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Gilt-bronze figure of Shakyamuni


Height: 59.000 cm

Asia OA 1908,0420.4

Room 33: Asia


    Gilt-bronze figure of Shakyamuni

    From China
    Ming dynasty, Yongle mark and period (AD 1403-24)

    In the eighth century AD, a Tibetan king, Khri-song, invited Buddhist monks to build monasteries and spread Buddhism in his isolated land. Eventually Buddhism took a strong hold in Tibet, absorbing the native cults. The relationship between Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism was established early, and in the ninth century a peace treaty between China and Tibet was negotiated by Buddhist monks from the two countries. Later, many Chinese emperors, particularly during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911), were inspired by the charismatic qualities of the monks, and became enthusiastic supporters of Tibetan Buddhism.

    This important image of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, displays the integration of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist art in both its intricate design and metal-casting technique. It is one of the largest and most ornate Sino-Tibetan bronzes surviving from the early fifteenth century. The bronze is cast in three sections: the Buddha and the double lotus throne, the rectangular stepped base and the background mandorla, which is pierced with fire and floral scrolls.

    The figure's gesture indicates that Shakyamuni has just warded off temptation and gained peace and truth.


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    On display: Room 33: Asia

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    Survey of Chinese ceramics, £14.95

    Survey of Chinese ceramics, £14.95