Occupation: freelance translator
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/22/17
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): English
The informant went to Dun Huang China in the early 2000s for her dissertation work and upon entering various old caves that contained Buddhist arts, she had a very supernatural phenomenon happen to her.
Informant: The first time I went there, I stayed in Dun Huang for a month. Then, that was a seminar for several professors and mostly graduate students in art history. Dun Huang caves have over 15 centuries of caves, until the 13th century. Over 400 caves there. For the first few weeks, we went through a few hundred caves. The earliest cave we went and did a review of it. During the last week, we went back from the earliest week as a review. Went back to one of the earliest caves there. 4th or 5th century. (refer to the picture). Painted on top of the door. So, it meant that it was the first thing you see when you look up.
When we started reviewing, the morning we went to the earliest caves and went over the significance of it. After lunch time, I did not go to nap though. I followed 2 nuns instead to the souvenir shop instead, and those 2 nuns were studying at the University of Arizona in religious studies. I didn’t buy anything, but they were looking at paintings of buddhas/bodhisattvas. Then, after seeing that picture you saw, it kind of reminded me of 四大天王, like guardians of the sacred/heaven. I saw that I was really drawn to the painting, so I decided to buy it. Then, I went back to my room and took a nap. After the nap, we went back to those caves and went back to a certain cave. The teacher wanted to show me something rare. The vegetable pigment was not that stable, so the pigments change color faded over time.
Then, the rare thing they used was that the white was from lead/minerals. However, after the lead has been exposed to the air for too long, it becomes black. It takes a few centuries for it to change in color due to oxygenation. So, it looked all blackened out because of the white lead became black from all the oxygen.
But in one special cave, one area of the walls was peeled off, we could see the inner layer of the wall. So, we could see the original painting would look like without the color tarnished. Because in the cave it was dark, the darkness of the cave would make it even darker for the paintings. The cave was incredibly small, a few of us stood there and talked while some of us were still outside waiting to see. Suddenly, there was a something like a sandstorm, but because it rained very shortly last night, the humidity was higher. So, because of the rain made it more humid, the walls were old and gained moisture, something fell off from the ceiling. All the student left, but because I was talking to the professor, we were not wary of the painting falling. And because I realized what was going to fell on my head. One of the nuns that went to the souvenir shop pulled me out and tried to dust off the painting. But I said that it was a national treasure so I told them not to ruin the treasure that was all over me.
The painting that fell off? It was the painting that I bought. The other nun then walked up and told me to do more studying on Buddhism, had I done my research I would not be asking stupid questions. I guess it was something that Buddha was telling me, “Go do your research!”. Almost creepy for me.
After hearing her story, I personally thought it was a very supernatural experience. In her case, it felt like it was a wake-up call from above to take her studies seriously! Not only was that the case, but the sudden feeling to purchase that specific painting from the souvenir shop and leading to the pigment of the same painting to fall on her head was definitely not just a coincidence, but also a very significant symbolic sign.