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Inspiration Stories

The Nine-Colored Deer: Jataka of The Deer King

by CHN Museums 22 Sep 2023


The Painting "The Nine-Colored Deer: Jataka of The Deer King" is drawn in the center of the Western Wall in 257 cave of the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang. The plot for "Jataka of The Deer King" goes that a beautiful Nine-Colored Deer saved a man who drowned in the Ganges River; When the drowning man wanted to repay it, the Nine-Colored Deer only told him to keep the secret of seeing it when he goes back, which prevents someone from coveting its gorgeous fur and harming it. The drowning man readily promised and swore that if he broke his promise, his whole body would be covered with poisonous sores. But the Queen dreamed of the deer overnight and begged the King to hunt it down, desiring to take its magnificent fur for clothing. Then the King posted a notice offering a great reward for the Nine-Colored Deer, and ordering people to find it. Hearing of the bounty, the man could not resist the temptation of the reward and revealed the whereabouts of the Nine-Colored Deer to the King, leading him to capture it. When the ravens woke the deer, the King had arrived with his hunting party. The deer, however, showed no fear but told the story of the man's ungratefulness. Deeply moved, the King gave up the hunt and ordered the safety of the deer. The man who had been saved by the deer, though, eventually died in agony from his own ingratitude, foaming at the mouth and covered with poisonous sores.

The drawing adopts the form of horizontal comic strips, starting at either end and ending in the middle. This exquisitely depicted tale of the Nine-Colored Deer seamlessly combines elegance and beauty, embodying virtues of kindness, justice, and bravery. It has become a spiritual symbol that safeguards peace and contentment.



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