The majority of the murals at Dunhuang that depict Maitreya are dominated by his three assemblies, thereby emphasizing the salvific power of the future Buddha after he has descended to earth. This article examines scenes from the Maitreya murals, highlighting details appearing across the murals that allow us to understand how adherents imagined life in an earthly paradise. Most scenes in the murals accentuate the magnificence of life in Maitreya's terrestrial Buddhaland, characterized by manageable yet rewarding labor and a long life that never ends suddenly, all in a clean urban environment. Hence, in this realm some labor is still required and social hierarchies are maintained. Unlike the celestial realm of Amitābha Buddha, Maitreya's land is ruled by an ideal leader, the Wheel-Turning King Saṅkha. The article concludes by examining the tension between the power of the religious leader and the political ruler, evident even though the paintings do not include representations of Saṅkha himself. Rather, they depict his regalia, his gift, and his family in prominent positions, near Maitreya, thus suggesting that the future Buddha absorbed Saṅkha's political power, which parallels contemporaneous political and religious developments.

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