Divine disguises on the crossroads of Khotan: The iconographies from Dandan Oilik


  • Ginevra Palmeri MPhil Candidate, Department of Asian and North African Studies, Ca’Foscari University of Venice.


Khotan, Dandan Oilik, Iconography, Buddhism, Silk Road


The oasis of Khotan represents a fascinating crossroad of cultures and artistic influences mixed in a unique environment. Paintings, which are visually eloquent, yet very elusive with their mysterious symbolism, have fascinated scholars since the beginning of the 20th century, when they emerged from the sands of the Taklamakan desert. The oasis, one of the largest and most prosperous on the Silk Road, functioned as a transit point between the two huge cultural entities of India and China and, inevitably, absorbed inspirations from all the visitors passing through. It became a Buddhist stronghold whose monastic establishments were praised and where monks travelled to obtain sacred scriptures. Such a heterogeneous environment favored the birth of original artistic manifestations which in many cases resist a unanimous interpretation. For the large quantity of materials spread across different sites in the oasis of Khotan, a restrictive choice was made to better fit the format of this article. The site of Dandan Oilik has been selected as an example, principally because of the great variety of themes represented on mural paintings as well as on wooden votive panels and tablets. The primary goal of this study is to attempt to identify and classify the iconographies of deities belonging to an auxiliary Buddhist pantheon, therefore depictions of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are purposely left out. The aim is to describe what could be foreign or local admixtures to an iconographic heritage already heavy with significance and symbolism at its South Asian origins.




How to Cite

Palmeri, G. . (2021). Divine disguises on the crossroads of Khotan: The iconographies from Dandan Oilik. Journal of Asian Civilizations, 44(2), 67–107. Retrieved from https://jac.qau.edu.pk/index.php/jac/article/view/120