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Paintings and Carved Inscriptions in Subashi Cave 3
Professor Nobuyoshi YAMABE and professor ZHAO Li
The ruined Buddhist temple of Subashi, situated 2km to the south of Langan Village, Age Township, Kucha County, is divided into eastern and western temples by the Kucha River, which flows between them. Historically, this monastery was called the Queli Great Temple, Zhaohuli Great Temple, and so forth. The monastery complex consists of great pagodas surrounded by halls, monasteries, caves, and other buildings all made of brick.
The Subashi caves are located on a small hill in the northern area of the Western Temple. Eight caves are extant, of which five have been numbered. Among them, there are five caitya caves, four meditation caves, one practice cave, and one storage cave.
Cave No. 3 is a relatively large cave. The main hall is oblong and has a vaulted ceiling. The rear wall has a niche, and each side wall has a small cell. Each side wall also has another oblong small cell with a window that lets in light. The paintings on the side walls of the main hall are now faded, and long Tokharian inscriptions are carved along the lower edge of the vault. These inscriptions are obscured by soot. In the early twentieth century, Paul Pelliot (France) and Huang Wenbi (China) visited the Subashi caves and left records. Recently, Angela Howard and Giuseppe Vignato have also studied these caves. Scholars generally believe that these side cells were used for meditation, and the paintings of meditating monks on a side wall of the cave also support this view.
The paintings in this cave have not been published yet because they are not well preserved. We have photographed these paintings and inscriptions and, through digital processing, have made the images clearer. Based on these images, we shall discuss anew the function and significance of this cave.