those in the humanities areas, are confronting a decreasing enrollment rate and inadequate operational funding (Guo 2017). The education system then becomes unbalanced with a heavy emphasis on utilitarianism.



This situation will be disappointing because it focuses massively on the physical needs of the human and seriously erodes the human connection and value. As presented in the Dunhuang Grottoes, the whole life journey of humans is all about cultivating the xin. Buddhists believe that humans are born kind, yet people frequently get lost on their life journey. When people are financial poor, they believe fortune brings them happiness. However, between 2003 and 2011, ten Chinese billionaires committed suicide (Bai et al. 2011). If money is happiness, why did they commit suicide? Among many factors, loneliness and emptiness often played important roles in these tragedies. On social media platforms, such as Facebook (popular in North America and somewhat in Asia), WeChat (widely used in China), and Line (prevalent mostly in Asia), people publicly share their life memories and brag about their fortunes, whether they were born into a rich family or they accumulated the money through their own efforts. When people feel empty on the inside, they start to flaunt wealth so that they will attract attention from others (Jiang 2013). Yet, this behavior brings hatred. According to Liu (2016), the flaunting of their wealth not only causes loathing and jealousy but also serious estrangement between the rich and the poor, since the latter group can blame the existence of the rich for their hardships in real life. One example is when the home of a 19-year-old wealthy boy was ransacked two weeks after he posted on Facebook that his family was going on a vacation in Hawaii (Dagher 2013, December 21). All this may stimulate the release of an internal desire for vengeance, and turn the resentment of individuals into collective retaliation (Liu 2016, p.  200). When a group of people becomes rich at the expense of others and the others are poor, global social conflicts occur. According to Li (2014), the changing lifestyles with the development of modern technology have influenced people’s way of thinking. While enjoying the benefits that science has brought to this world, many wealthy people are becoming more confused about the meaning of life and start to believe that money can deal with everything (Tang 2011). The social media, for example, seem to present an illusion that the luxuries one possesses mirrors how happy one is (Chang and Li 2015; Jiang 2013). The advertisements on TV and social media platforms have a strong influence on people’s purchasing decisions (O’Keeffe et al. 2011). The passage of time has drastically changed people’s way of life. In ancient times when people all worked together in the hunting and gathering society, the biggest goal was to survive. However, in the modern world, where all



different lifestyles are shown on the internet, it is possible for someone who has a mundane existence of just working, eating, and sleeping to seek out a new kind of life, such as improving the well-being of fellow humans, traveling around and experiencing many adventures, learning a new skill, building a shelter for those who are in need, and so on. Yet, before making a choice, it is important for the individual to think about the reason for making these changes and to be aware of the impact of social media. It is not just about changing one’s way of living to kill time. It is about finding the meaning of life and the true self, the xin, as it is called and manifested in Buddhism, the Self that gives a person the intrinsic wonder to explore the outside with meaning, joy, and peace. Unfortunately, contemporary education lacks adequate cultivation to enrich students’ xin. Surrounded by capitalism or materialism, students often see material richness as their purpose and goal of life. There is profound confusion regarding the meaning and the direction of life. At the same time, there is also a reduction of confidence and a strong sense of insecurity among the student population. As Martin (2018) indicates, “Students find themselves self-critical, and their internal comparisons with others may impede the potential of a transformational educational experience” (p. 5). Without an enriched heart and a healthy value system, teenage students, who have not yet developed a complete value system, tend to compare the costs of some basic living materials and consider purchasing luxury goods as cool (Chang and Li 2015; Tang 2011). Like a mirror, these students reflect the prevalent value of the society. Especially under an exam-oriented education system such as in China, students are taught to score higher so that they have a chance to be admitted to prestigious universities. Ironically, the goal of getting into a prestigious university is usually simply to make more money. The life in high school is difficult for both the students and the teachers. The time for physical education class has been replaced by studying Chinese language, mathematics, or other subjects, which are included in the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE) (Zhang 2013). To prepare for the endless upcoming exams in the Chinese high schools, teachers hardly have time to talk about the beauty, essence, and value of life in class, let alone after class when they all run away for a quick bite and then come back for another round of preparation. When students go home, they rarely have opportunities to communicate with parents about life because the parents are busy with work or simply making money. This fast-­paced life makes everyone busy. Why are we making money? Is money the origin of happiness?



However, most of us have never intentionally stopped and thought about the meaning of life. Since some parents are busy with promotions and growing businesses, they give children pocket money and gifts as compensation. According to the study of Chang and Li (2015), a university student’ paid extra money to turn her dorm into a private suite. Some other parents pay too much attention to the development of children’s intelligence and test scores, and pay little attention to the growth of their personality. According to Chen (2009), 7.7 percent of the students had psychological problems, with 5.92 percent mild, 1.38 percent moderate, and 0.48 percent severe. With lacking of understanding toward life and happiness, students’ values become eroded. The children start to act as they wish; they lose their tempers easily; they become selfish, dependent, and extreme because of the stress that comes from school (Zhao 2016); some even commit crimes (Li 2007). Parents have become accustomed to relying solely on the schools for the mental and psychological development of their children, while the schools focus too much on the exams and want the parents to do this work. Education for ethics and moral character has diminished or even disappeared. In many families in China, the parents try their best to prevent their children from doing even very basic activities in life, such as preparing their own breakfast or making the bed. While considering this behavior as “love” they have taken away the opportunities of their beloved child to experience and live life as it really is and to develop into a whole person. Why? It is because the parents themselves also lack a deeper understanding of the meaning of life. That is why cultivating the xin is important, not only for the students but for everyone. These are urgent questions for us—educators, parents, and students. Apparently, there is a lack of cultivating lifelong learning in many schools. In China, for example, one famous tradition in high schools throughout the country after the NCEE is to tear apart the textbooks and throw them outside the classroom. This phenomenon is not only a student-­initiated ceremony to celebrate finishing high school but also an expression of anger and hatred toward learning. These students include both those who usually score high and the ones who score lower. According to Wang (2017), the books that students tear apart are not the classic literature texts that they had no time to read while preparing for the NCEE; rather, these are their practice books that are full of academic problems and daily exercises. Quite obviously, this ceremony is a way to release the heavy pressure that was brought by the endless exercises and exams, but it also brings the exam-oriented education into question. Will current ­education facilitate the development of lifelong learning? For now, the



answer seems negative. Such attitude toward learning and education has serious impact on learners’ life educationally, professionally, and ethically. Overemphasizing the utilitarian goal of education and neglecting the moral cultivation of students has become the fundamental problem of contemporary college education (Wang 2005). While universities are investing funding in raising their prestige, many of them have decreased their attention on teaching, especially in morality and ethics education. The professors are busy with their publications, since it is currently the only way to value their success and to determine the level to which they should be promoted. The popularity of a Chinese proverb saying that people laugh at those who are financially poor and not at rich prostitutes reflects the fact that money is idealized and worshipped. People respect those who are wealthy no matter how they accumulate their wealth, even when they are doing business illegally. It is sad when college graduates commit crimes because they single-mindedly want to be financially rich. The need to address the situation of people’s twisted values is urgent. This readjustment originates in cultivating moral and ethical lifelong learning.

Conclusion Clearly, there is a long way to go before we can readjust the current educational systems to facilitate lifelong learning for ethical and moral development. During the long period of turmoil in Dunhuang, Buddhism, which advocates equality, mercy, and salvation, provided hope and consolation for the suffering and spiritually lost Chinese (Fan 2016). The Dunhuang Grottoes, tightly connected to Buddhism as well as Daoism and Confucianism, have offered an insight into the importance of lifelong learning with the beauty and power of the long history. In Chinese beliefs, the success of a person consists of four parts: “修身, 齐家, 治国, 平天下 (xiusheng, qijia, zhiguo, peingtianxia, [cultivate one’s self, harmonize the family, lead the nation, and provide peace to the world]).” This emphasizes that a person has to cultivate his or her own moral character first in order to fulfill the other, further goals. Only after this first step can the person be equipped with the ability to live in harmony with his or her family. Then, he or she will be able to manage a country effectively. Finally, this person will be empowered to make contributions to world peace. To cultivate the xin is so much more important than scoring higher on a single mathematics or political science exam. The purpose of life is to become a lifelong learner of moral and ethical behavior and to bring and share happiness and peace with others.



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Harmonious Coexistence with Nature: Naturalistic Education in the Dunhuang Frescoes Song Baoru (宋宝茹)

Nature study, in modern times, is generally defined as a study of nature with a focus on enriching learners’ school experiences and achievements, although there have been frequent discussions and variations both in the term and the content. The nature study movement in education was popular in America in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with a strong connection to progressive and pragmatic education (Armitage 2009; Comstock 1967; Nature Study 1902). The nature study movement attempted to reconcile scientific investigation with spiritual and personal experiences gained from interaction with the natural world. It changed the way science was taught in schools by emphasizing learning from tangible objects, and its main focus is embodied by the movement’s mantra “Study nature, not books” (Kohlstedt 2005, p. 325). This chapter uses naturalistic

This chapter is translated into English by Xu Di. Song Baoru (宋宝茹) (*) Bowu Educational Consultation Inc, Beijing, China © The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,




education as a lens through which to examine Dunhuang’s frescoes to see how people developed their knowledge and cultivated their spirit through their personal experiences in the Middle Ages. The purpose of this chapter is to rethink the current modern education system, in which abstract book learning is highly emphasized to the detriment of human development and creativity. Given the modern science and technology in the last 200  years of human history, Dunhuang’s Mogao Grottoes should have long ago faded into the past. However, their numerous documents and magnificent artifacts record the existence of a great civilization, continually shedding their beauty and wisdom and attracting scholars and commoners alike from China and around the world. How did people in Dunhuang learn and create so many miracles in a thousand years, long before the advent of modern science? What can we learn from our ancestors? How can Dunhuang provide insights for our modern education and life? These very questions led this author to explore Dunhuang both on site and through scholarly inquiry.

Dunhuang and Naturalistic Education Dunhuang is a well-preserved museum of Chinese history and culture, with detailed records of more than a thousand years: from the pre-Qin Dynasty (前秦, 221–23 BC) to the Ming Dynasty (明, AD 1368–1644). The murals in the Mogao Grottoes include rich and colorful frescoes describing how people learned from nature and their experiences and how the results of this simple learning can be reflected, recorded, inherited, and continually applied in human life. Dunhuang’s Connection with Nature For those who have visited Dunhuang, one unforgettable impression is the striking contrast between nature outside the grottoes—the endless sand dunes of the far-stretching Gobi Desert—and the artistically and spiritually created space inside, rich with Buddhist statues, sculptures, and paintings covering all four walls and the ceiling. This purposeful contrast generates enormous awe and draws the undivided attention of visitors who enter the spiritual, religious, educational, and communal space of the grottoes.



However, the interior decoration of the Dunhuang grottoes is not really separate from the vast nature outside. On the contrary, it is very much based on nature and profoundly encompasses the natural world around and beyond Dunhuang in a rich and diverse way. Such evidence can be found everywhere in the artifacts from Dunhuang, in the frescoes, the textbooks for new learners, and other artifacts. First, Dunhuang grottoes were created from natural and local materials. The grottoes themselves were dug from the sand dunes. The sculptures were built with local clay and straw. The paint, primarily earth tones, used color pigments from natural plants and minerals from the local region. Exotic gems were acquired through the Silk Road trade. While each grotto has Buddha and Bodhisattvas as the center and the focal point, nature is presented strongly and in a variety of ways. Often the life stories of the Buddha and jingbian are in natural settings. As it can be seen both in Caves #13 and #217, the Parable of the Illusory City (Fan and Zhao 2004, pp.  148–149) is illustrated with green mountains and the scenery of the challenging journey of those seeking spiritual treasures and enlightenment. In Cave #428, the Jataka of Prince Mahasattva depicts the wildness of mountains and forests where Prince Mahasattva sacrificed his own life in order to feed starving tigers (Fan and Zhao 2004, pp. 110–111). This inclusion of nature places human existence in the larger context of the natural world and the universe, and shows their interconnectedness and a significant understanding of the relationship between nature and humanity. Nature comes into the Dunhuang frescoes in different ways. In addition to the natural landscapes and scenery, animals such as peacocks, rabbits, deer, horses, and tigers often appear in the paintings. Some of the animals serve as mounts for the Buddha or Bodhisattvas, for instance, Monjusri (Wenzhu, 文珠) riding a lion in Cave #159 (Fan and Liu 2009, p. 97; Fan and Zhao 2004, p. 86) and Samantabhadra (Puxian, 普贤) riding an elephant in Yulin Cave #3 (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 217). Other paintings are simply of natural life, such as wild boars seeking food in the forest on the ceiling of Cave #249 (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 47) and an ox driven by a peasant who is farming in the rain in Cave #23 (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p.  101). The animals are not decorative or accidental inclusions; they are as integral a part of the natural world as human beings and even have divine significance and teach humans through moral stories. Plants, trees, and flowers can be seen everywhere in the frescoes and also in the Buddhist sutras, as well as being mentioned in the poetry and



textbooks for beginning learners. They are not only part of the scenery, human habitat, or heavenly environment but their characteristics and characters also carry spiritual significance. For instance, bamboo, pine trees, and the Bodhi tree (in Cave #2 in the Eastern Thousand Buddhas Grottoes, Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p. 228; and in the Library Cave, #17, Fan and Liu 2009, p. 99) are often included for their strength and their evergreen characteristic. Lotus flowers are presented in all shapes and designs, as the honorable platform for Buddha and Bodhisattvas (e.g. Yulin Cave #25, Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, pp. 130–131), in their hands (e.g. the Worshipping Boddhisattva in Cave #465, p. 233), or in beautiful patterns decorating the ceilings and walls (e.g. the layered caisson with lions and lotuses in the ceiling of Cave #85, p.  162). The apsaras are often showering the scene with infinite flowers to create a spiritual, serene, and heavenly atmosphere. The flora bring beauty and grace, which generates the heightened aesthetics and elevated transcendental experiences that are part of the Buddhist spiritual teaching and learning. Natural phenomena—clouds, wind, thunder, rain, fire, oceans, Earth, Sun, Moon, and stars—are part of the universe that the inclusive and extensive Dunhuang frescoes and artifacts present. For instance, in the famous painting of Water-Moon Avalokitesvara (shuiyuegyuanyin, 水月观音) in Yulin Cave #2, the water (river) and Moon together with clouds, rocks, bamboo, and birds form a spiritual experience with Avalokitesvara as ONE and teach an enlightened existence and being (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, pp. 209, 211, 215). Often the phenomena are depicted in religious myths and folk legends as powerful forces in the universe. For example, Mogao Cave #249 has a painting of the King of Asura from an ancient Indian legend. The wind, thunder, rain, ocean, mountains, Sun, and Moon are all included with artistic creation and imagination to show and contrast with Asura’s super natural power and abilities (Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes 2002, p.  46). The presence of all these natural elements and phenomena not only shows the free association of the artists or the decorative components of the painting, these elements also actually teach an inclusive metaphysics of the universe by acknowledging all natural forces and their powers in the human and divine worlds. Thus, the omnipresence of nature in the Dunhuang frescoes and in all the artifacts is not a mere artistic rendering or decorative frill in the grottoes. Such inclusion of nature is at the core of Buddhist teaching and education regarding the interconnection of nature, humanity, and spirituality. Nature is part of the context and content of teaching and learning,



and its beauty, diversity, and colorfulness offer an aesthetic experience for those who visit the grottoes or participate in the communal and spiritual ceremonies. Nature also helps people connect the teaching of the frescoes to their own life and enables them to transcend the suffering and difficulties in times of trouble and sorrow. Schooling Through Naturalistic Study The Mogao Grotto frescoes illustrate multiple ways to facilitate learning or acquire knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits through storytelling and rhymes during teaching and studying, which took place in both formal and informal naturalistic settings. Mogao Cave #12 portrays private schooling, with a child inside under the tutelage of a teacher and three children playing outside looking on. Following are two examples of naturalistic teaching documented in Dunhuang. Four Seasons and Natural Cycles  For instance, the Kaimengyaosun, (开蒙 要训, The Beginner’s Text), a well-used textbook for children or new learners, taught the four seasons. Part of the text of Volume 1 reads, “Four seasons come and go; The eight sections1 change frequently; Spring flowers bloom beautifully; Summer leaves flourish comfortably; Autumn forests shed and fall; Winter’s pines and bamboos remain green (“四时来往, 八节相迎。春花开艳, 夏叶舒荣, 藂林秋落, 松竹冬青。 ”) (BD14667, 《开蒙要训》“四时八节”). The fresco shows the passage of seasonal time based on the 24 solar term2 in a rhymed poem for young children who are learning how to read and write. Rhymed poetry was popular and often used in ancient Chinese beginners’ textbooks. Each lesson is written in rhymed lyrics for easy memorization, practice, and understanding. The solar term has a profound influence in agrarian societies. For the central government, the solar term was part of the lunisolar calendar, serving and guiding the imperial rule according to the natural changes. For the local people, the solar term offers an order for the routine tasks based on the climate and seasons. Chinese ancestors named the beginning of spring Lichun (立春), when the sunlight starts to be longer each day and everything starts its new growing cycle. This first solar term refers to the first month in the Chinese lunar calendar and the beginning of the spring season, usually on February



4 of the solar calendar. After, everything is reviving vigorously, and the whole year begins. Lichun is 15 days long, and is divided into three parts, called hou (候), referring to a certain period of time and phenomenon. New learners study the natural cycles and changes through the changing seasons. The first five-day period of Lichun signifies a meteorological phenomenon, “the eastern wind thaws the land (yihoudongfengjiedong, 一候东风 解冻).” Air pressure is the direct cause of wind and China is located in east Asia, adjacent to Siberia to the north and the Pacific Ocean to the southeast. The sea and land have different temperatures because land warms and cools faster than water. Thus, in winter, the land temperature is low relative to the temperature of the ocean, forming a high pressure. Therefore, the wind blows northwest to southeast. When the Sun’s position in its elliptical path is closer to Earth, it is the ocean’s surface that has the lower temperature and the east wind is predominant. The east wind comes from the ocean, bringing abundant water vapor and spring rain. So, the east wind is often associated with and symbolizes spring. The second five days of Lichun signify a phenomenon of insects—the insects start to revive (erhouzhechongshizhen, 二候蛰虫始振). The ancient Chinese people observed the phenomenon of insect hibernation and explained that on the second hou of Lichun, hibernating insects begin to move. The last five days, or the third hou of Lichun, signify an ecosystem phenomenon—fish swim up to the ice surface (yushefubin, 鱼陟负冰). During this time, ice is melting and fish can be seen close to or even on top of the melting ice. The abovementioned descriptions of the three hous stem from natural phenomena, and there are 72 hou in a year, all corresponding to biological or botanical phenomena. From today’s scientific aspect, the 24 solar terms cover multi-disciplinary knowledge, such as biology, geography, metrology, agriculture, astronomy, and other disciplines. The way of teaching and acquiring knowledge in ancient Dunhuang is depicted as informal, from the long-term observation and study of nature. The knowledge that beginning learners were taught derived from their everyday life, which they could relate to in their personal experience. Since natural phenomena are regional and change based on the seasons, this knowledge was also remarkably localized and diversified compared to current global and convergent educational systems. Moreover, the knowledge and the process of acquiring it were tangible and combined personal experience and



development. Generation by generation, simple and personal experiences were threaded harmoniously on a string, like pearls on a beautiful necklace. The learning process began with observation and developed within the students’ reasonable understanding and natural environment. The ancient practice of Lichun in China also included public rituals to observe the coming of spring. On the first day of Lichun, the county magistrate would assemble local celebrities for an official ceremony. Chicken feathers and other light substances were put in a hole in the ground, and these items would float up with the eastern wind. Firecrackers were lit to celebrate the new spring and bring good luck and a good harvest. Dunhuang’s frescoes often show such festivities and rituals throughout various dynasties. The beginning of spring in ancient Chinese life, was not just a date on the calendar, but a reflection on and connection to nature. Spring was not only described in the textbooks or poems, it could be seen, touched, smelled, and listened to and became alive. This tangible knowledge developed a sense of respect in the learners since they had witnessed and felt the wonder of nature themselves. In addition, in this practical and naturalistic learning, the students also read about birth, death, and the cycle of nature, which helped them develop a healthy value regarding life. They obtained truth from their accurate observations, which developed their perception of natural law and encouraged them to emerge themselves intensively in nature and cultivate their aesthetics and their respect for the environment. Those who had gained this knowledge became noble because they could explain the mystery of nature. When people were able to understand the existence of the cosmic order, they became humble and respectful to nature. Such ancient Chinese philosophy, illustrated in the Dunhuang frescoes, is in great contrast to the anthropocentrism of modern science education. Mt. Wudai  Another example from the Dunhuang frescoes is the map of Mount Wutai in Cave #61 from the Five Dynasties (AD 907–960) (Fan and Zhao 2004, p.  87). Mt. Wutai is situated in Shanxi Province and because its formation is similar to Manjusri Bodhisattva’s teaching place in the Buddhist sutra, a temple was built in Northern Wei (北魏, AD 386–534) to honor her. Subsequently this area developed into a place that flourished with temples and Buddhist practices. In the Tang Dynasty, even the emperor sent special gifts to the temples there.



The fresco of Wutai in Cave #61 is 13 meters long and vividly and accurately depicts Buddhist temples on various mountains in the mountain range, along with valleys, forests, rivers, bridges, and roads. The fresco also includes intricate details of people’s daily activities outside the ­temples, such as travelers on the road, peasants in the field, home activities, and priests, monks, and worshippers in the temples. The map of Wutai illustrates and promotes the Buddhist lifestyle and beliefs and demonstrates the existence of a spiritual pathway that is in harmony with people’s daily lives and nature. The temples offer teaching and spiritual guidance for people’s lives, and people’s hard work and beliefs support and sustain the temples for an idealistic pursuit of enlightenment and a better existence throughout the continuing journey of life. The fact that the fresco of Mt. Wutai is in Dunhuang, a place thousands of miles away from Shanxi, shows that the scope of teaching and learning then extended beyond the local and provincial content and included the geography and history of other important places in China and even other countries and regions beyond China. The map also encouraged the learners and viewers to explore and travel to these places as they sought spiritual enlightenment or strove for a better life. In medieval China, literacy was low. Figure  14.1 illustrates that the majority of children were not able to attend formal schools. Buddhist sutras are religious texts originally from the Indian spiritual tradition. So, in Dunhuang a thousand years ago, those who could truly read and practice the sutras were a limited few. Frescoes became the multimedia creation of Dunhuang to educate and teach Buddhism to the majority, who were illiterate. They basically were, and still are, picture books focusing on Buddhist beliefs, morality, and life principles to guide people seeking to become higher beings. Sutra paintings in the Dunhuang murals were an ideal and effective method to educate the majority of the people. The indigenous Buddhist painters told the Buddhist stories in very creative ways by painting local customs and nature scenes, which could be easily understood by people of all walks of life, ages, ethnicities, and genders. Sutra paintings or jingbian in the Mogao Grottoes may be among the earliest picture books with the most popular influence, educating the majority in literacy and spirituality. Nature and naturalist paintings offer a realistic perspective and meaning that all could relate to and believe. The beauty of nature in its diversity and colorfulness created an uplifting experience that contrasted strikingly with the learners’ ordinary lives and offered hope, peace, and possible transcendence.



Fig. 14.1  School picture, Dunhuang Mogao Cave #12, Eastern side. (Copyright permission from Dunhuang Academy)

Dunhuang and Nature Study Today As we look at Dunhuang’s frescoes from a naturalistic perspective, we have a sense of the significant nature in the teaching of Buddhist beliefs and people’s practices in Dunhuang. The inclusion and impact of nature had everything to do with Dunhuang’s prosperity, popularity, and success in Buddhist education at that time. The same is true for Dunhuang’s attraction to people from all over the world today. The question is how this insight can be related to education today, especially as modern education in the global context seems to present an intriguing paradox. On the one hand, the world is becoming more diverse through people’s interactions and technological advancement. On the other hand, education tends to follow a Western, one-size-fits-all model and to move toward monotony, which terribly limits nature, imagination, and diverse human development. The study of Dunhuang, which has brought a renaissance of the wisdom of the ancient Chinese people, suggests the benefit for imagination and creativity of frequent and long-term exposure to nature and a continued celebration and inclusion of cultural diversity. All of these stimulate the development of spirituality, creativity, and well-being.



Nature and Life-Based Education Actually, the emphasis in Dunhuang on nature in connection with human development shows that nature study has historically been a crucial part of human learning and development. In addition to Buddhist education, traditional and classic Chinese studies have also stressed the significance of nature and life-based teaching and learning. The works of Lao Zi and Zhuangzi, also found among the Dunhuang artifacts, have long advocated the focus on nature in human life. To follow natural principles is viewed as the “highest virtue” by Lao Zi (1999) and ensures a meaningful and successful life. To live with nature in a free spirit and open consciousness is a form of living the truest Daoist philosophy for Zhuangzi (1968). One of the Daoist expressions or practices is to “read the clouds,” referring to understanding one’s Self and the entire universe through natural observation and conscious contemplation in direct contact with nature. Daoist philosophers advocate for practical and authentic life learning instead of only abstract book learning. Such an emphasis on a nature-oriented education is not only a Chinese or Eastern perspective. The philosophical understanding of human life and learning has never been isolated from our natural environment and cultural contexts. We as human beings are part of nature and the universe and are fully connected with them whether or not we recognize or admit it. As formal education has expanded drastically since the industrial revolution, the call to reform education from classical learning for the elite to life-­ oriented learning for the masses has continued. Thoreau’s Walden (1966), Rousseau’s Emile (1979), and Locke’s Some Thoughts Concerning Education (1964) all address nature and the environment in educating and developing human beings for positive social change. Dewey’s pragmatic and progressive education (1938) takes further steps to stress the value of meaningful experiences in the development of life capacities and democratic citizens. Where these philosophical thinkers have converged in their theoretical understanding of nature and education, in reality, the actual application of such beliefs has remained challenging and illusive. In this sense, Dunhuang provides a model for our contemporary education in which not only is a philosophical and spiritual belief in human connection with nature encouraged, but also applied historically. The following model (Fig. 14.2) synthesizes and highlights Dunhuang’s nature-­inclusive educational orientation.



Fig. 14.2  Bowu Three-force Educational (BOWU-3-FORCES) Model

In this model, the three forces—nature, social interaction, and soul creativity—are emphasized in human learning and living, and the Chinese definition of nature study, Bowu (博物), is used to highlight the inclusiveness of all learning. Bowuxue (博物学) instead of Ziranxue (自然学) is used deliberately. Bowuxue means to study all phenomena of nature in order to acquire knowledge continually and connectedly. A simple English translation of Bowuxue is the study of all elements. Therefore, it is much more all-­ encompassing than the term Ziranxue, or nature study per se. The latter can be misunderstood as the natural environment only or the physical characteristics or properties of nature. Bowuxue seeks the infinite connections between life and the nature as well as harmony between human beings and nature. From the educational aspect, Bowuxue is a more accurate representation of what is seen in the Dunhuang Grottoes and what this chapter is advocating. In this model, the bottom and fundamental layer of the pyramid is nature’s force. Nature is the very foundation and basis of all studies. The middle layer of the pyramid is social force. Such learning is entirely through social interaction and interaction between nature and human beings. One goal of education is to cultivate adaptability to society.



The third layer is the soul enlightenment as taught in Buddhism and the imagination and creativity within and beyond us. The model focuses on educational objectives, content, pedagogies, and outcomes as a holistic process, or, as the 2000 Dakar World Education Conference proposed, “An education that includes learning to know, to do, to live together and to be” (Fiske 2000). Insights for Learning To address the question “What can we take from Dunhuang for education today?” perhaps the most obvious and important answer is to bring nature holistically back into education, or, perhaps even better, to bring learners, both children and adults, back into nature and authentic living and learning. For such an effect, much of what we do in formal education needs some serious reconsideration and redirection. To start, it is essential to build maximum interaction with nature into our education, formal and informal alike. To use the Bowu Three-force Educational Model is to find and develop the basic abilities to live in the natural world, which refers to the development of sports, aesthetics, adaptability, health, and safety as well as all other aspects of learning. If people connect with nature’s force inside and outside themselves, they are energetic, healthy, confident, modest, and peaceful, and have self-esteem. To illustrate this, we can look at the recent movement of nature study and its newly developed curriculum in China. Student clubs, non-­ government organizations (NGOs), and diversified social events have grown rapidly outside formal schooling. The parents, especially those well-educated since 1977, accept the practice readily and view natural study as means to improve environment, to develop their children’s diversified interests, and to stimulate their creativity. Here is an example of the emerging natural study from a presentation of a class using natural journals. An 8-year-old boy narrated his story of his one-month continuous nature observation. One day, when he took a walk with his mom after dinner. As they rested in a pavilion along the way, he felt something fall into his collar. It was a fatty worm. The curiosity overcame his original fears and finally he decided to bring the worm back home to feed it, after persuading his mom. He went back his “little naturalist club” to find out what it was. By referring to books, the worm was identified as the larva of a kind of grape moth, since the pavilion was fully covered with grape ivy. The boy picked the grape ivy leaves every day to



Fig. 14.3  The lifecycle of grape ivy moth (By Lulang He (Lulang He is the author’s son)) (food—grape ivy leave; four stages—moth, pupa, larva, and eggs)

feed the worm and wrote his observations in his journal. Eventually the boy had recorded its full lifecycle: the four stages of larva, pupa, adult (moth), and eggs (Fig. 14.3). From the boy’s learning of an insect’s life, we can see that insect metamorphosis is not just a biological term for a learner. It is a full natural process in real life. It is linked to emotional development, observation processes, discussion and interactions with classmates, documentation, design of the presentation, and so on. It is a holistic and interdisciplinary process that engages the curiosity and creativity of the student. Childhood is the best time to open up to and enjoy nature, and this connection is crucial for the rest of our lives. The structure of our current educational system includes minimal natural encounter as part of formal learning. Based on Dunhuang’s examples, we can develop and integrate nature systematically into every aspect of teaching and learning at all levels. For instance, literacy and writing can start with observation and experiences in nature and real life. Star-gazing and travel can be connected to mathematics and other subjects. The effectiveness of such approaches is reflected historically in various educational pedagogies, such as Montessori (1936) and Dewey’s progressive student-­centered learning and interdisciplinary curriculum (Dewey 1929; Ozman 2012). However,



the challenge is to expand these approaches sustainably to the entire educational establishment and to ensure that they are the common practice not the exception. Social force and interaction have been a powerful element in all learning and growth, for better or for worse. While modern technology has helped learners and people constantly connect globally through knowledge and experiences, there is, at the same time, a tremendous social and human disconnection among people. When using technology, the devices often become a distraction in class and interfere with social interaction. It becomes a real challenge for educators to reengage learners in authentic social learning and interaction through collaboration and creativity. Development of interpersonal skills and the ability to interact socially is not only critical throughout individual learners’ personal and professional lives, it is a major issue that determines the fate of all of humanity and its destiny in the global environment. Lastly and most importantly is the soul, or spiritual, force, which for many is dormant. Adults, are usually under pressure for survival or career through daily competitions. Although their education has helped them prepare for a career, they have to make sacrifices, like working overtime, getting less physical exercise, and not paying attention to their health. Moreover, a high pressure and fast-paced lifestyle causes anxiety and depression, increasingly withering the soul.

Conclusion In all of human history, we have never been farther away from nature, and our educational systems reflects this tendency with serious consequences. As we take a retrospective look at Dunhuang, its beautiful frescoes, and past educational practices, we gain profound insights from the ancient wisdom of living in harmony with nature and society. The Dunhuang Grottoes show infinite connections with nature in our spiritual and educational living and learning and point to diverse and rich possibilities for developing our education meaningfully today. The future is not to simply replicate what Dunhuang did, but to follow its spirit and creativity to reshape the beauty and power of education and human life in a magnificent and sustainable way. The principle underlining Dunhuang and Bowu education is that only the diversity of nature matches and fulfills the ­diversified purposes of human education. Only with and as part of dynamic nature does humanity have a purposeful and sustainable existence.



Notes 1. The group reflects the seasonal changes (including eight terms): start of spring, start of summer, start of autumn, and start of winter mark the four seasons; Spring Equinox, Summer Solstice, Autumn Equinox, and Winter Solstice reflect the height changes of the Sun from the aspect of astronomy. 2. A solar term is any of 24 points in traditional East Asian lunisolar calendars that matches a particular astronomical event or signifies some natural phenomenon. The points are spaced 15° apart along the Sun’s ecliptic and are used by lunisolar calendars to stay synchronized with the seasons, which is crucial for agrarian societies. Each solar term is divided into three pentads (ja) (候 hòu) (ja), so there are 72 pentads in a year. Each pentad consists of five, rarely six, days, and most are named after phenological (biological or botanical) phenomena corresponding to the pentad.

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Rousseau, J. J. (1979). Emile (A. Bloom, Trans.). New York: Basic Books. Thoreau, H. D. (1966). Walden. Mount Vernon: Peter Pauper Press. Treasures of Dunhuang Grottoes. (2002). Hong Kong: Polyspring. Zhuangzi. (1968). The Complete Works of Chuang Tzu (B.  Watson, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press.


A Abitabha (阿弥陀佛), 22 Acupressure, 152, 157n1 Aesthetics, 10, 13, 48, 57, 69–86, 124, 164, 168, 172–175, 177, 179, 181, 183, 184, 187, 194, 203, 215, 218, 220–223, 248, 272, 273, 275, 280 Amitayurdhyana Sutra (观无量寿经), 21, 92 Amoghavajra (不空), 5 Ananda (阿难), 22, 43, 91 An Shigao (安世高), 3, 5, 97 Anthropology, 141, 142, 172, 179 Antiquities, 2, 4, 10, 210, 220 Application, 13, 53–55, 58, 64–67, 72, 80, 113–129, 143, 182, 194, 229, 230, 235, 259–264, 278 Apsara/apsaras, 92, 161, 173, 174, 177, 211, 217, 218, 220, 224n5, 272

Architecture, 5, 6, 20, 30, 45, 52, 103, 105, 137 Artifacts, 2, 6, 9–13, 19, 23–25, 27, 29, 32, 33, 42, 57, 70, 77, 89, 90, 92, 93, 95–104, 136, 168, 177, 182, 187, 188, 209, 214, 216, 218, 223, 233, 235, 239, 240, 242, 245–247, 256, 259, 270–272, 278 Arts, 2, 4–6, 8, 11–13, 19, 20, 23, 40, 41, 45, 52, 54, 57, 59, 60, 70, 72, 77, 80, 84, 95, 99, 101, 103, 105, 113, 114, 117, 119, 122, 124, 127–129, 135–137, 139, 143, 148–152, 156, 164, 165, 168, 172–184, 188, 194, 202, 203, 209–216, 220–223, 231, 248, 256 Astronomy, 6, 20, 49, 146, 147, 149, 231, 236, 239, 244, 256, 274, 283n1

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s) 2019 Xu Di (ed.), The Dunhuang Grottoes and Global Education, Spirituality, Religion, and Education,




Avalokitesvara (Guanyin, 观音), 22, 54, 91, 272 Avatamsaka Sutra (华严经), 216 Awareness, 4, 7, 67, 113, 114, 119, 121, 123, 126, 127, 129, 194, 201–203, 250 Axiology, 9, 12, 53, 72 B Ba’hai, 123 Basic education, see Education Beauty, 1, 4, 6–8, 10, 14, 19, 33, 35, 60, 71–80, 83–85, 89, 120, 123, 126, 161, 173, 179, 215, 220–223, 247, 262, 270, 272, 273, 276, 282 Belief, 3, 6, 9, 12, 23–25, 41–44, 46–52, 54, 58, 60, 93, 94, 96–98, 100, 104, 106, 125, 167, 168, 176–178, 191, 195, 199, 202, 216, 217, 236, 242, 245, 249, 254–256, 273, 276–278 Benevolence, 26, 54 Bodhisattvas, 9, 21, 22, 43, 48, 51, 53, 54, 90–92, 96, 101, 107, 113, 116, 117, 119, 123, 125–129, 149, 161, 173, 174, 178, 191, 195, 211, 216, 224n5, 245, 271, 272, 275 Buddhas, 9, 21–23, 31, 43–49, 51, 53, 54, 59, 60, 71, 75, 76, 78, 90–93, 99, 101, 107, 113–117, 119–129, 161, 163, 165, 166, 173–177, 190, 191, 193, 195–198, 211, 216, 220, 224n5, 254, 255, 257–259, 271, 272 Buddhism, 3, 5, 6, 11, 23–25, 27, 29, 31, 42, 46–48, 50–52, 60, 69–86, 89–101, 103, 105, 106, 113, 114, 116–120, 123–125, 128, 162–168, 172, 176, 178, 182, 187, 188, 190–194, 196, 197,

199, 211, 216, 217, 219, 244, 245, 249, 255, 257, 258, 262, 264, 276, 280 Buddhist religion, 3, 40, 45, 46, 54, 60, 136, 216 Buddhist scriptures, 2, 3, 5, 9, 22, 23, 27, 45, 46, 69, 90, 92–94, 99, 100, 116, 120, 165–167, 175, 176, 184n1, 193, 197, 219, 230 C Cai Yuanpei (蔡元培), 72 Ch‘an, 69–86 Chang Shuhong (常书鸿), 4, 179 Characters, 23, 27, 42, 60, 64, 66, 67, 71, 76, 94, 97, 101, 103, 190, 203, 211, 228–234, 240, 245–249, 256, 257, 263, 272 Chen Yinle (陈寅恪), 4, 19 Christianity, 95–96, 182 Chunqiu (春秋), 25 Civilization, 1, 6, 11, 13, 14, 19, 22, 27, 31, 33, 39, 42, 55, 89, 100, 107, 150, 156, 162, 181, 183, 187, 219, 232, 270 Collaboration, 12, 105, 156, 282 Commerce, 3, 12 Compassion, 31, 43, 54, 60, 63, 67, 80, 85, 92, 100, 119, 125, 126, 128, 165, 187, 201, 203, 216 Confucianism, 11, 25, 27, 28, 54, 95, 100, 101, 105, 117, 123, 124, 167, 178, 190, 236, 242, 244, 247, 249, 255, 257 Confucius, 8, 26, 29, 54, 99–101, 122, 236, 255, 256 Connectedness, 35, 43, 140 Consciousness, 14, 27, 33, 36, 42, 43, 53, 61, 74, 76, 81, 93, 98, 101, 105, 106, 108, 115, 122, 124, 183, 184, 195, 242, 278 Conservation, 137, 138


Creativity, 6, 11, 33, 35, 172, 173, 175, 189, 202, 215, 219, 223, 248, 270, 277, 279–282 Cremin, L. A., 8, 51 Cultural Revolution, 2 Cultures, 1, 3, 5, 6, 10–13, 23–25, 27, 45, 47–49, 51, 53, 55, 58–60, 65, 70, 72, 89, 92–95, 102–104, 106, 136, 138–154, 156, 162, 164, 172, 174, 179–184, 187, 191, 203, 210, 211, 214, 216–223, 237–240, 242–244, 247–249, 270 indigenous cultures, 12 Curriculum, 9, 12, 20, 24, 27, 30, 32, 34, 81–82, 85, 102, 103, 138, 143–156, 180, 181, 222, 228, 241, 243, 245, 280, 281 D Dance, 103, 113, 123–124, 128, 210–212, 214–217, 219, 220, 222, 224n4, 224n6, 224n7, 256 Daodejing (道德经), 25, 26, 46, 98 Daoism/Taoism, 11, 25, 27–29, 46, 54, 70, 71, 98–101, 105, 117, 120, 123–125, 167, 178, 190, 236, 244, 247, 255, 257 Dewey, J., 8, 54, 194, 278, 281 Dharma/dharmas, 73–74, 78, 81–83, 95 Dharmagupta-vinaya 《 ( 昙无德羯磨》 or 《四分律》), 166 Di (地), 26 Dialectic, 50, 98, 101, 106 Diamond Sutra, 36n2, 92, 107, 115, 116, 118, 128, 142 Diversity, 6, 12, 39–55, 89–108, 141, 149, 174, 181, 184, 211, 222, 273, 276, 277, 282 Dunhuang study/Dunhunag studies, 2, 4–6, 8, 10, 14, 19, 33, 40, 54, 89, 99, 103


E Earth, 1, 9, 41, 46, 47, 55, 63, 73, 79, 101, 102, 108, 115, 126, 153, 183, 201, 218, 219, 224n3, 232, 236, 249, 257, 271, 272, 274 Ecology, 85 Economy, 11 Education basic education, 12, 13, 227–250 bilingual education, 231, 238–240 educational systems, 10, 12, 13, 20, 28–33, 52, 187, 199–201, 246, 249, 250, 264, 274 family education, 30, 237, 242–243, 249, 250 naturalistic education, 13, 269–282 Energy, 48, 113–123, 125–129, 143, 152, 223, 236, 248 Enlightenment, 9, 11, 20, 22, 23, 29, 34, 43, 48, 53, 54, 59, 70, 75, 76, 80, 81, 84–85, 91, 95–97, 108, 113–129, 188, 190–192, 196–199, 201, 202, 228, 229, 241, 242, 246, 249, 250, 254, 255, 258, 271, 276, 280 enlightened, 9, 22, 51, 75, 76, 79, 101, 107, 114, 117, 122, 127–129, 255, 272 Environment, 8, 12, 26, 33, 34, 47, 50, 55, 59, 82, 86, 128, 142, 143, 180–182, 194, 197, 203, 254, 272, 275, 278–280, 282 Epistemology, 9, 12, 72 Equilibrium, 26, 250 Eternity, 114 Ethics, 11, 13, 29, 85, 177, 184, 187, 192, 238–240, 242, 244, 246, 247, 255, 256, 263, 264 Ethnoengineering, 142, 143 Ethnomathematics, 141–142, 146 Ethnoscience, 142 EthnoSTEAM, 143 EthnoSTEM, 135–156 Ethnotechnology, 142



F Field of Immortal Energy (dan tian, or 丹田), 120, 121 Filial piety, 31, 67, 100, 190, 237, 243–244 Frescoes, 1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 11, 13, 20, 40, 42, 43, 45, 47–49, 51, 53, 54, 89–92, 95, 96, 98–101, 210–213, 215–218, 220, 222, 224n1, 224n4, 247, 259, 269–282 Fusion, 42, 47, 93, 96, 98, 102, 105, 171, 178, 179, 181, 183, 184, 213, 218 G Global education, 14, 32–35, 40, 104, 178–183 Gobharana (or Zhu Falan, 竺法蘭), 163 Good, 31, 34, 54, 63, 73, 77, 81, 83, 84, 86, 92, 96, 97, 108, 113, 116, 118, 126, 129, 137, 150, 152, 190, 199, 201, 202, 219, 228, 232, 238, 242, 243, 247, 256–258, 262, 275 H Hanshu (汉书), 102 Harmony, 26, 60, 76, 77, 100, 102, 118, 140, 201, 203, 216, 218, 220, 238, 276, 279, 282 Health, 12, 84, 152, 172, 201, 280, 282 Heart sutra, 92, 218, 221 Heidegger, M., 70 Hı̄nayāna, 170 Hinduism, 25, 96, 97, 123 Hisamatsu, Shinichi (久松真), 70 History, 3–8, 11–13, 19, 20, 22–24, 27, 28, 32, 35, 40–49, 51, 52, 54, 55, 57, 59, 67, 70, 71, 84, 90, 97, 98, 100–106, 108, 120, 126, 135–138,

140, 141, 150, 153, 162–169, 172, 173, 175, 178–184, 193, 209–211, 213–215, 219, 221–223, 231, 232, 236, 237, 239, 242, 244–247, 256, 260, 270, 276, 282 Hō kūle’a/star of gladness, 141 Huangdi (黄帝), 165 Huineng (惠能 or 慧能), 71–76, 78–82, 84, 85 Humanity, 14, 20, 26, 34, 41, 47, 50, 91, 105, 116, 162, 165, 168–172, 178, 182–184, 201, 203, 216, 218, 231, 237–238, 240, 244, 247, 256, 260, 271, 272, 282 I Immeasurable Shoujing 《 ( 无量寿经》), 166 Indigenousness, 218–220, 223 Infinity, 73, 74, 198 Innovation, 34, 143, 174, 215 J Jinbian (经变), 9 Jinshu (晋书), 102 K Kant, I., 72, 74, 75 Kasyapa (Jiaye, 伽叶), 22, 91 Knowledge, 5, 9, 10, 13, 20, 25–27, 32, 34, 42, 44, 47–49, 51, 72, 77, 85, 89, 92, 104, 106, 136–143, 156, 180, 188, 194, 200, 214, 228, 230, 231, 235–237, 239, 241, 244–247, 250, 254–256, 259, 260, 270, 273–275, 279, 282 Kohlberg, Lawrence, 58, 65 Kumārajı̄va (鸠摩罗什), 5



L Languages, 5, 9, 12, 20, 25, 44–46, 52, 73, 81, 83, 93–95, 98, 103–106, 118, 136, 138, 139, 142, 163, 183, 200, 210, 231–236, 239–241, 247, 248, 256, 262 Lankavatara Sutra (Sutra of Perfect (complete) Enlightenment), 23, 184n1 Laozi (老子)/Lao Tzu, 7, 25, 26, 29, 98, 101, 108, 118, 165 Le Zun (乐僔), 1, 3, 5, 20, 45, 90, 108, 163 Learning, 8, 9, 11–14, 20, 24–28, 30–35, 40, 51–53, 66, 77, 78, 82, 83, 85, 95, 100, 103–106, 118, 127–129, 139–143, 174, 176, 179–182, 188, 190, 191, 194, 197, 200–203, 227–250, 253–264, 269, 270, 272, 273, 275, 276, 278–282 lifelong learning, 253–264 Li (礼), 100 Library Cave #17, 2, 5, 23, 46, 90, 91, 93, 95, 98, 99, 107, 118, 150, 256, 257, 272 Life gate (ming men, 命门), 121 Literacy, 103, 188, 228–235, 237–241, 243–248, 256, 276, 281 Logic, 80 Lotus Sutra (法华经)/Saddharma Puṇḍarı̄ka Sūtra, 49, 59, 91, 92, 118, 170, 198 Love, 54, 77, 80, 85, 118, 126, 127, 189, 190, 198, 200, 244, 263

Manjusri (Wenzhu, 文珠), 22, 275 Maslow, Abraham, 13, 188–190, 195, 199–202 Mathematics, 49, 136, 137, 140–143, 146, 155, 156, 200, 235–236, 240, 244, 256, 262 Meditation, 13, 21, 24, 39, 42, 43, 45, 47, 48, 57, 98, 113–115, 117, 119–121, 128, 129, 129n1, 163, 176, 203, 254, 255 Mencius, 28, 177, 184n3 Mengshu (蒙书), 32, 227–245, 247, 249, 250 Metaphysics, 9, 12, 13, 41–43, 46, 47, 50, 53–55, 72, 98, 100, 104, 176, 184, 256, 272 Methodology, 9, 11, 80 Military, 3, 5, 6, 20, 40, 45, 103, 104, 137, 153, 162, 192, 197, 210, 215, 257 Mindfulness, 113, 129 Modernization, 11 Morality, 11, 13, 23, 26, 32, 34, 43, 58, 60, 95, 100, 108, 199, 223, 228, 231, 241, 242, 247, 255, 257, 276 Motivation, 12, 189, 250, 260 Multicultural interactions, 3 Multiculturalism, 104, 140, 239 Multilingualism, 140 Multiverse, 115 Music folk music, 218 music education, 12, 209–223 ritual music, 217 Musicology, 215–218

M Mahā (摩訶), 72, 73 Mahāyāna, 170 Maitreya/Mile Pusa (彌勒菩薩), 59, 176, 212 Manichaeism, 46

N Nature, 7, 9, 13, 14, 26, 33, 34, 47, 53, 54, 60, 72, 73, 75–80, 82, 84, 90, 92, 94, 100, 139, 140, 168, 172, 180, 191, 194, 195, 203, 211, 228, 233, 245, 255, 269–282



Needham, Joseph, 4, 107, 137, 142, 144, 146 Nestorianism, 25, 96 Nirvana, 22, 34, 43, 44, 46, 48, 93, 194, 254, 255, 257 Nirvana Sutra, 91 O Official school, 28, 30, 228 Oldenberg, Sergei, 2 Oneness, 53, 91, 92, 105, 107, 119, 121, 125, 203 Otani Kozui, 2 P Pāramitā (波羅密), 72, 75–76 Peace, 48, 60, 100, 101, 105, 114, 119, 176, 190–192, 198, 199, 203, 238, 255, 259, 262, 276 Pedagogy, 13, 30, 32, 34, 52, 55, 72, 82–83, 85, 107, 138–140, 143, 156, 176, 234, 240, 247–248, 280, 281 Pelliot, Paul, 2, 213 Philosophy, 10, 11, 20, 26–28, 40–47, 50–55, 69–86, 90, 98, 100–102, 117, 121, 140, 181, 194, 199, 221, 244, 259, 260, 275, 278 Place-based education, 139–140 Prajñā (般若), 72, 74–75 Private school, 24, 25, 29, 30, 241, 249 Psychological, 8, 9, 13, 33, 43, 82, 83, 94, 152, 187–203, 245, 263 Purposes, 6, 9–14, 23, 27, 33–35, 43, 48, 50–52, 54, 71, 75–79, 90, 103, 105–108, 175, 177, 188, 196, 198, 199, 222, 224n2, 228, 243, 247, 249, 254, 260, 262, 270, 282

Q Qi, 116, 118, 120, 121, 123, 152, 166, 167, 236 R Reflection, 2, 27, 35, 58, 77, 179–181, 202, 275 Relationality, 108 Relationship, 26, 35, 40–42, 47, 49, 50, 77, 80, 85, 86, 120, 127, 140, 170, 183, 190, 200–201, 240, 243, 244, 249, 253 Religions, 3, 6, 9, 20, 25, 26, 31, 40, 41, 43, 45–47, 54, 55, 57, 60, 96–98, 100, 105, 115, 118, 123, 136, 137, 149, 164, 165, 167, 182, 194, 198, 199, 210, 216–218, 256 Religious education, 25, 202 S Samādhi, 79, 80 Samantabhadra (Puxian, 普贤), 22, 271 Sanguozhi (三国志), 102 Schiller, Friedrich, 72, 76 Schooling, 9, 20, 28, 30, 31, 139, 242, 257, 273–276, 280 Science/sciences, 5, 12, 13, 20, 34, 103, 136–138, 140–143, 200, 203, 210, 231, 235–236, 240, 261, 269, 270, 275 Scriptures, see Buddhist scriptures Sculptures, 1, 2, 6, 9–11, 19, 22, 30, 31, 40, 42, 43, 45, 47, 51–53, 57, 89–91, 113, 114, 116, 117, 119–128, 136, 137, 149, 151, 165, 166, 174, 181, 189, 210, 214, 216, 254, 255, 270, 271


Self, 50, 70, 115, 118–122, 128, 188, 189, 195–199, 262, 278 Self-actualization, 188, 189, 195–199 Self-cultivation, 9, 11, 14, 20, 23, 26, 27, 31, 53, 92, 108, 177, 190, 231, 238 Self-esteem, 189, 192–195, 200, 223, 280 Self-improvement, 191 Self-realization, 11, 197, 202 Self-transcendence, 83, 188, 189, 195–199, 202 Sensitivity, 77 Shakyamuni, 59–61, 91, 149, 258 Shiji (史记), 95, 102, 213 Siddhār tha Gautama/Buddha/ Shakyamuni Buddha, 59, 60, 91 Silk Road, 1, 3, 24, 39, 41, 42, 58, 59, 105, 108, 135, 136, 141, 142, 145, 149, 153–154, 162–164, 168, 169, 171, 183, 203, 210, 218, 224n6 Socialization, 49 Sociology, 5, 20, 40, 103, 165, 172, 177, 179, 182, 215–218 Soul, 7, 24, 53, 54, 91, 96–98, 101, 106, 107, 114, 122, 123, 125–127, 173, 176, 187–203, 257, 279, 280, 282 Spirit, 7, 8, 14, 33, 58, 65, 66, 75, 77, 96, 108, 115, 117, 118, 123, 124, 127, 128, 161, 174, 179, 183, 194, 195, 202, 211, 215, 222, 242, 249, 270, 278, 282 Spiritual being, 1, 43, 53, 92, 192 Stein, Marc Aurel, 2, 5, 36n1 STEM, 136–140, 155–156 STEM education, 12, 13, 135–156 Śūraṅgama Sūtra/Heroic March Sutra, 23, 116, 118, 123, 184n1 Sustainability, 1, 9, 51, 55, 94, 140, 179, 181, 221


Sutra, see Scriptures Suzuki, Daisetsu Teitaro (鈴木大拙), 69, 70, 192 Synergy, 6, 8, 11, 12, 39–55, 98, 101, 105, 106, 162, 170, 174, 183, 218, 219, 221 T Tang Seng (唐僧 or 玄奘), 5 Teaching, 5, 8–14, 20–35, 40, 43, 48, 49, 51–54, 58, 64–66, 77, 79–83, 85, 89–94, 96–98, 100, 102, 106, 108, 114, 115, 117, 123–129, 139, 140, 143, 156, 163, 165, 166, 168, 170, 175–182, 187, 188, 190–192, 194–196, 200–201, 203, 210, 217, 221, 227–250, 259, 264, 272–278, 281 Technology, 5, 12, 13, 34, 103, 115, 136, 142, 143, 146, 151, 156, 200, 203, 210, 222, 260, 261, 270, 282 Tian (天), 26 Transcendence, 9, 53, 58, 98, 101, 195, 196, 202, 276 Transformation, 7, 26, 31, 39–55, 74, 101, 121, 127, 164, 168, 176, 177, 180, 194, 201, 209, 217, 218, 220 Tutoring, 30, 237 U United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 40, 135, 136, 254, 259 Unity, 11, 76, 89–108, 121, 195, 202, 220, 249



Universe, 9, 25, 26, 32, 33, 35, 41, 46–48, 53, 74, 92, 105, 108, 115, 117, 120, 122, 126, 128, 129, 142, 195, 201, 218, 232, 236, 250, 271, 272, 278 V Vajracchedika-prajna-paramita Sutra (Diamond Perfection of Wisdom Sutra), 23, 92, 142, 184n1 Values, 4, 6, 10, 12, 14, 23–26, 31, 33–35, 43, 44, 46–50, 53–55, 59, 70, 75, 77, 82, 85, 86, 136, 137, 143, 145, 146, 164, 165, 173, 177–179, 182–184, 190, 191, 194–196, 199–201, 203, 218, 223, 242, 243, 259–264, 273, 275, 278 Vimalakirti, 49, 174 Vimalakirtinirdesa-Sutra, 23, 91, 184n1 Virtue, 9, 26, 31, 34, 54, 60, 63, 67, 98, 101, 108, 114, 116–118, 126, 128, 190, 192, 197, 201, 203, 241, 244, 247, 254–256, 259, 260 Vocational education, 10 Von le Coq, Albert, 2

W Wang Yuan Lu, 王圆箓, 2, 4, 42, 69, 137 Warner, Langdon, 2 Wisdom, 14, 33, 41, 44, 63, 71, 74–76, 79, 80, 82, 83, 98, 104, 106, 114, 119, 121, 128, 129, 149, 165, 178, 201, 221, 270, 277, 282 World heritage, 44, 45, 90, 179, 184 X Xie Zhiliu (谢稚柳), 4 Xin (心, or hin), 255, 258, 260–263 Y Yayue (雅乐), 211, 218, 224n3 Yijing, (易经, Book of Change), 102, 246 Yoga, 94, 129, 152, 153 Z Zen, 69, 70, 116 Zhang Daqian (张大千), 4 Zheng Di (真谛), 5, 167 Zhuangzi (庄子), 7, 29, 49, 98 Zizhitongjian (资治通鉴), 102, 256 Zoroastrianism, 25, 46, 97 Zuico Tachibana, 2