Kumtura is a lesser known Buddhist Grotto in the Kuqa region. It dates from the 5th or 6th century. It has about 112 caves. The caves are in three periods, the first of the period of the Kuqa Kingdom is heavily influenced by the Gandarian Style with a central pillar. The second period is of the 7th and 8th centuries with the Grand Anxi Militant Government Period. The third phase is the Uighur Period from the 9th century and after.
Our guide, who did not speak English was quite adamant and vigilant about our taking photos, so our descriptions are not good. Lesson learned and from now onwards, we are taking better notes.
The five linked caves, 67 -62 are the ones in the photos about 20 feet above the river level. They are on the Northern side of the grotto along the Weigan River. They are claimed to be from the 7th to 9th Centuries. They are accessed through a narrow staircase carved into the mountain. None had any significant painting. There were just a few isolated remnants
The first “67” appeared to be an alcove for sleeping. Very narrow corridor and sleeping area maybe 4 feet long.
“68” the next along the corridor had an arched ceiling.
“69” had a low ceiling. A niche for Buddha and appeared to me that remains of square patterns.
“70” had the remains of a Buddha statue.
“71” had the Buddha body with the head removed. It is probably in a Western museum. In the chamber behind the Buddha was a platform that appeared to be for a Buddha statue in Para nirvana.
“72” had the Buddha body in the niche.
We entered he next set of three caves through an antechamber. The main chamber “16” in the center was the largest with “15” to the right and “17” to the left.
“15” was very small. Maybe a 6 foot long chamber
“16” had the vaulted ceiling with 1,000 Buddhas. The guide said it was actually 1224. The faces were all different and they did not seem to be exalted. I would guess they were the faces of donors.
“17” This was slightly bigger than 15.
“21” a small alcove. Maybe sleeping quarters.
“22” A large circular room. Appeared to be living quarters with some platforms and what seemed to me to be fire pits.
“23” Had an arched ceiling. A niche for the Buddha. Painted ceiling well presser ved. Text claims fifth century. We also viewed, 58, 60 and 63.
Kumtura was not well preserved but was a fascinating first look into Buddhist caves.
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