Shuilu'an is located at the mountain foot of Puhua town, about 10 kilometers from the Lantian County, Xian, Shaanxi province. It is surrounded by water on three sides, like an lonely island, therefore it is called Shuilu An as well, meaning “Place of Water and Land.” It keeps good reservation of numerous painted sculptures from ancient times. Firstly built in the Ming dynasty, there are more than 3,700 painted sculptures within.
Painted sculpture, also known as “Invisible sculpture” or “Shadow Wall”, is a form of art mixing the drawing and sculputure, mainly about mountain and water scenery, flowers with colorful paint. Forming a unique pattern with circular engravure and embossment. Ever since it was open to the public, tons of tourists swarm in here and admire the amazing sculptures from all directions. Not only with high artistic and historical value, it is also with high research value for Buddhism. Nowadays it has become a painted sculpture museum.
As a complete Buddhism yard, Shuilu'an is a not so large quadrangle courtyard, with 5 gates and 13 rooms separately from south and north, 3 rooms in the middle, 5 halls in the west. Stepping inside the yard, the first thing coming into the sight is the three buddha- Plastic Buddha, Sakyamuni (the founder of Buddhism) and apothecary. Every detail is carefully desgined, the expression on Buddha face, different gestures with various backgrounds, just like a sculpture book of the Buddhism.
Looking around in the hall, you will see so many Buddhas. They have Arya Avalokiteshvara sitting on a dragon platform, Manjusri Buddisattva riding a cyan lion, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva on the back of a white elephant, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva-the death god of Buddhism. Besides those vivid figures, there are also some short stories telling in the form of sculptures as well, Miaoshan princess killing herself to save her father and the story of peacock king.
The most significant painted sculpture is a colorful mud sculpture, made by a famous sculptor called Yang Huizhi from Tang dynasty. Adopting the picture-story book form, he showed the life of Sakyamuni, very vivid and lifelike. You could almost find everything in this mud sculpture, from mountains and bridges, palace and waterfalls, pavilions and towers, as well as some settings according to some famous stories of Buddhism. It is so amazing all those beautiful work of art all done by only one person.
All the painted sculptures are created with one theme, telling the earthly people how to overcome and survive from the bitterness by the experience of Buddha. In addition, it is worth mentioning that all the Sakyamuni in Shuilu an all have beard, which is very rare. As a matter of fact, Avalokitesvara was a male according to the Buddhism. When the Buddhism first came into China, ancient Chinese gradually turned him into a female. So nowadays most Avalokitesvara we see in Chinese Buddha temples are usually with a female look.