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Chinese sculpture


Limestone with gold pigments remaining.

Late Eastern Wei Di (534-550) or beginning Northern Qi Di (550-577)


108 cm.

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China was not a primary culture as far as Buddhism was concerned . She received decisive impulses from India but enriched the Buddhist tradition with significant contributions on her own. Buddhism first travelled towards China along the silk road , penetrating its borders during the first century AD. Initially the religion encountered resistance from followers of the two native philosophies. Confucionism and Daoism. However , Indian monks gradually adapted Buddhism to suit the beliefs of the Chinese , and eventually many of the scholarly Confucian Chinese embraced the monastic traditions of Buddhism, while the more intuitive and non –ritualistic Daoists embraced Mahayana teachings. Under the Wei rulers between the fourth and the sixth century , Buddhism flourished , and huge cave temples such as the one at Dunhuang Site were created as displays of Wei support of the faith. This site became a major Buddhist centre for pilgrims until the end of the first millennium. The number of figures unearthed is likewise surprising. Certainly, the making of cult images at that period was determined not only by the needs of a temple, but also by those who donated such images. The most popular type of sculpture during the Northern Qi dynasty was the figure sculpted in the round. A great number of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas were carved. These figures have been classified as free-standing sculptures, yet they are not intended to be seen from all sides; rather, they were designed to be venerated from the front in temples. Extant cave temples of this period indicate that statues in cult spaces were arranged symmetrically. The sculptures from the Longxing find thus have to be imagined as belonging to groups, such a triads showing the Buddha in the centre and bodhisattvas and other figures on either side. The figures are a random group of cult images that happened to have survived the 500 years from their creation to the sealing of the pit in which they have been deposited. The Standing Bodhissatva figure ,sculpted in the round ,wears a long robe with a sash, and a mantle of a thick material, this was a typical Chinese attire, inspired by the robes of Confucian officials. He raises his right hand(now missing) in the "Fear not!" gesture or "abhaya mudra" and his left hand (also missing) in a lower position, indicates "your wish is granted" or "varada mûdra".