Qizil: an Interpretation of District Six, Caves 109-121 in Gunei
For over a century studies on the caves of Kuča were mainly focused on the paintings; little attention has been dedicated to cave architecture, while the way caves related to one another forming a living monastery has gone almost completely unnoticed. In previous studies I proposed a division of the site of Qizil in seven districts: among these, District Six was the one which presented most interpretative difficulties. In recent years the iconography of five painted caves has been the object of many studies, but the remaining 18 undecorated ones have been systematically ignored. Realizing how this district keeps on stimulating art historians’ interest – other relevant studies are presently being carried out – the present work offers a more complete description and analysis by focusing on the unique assemblage of caves and groups of District Six; some essential features never mentioned before are also introduced here. Finally, the provisional interpretation of District Six as a special ritual area will contextualize it in the overall site of Qizil.
Keywords: Soot • Meditation cells • Qizil caves • Caves function