Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Ceramics, Room 137, The Curtain Foundation Gallery

The Stein Collection

Head Fragment
3rd century - 6th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This terracotta appliqué mask has prominent eyes and broad nostrils; the corners of mouth are turned up and open and with dots inside. The hair is parted in the middle, and the forehead marked by a central dot. The mask has large pointed ears. It was once applied to the surface of a large pottery vessel and has become detached. It was purchased in Khotan by Sir Marc Aurel Stein. Khotan was a major kingdom on the southern branch of the Silk Road and also a major centre of Buddhism.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has more than 70 ceramic fragments and fragments of Buddhist sculptures, as well as around 600 ancient and medieval textiles recovered by Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943) during his second expedition (1906-8) into Chinese Central Asia, where he once again visited and excavated sites on the southern Silk Road, before moving eastwards to Dunhuang. At Dunhuang, he studied and excavated the Han-dynasty watchtowers to the north of the town, as well as the Mogao cave temples to the southeast, where he acquired material from the Library Cave. From there he moved on to the northern Silk Road, stopping briefly at Turfan sites but not carrying out any excavations. He made a perilous north-south crossing of the Taklamakan desert in order to hasten to Khotan where he excavated more ancient sites, before finishing off his expedition with surveying in the Kunlun Mountains.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Moulded terracotta
Brief Description
Terracotta appliqué mask, China.
Physical Description
Terracotta appliqué mask with prominent eyes and broad nostrils; the corners of mouth are turned up and open and with dots inside. The hair is parted in the middle, and the forehead marked by a central dot. The mask has large pointed ears.
Dimensions
  • Height: 3.00cm
Credit line
Stein Loan Collection. On loan from the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India. Copyright: Government of India
Object history
Acquired by Sir Marc Aurel Stein at Khotan Town. This object was mistakenly named "Kho" in the Loan Agreement between V&A and Government of India (numerical file), but corresponds to "Khot" in Stein, Serindia, vol. 1 (s. references). It is numbered "Khotan" on the object itsself.
Historical context
Khotan sits near Khargalik at the western end of the southern Silk Road. The Khotan site comprises a group of oasis towns that lie in the fertile lands south of the Tarim Basin. The region is watered by two great rivers: the Karakash (Black Jade River) and the Yurungkash (White Jade River). In spring, these rivers swell with melted snow from the Kunlun Mountains and carry boulders of jade down from their glacial peaks. This has made Khotan the most important source of this precious stone since ancient times. From the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD) onward, merchants from China carried their goods to Central Asia and returned with Khotanese jade. The area became the centre of agriculture and trade within the Kingdom of Khotan and a group of oasis towns sprang up around the rivers.



The Kingdom of Khotan was a centre of Buddhism on the southern Silk Road, founded by immigrants from India in the 3rd century BC. Traditionally, its first king was the eldest son of King Ashoka (304-232 B.C.), an early patron of Buddhism in India. Khotan enjoyed great prosperity, due to its exports of jade, carpets, silk and paper. The arrival of monks from Kushan, together with Persians and Chinese; produced a rich blend of artistic styles which Stein called "Serindian". During his excavations in 1900, he found Buddha statues in the sensual Indian Gandharan style, along with images of Hindu and local Khotanese deities. Coins bearing Indian and Chinese scripts were evidence of the political forces which affected this vital trade centre. During the first millennium, Khotan was ruled by a number of foreign powers, including China, Kushan and Tibet, until it was destroyed by the Mongols.One of these was Yotkan, capital of the kingdom. Here Stein acquired many terracotta figures, coins, pottery shards and even flakes of gold from its soil; evidence of the city's former grandeur. He also located Buddhist sites recorded by the 7th century monk Xuanzang, during his travels on the Silk Road. One of these was a sacred cave and shrine on Kohmari Hill, southwest of the capital, where the monk Tathagata had prophecied the founding of the Kingdom of Khotan. There are several terracotta masks and figures in the V&A Stein collection. Similar objects purchased at or from the sites of Khotan and Yotkan.
Production
from Khotan
Subject depicted
Summary
This terracotta appliqué mask has prominent eyes and broad nostrils; the corners of mouth are turned up and open and with dots inside. The hair is parted in the middle, and the forehead marked by a central dot. The mask has large pointed ears. It was once applied to the surface of a large pottery vessel and has become detached. It was purchased in Khotan by Sir Marc Aurel Stein. Khotan was a major kingdom on the southern branch of the Silk Road and also a major centre of Buddhism.



The Victoria and Albert Museum has more than 70 ceramic fragments and fragments of Buddhist sculptures, as well as around 600 ancient and medieval textiles recovered by Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943) during his second expedition (1906-8) into Chinese Central Asia, where he once again visited and excavated sites on the southern Silk Road, before moving eastwards to Dunhuang. At Dunhuang, he studied and excavated the Han-dynasty watchtowers to the north of the town, as well as the Mogao cave temples to the southeast, where he acquired material from the Library Cave. From there he moved on to the northern Silk Road, stopping briefly at Turfan sites but not carrying out any excavations. He made a perilous north-south crossing of the Taklamakan desert in order to hasten to Khotan where he excavated more ancient sites, before finishing off his expedition with surveying in the Kunlun Mountains.
Bibliographic References
  • Stein, Marc Aurel. Serindia: detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China. Oxford: Clarendon, 1921, vol. 1, p.121
  • Stein, Marc Aurel. Serindia: detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China. Oxford: Clarendon, 1921, vol. 1, p.104
  • Whitfield, Roderick. The art of Central Asia: the Stein collection in the British Museum. Tokyo: Kodansha International in co-operation with the Trustees of the British Museum, 1982-1983, vol. 3, pls. 77,78, fig. 101
  • Whitfield, Susan, ed. The Silk Road: trade, travel, war and faith. Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2004, p.140
Other Number
Khot.01.n - Stein number
Collection
Accession Number
LOAN:INDIA.63

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record createdMay 14, 2007
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