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China
Late Tang dynasty, 800-900 AD
Plain and patterned weave in silk, clamp-resist dyed
Width 27 cm x height 132.7 cm
Museum no. LOAN:STEIN.621 (Ch.i.0022)
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
On loan from Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India

This is one of the few complete banners in the Stein loan collection at the V&A. Banners like this were given by pious donors as offerings to honour the Buddha, and this surviving banner has a dedicatory inscription in Khotanese, written across the bottom of the body panel. Khotanese, or hvatanau, was the language of the indigenous population of Khotan, the ancient kingdom located on the southern branch of the Silk Road. The ancient language belongs to the Saka group of Eastern Iranian languages. Literary documents in Khotanese, mostly translations of Buddhist literature as well as secular documents, have been found at sites between Khotan in the west and Dunhuang in the east. Khotanese was replaced in the 10th century by Uighur.

The inscription here reads: '…pasi salya rarûyi mâsta 20 6 mye hadai x thyai ahâ [yi]
pasta haiste be'ysûsta brrîyi harbîsai âvama prra[ni]-'hâna sîjîde nauda.' It translates as ‘On the 26th day of the month of rarûya in the ear of the Sheep. May troubles not come near him but as he desires [Buddhist] supreme wisdom, may all his wishes and ambitions succeed. Reverence [to the Buddha].’
The banner has a head of red silk damask on plain weave with dotted lozenge design, and a suspension loop of white silk damask on plain weave with interlocking lozenge design. The body panel is of plain woven cream silk with clamp-resist dyed pattern in yellow and red, showing roundel and lozenge, floral and bird designs. As Stein observed, there are two cranes arranged in a circle, a very characteristic motif of the Tang dynasty.