Stone figure of a bodhisattva

From northern China
Qi dynasty (AD 550-557)

Offering salvation for mankind

Buddhism travelled to China from India via the Silk Route. It had been introduced in China before AD 65 but was not predominant until the Six Dynasties period (AD 220-589) when northern China was invaded and ruled by the Tartars of Central Asia whose official religion was Buddhism. Buddhist sculpture in China dates from the fourth century onward. Large cave temples were hollowed out of rocks and decorated with images of the Buddha which were meant to reinforce the permanence of the Buddha's teaching.

This stone bodhisattva was made at this time. Bodhisattvas were understandably popular figures, enlightened beings who chose not to become Buddha in order to remain in the world and help afflicted mankind. In sculpture and painting, a bodhisattva is distinguished from a Buddha by jewelled decoration and other attributes. This bodhisattva is characteristic of Buddhist sculpture of northern China, stiff and less curvaceous by comparison to an Indian equivalent.

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Height: 1.670 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1961.7-18.1


Purchased with the assistance of the Brooke Sewell Fund


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