Northern Wei Stone Standing Bodhisattva - AM.0344 - For Sale

Northern Wei Stone Standing Bodhisattva - AM.0344
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The Northern Wei were a nomadic people who conquered parts of China in 386 AD. They embraced Chinese customs and traditions to such an extent that they prohibited their own traditional equestrian dress and adopted Chinese family names. This enthusiasm for Chinese fashion even had an impact on Buddhist art- by the end of the fifth century Buddha figures were depicted wearing traditional Chinese rather than Indian robes. The Northern Wei were ardent supporters of Buddhism and proclaimed it to be the official state religion. This was an important turning point as earlier Chinese dynasties had wavered in their endorsement of this newly imported faith. Buddhist art experienced a golden age as witnessed by the monumental cave sculptures at Yunguang and Longmen.This exceptional sculpture depicts a bodhisattva standing on a lotus pedestal. Bodhisattvas were compassionate beings who delayed their own entry into Nirvana in order to help other sentient beings end the cycle of birth and rebirth. Although Buddhist sacred texts do not specify their gender- in this period they were generally depicted as male. In later centuries, especially during the Ming era, bodhisattvas were often appealed to in their own right. During the Northern Wei however they were nearly always portrayed in pairs in the presence of the Buddha. Originally, therefore, this figure might have been part of a triad.The details of the costly apparel have been expertly carved. The tall crown is adorned with large stylised flowers and jewelled or beaded swags. A lightly incised necklace overlaps the under-garment which is tied with a sash just above the waist. A stole hangs over the shoulders and billows out slightly towards the base. A wide string of beads or pearls are attached to the stole at the shoulder and cross through a central disc at waist height, descending in a loop on either side. On top of this is suspended an even wider and heavier chain that descends all the way to knee level. The bodhisattva holds a lotus flower in his left hand. The right hand- which is now missing- may once have held a fan or flask, typical attributes of Northern Wei bodhisattvas.The highlight of this piece however is the facial expression of the bodhisattva. The almond shaped eyes are downcast suggesting a meditative pose but the well-defined lips are slightly upturned- with the suggestion of a smile. This reminds us that bodhisattvas were meant to be approachable, compassionate beings, existing to help others on the path to enlightenment. - (AM.0344 )

Ancient Asian
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Barakat Gallery
405 North Rodeo Drive
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