This is the fourth of five films about people who were connected with Dunhuang, and their roles in its history. The films are largely elaborations based on legends surrounding the outpost on the western edge of China.
This episode is set in the 7th century, a period that saw a revival of Buddhism in China. It was also the time when Xuan Zang went to India to bring back authentic Buddhist scriptures, and when Wu Zetian rose from concubine to Empress of China.
These events are interweaved somewhat because one of the sutras Xuan Zang brought back with him was the Great Cloud sutra which predicted that Maitreya would one day rule in female form, a prediction Wu Zetian used to further her own ambitions.
Her story is long and complex and only an outline is given in this episode. I hope to show a series devoted to her extraordinary life soon. Meanwhile the Mogoa Caves are seen to expand and the Yin family, hoping to impress the empress commission the largest Maitreya statue in the world – in the likeness of the empress herself.
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