Staatlich Museen Zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Musuem Für Indische Kunst/Jürgen Liepe

Shaded by a grape arbor, Manichaean priests sit at rows of desks writing, in this illumination (above right) from a Manichaean book. All but one scribe holds his stylus in his left hand—a deliberate inversion intended to suggest the complete alteration individuals must undergo to attain the Realm of Light. The fragmentary text, written vertically in Sogdian Uighur (an Old Turkish script), also refers to this essential change: “If he should believe in a wrong and contrary law, if he is an envious unbeliever, one who prays false prayers, then it is necessary to understand and to know [that he must repent].” The fruitful tree may represent the Realm of Light, which these completely altered priests have apparently attained.

The reverse (above left) of the same page is decorated with a floral motif and an image of two musicians seated before a conductor. A hymn, written in red ink, describes Mani’s scripture as “the true words of light, God’s wisdom, the sweet law.” The title of an eastern prince is written below, in black.

Found in the temple at Khocho (where the wall painting shown at the beginning of this article comes from), the manuscript dates to the eighth or ninth century and is now in Berlin’s Museum of Indian Art.