Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Seated figure of a bodhisattva


    • currently in research collection

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  • Early Himalayan Art by Amy Heller

    Early Himalayan Art

    This Bodhisattva is seated in lalitasana, the posture of ease, on a stool covered with a fabric gathered in thick folds [1]. He holds an object in his raised right hand: within his hand there appears to be a small prong, and above the object, where it touches the prabha, there is a small curved element in relief. It is possibly a vajra, implying that the Bodhisattva may be an aspect of Vajrapani. His left hand is empty, resting on his left leg. His body is very thin. The torso is nude except for a garment knotted over the heart, and he wears a cylindrical belt and long dhoti.

    Because of its worn condition it is hard to interpret how the hair and crown are represented. The facial features are also rather indistinct, but there does not appear to be an urna. The Bodhisattva wears a crown with a single ovoid panel and two long side-lappets. This image was reportedly a surface find from a Tibetan-inhabited mountain zone of western Gansu, in proximity to areas formerly occupied by the Tibetans at the time of their empire in Central Asia. It is most probably Chinese rather than Tibetan, as it bears little comparison with known Tibetan Buddhist icons of the eighth to ninth century [2].


    1 Published in Anninos, 'Tibetan Buddhist Amulets', pl. 8, there identified as a Bodhisattva holding a vessel and attributed to China, 6th-8th century.

    2 Among the Tang sandstone sculptures of the Zhonglongshan grotto in Sichuan, some attendant figures of the thousand-armed Avalokitesvara are represented as emaciated seated figures, their heads inside peaked prabhas as in this Bodhisattva image: see Howard, 'The Development of Buddhist Sculpture in Sichuan', in Baker, ed., Flowering of a Foreign Faith, pp. 124-5, fig. 6.

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