Buddhist Art (2nd c BCE-15th c CE)

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Footprint of the Buddha
Mathura school Buddha
Bodhisttava Padmapani
Buddha offering protection
Buddha statue at Avukana
Stone Buddha, Baekje Kingdom
Gilt-bronze Bodhisattva
Asuka-dera Buddha
Buddhist Sculptures, Longmen Caves

Yakushi Nyorai, Kondo of Yakushi-ji temple
Fu Sheng Expounding the Classic
Leshan Giant Buddha
Chinese Diamond Sutra
Borobudur Temple Sculptures
The Sañchi Torso
Buddha in Meditation Pose
Emerald Buddha

Buddhist art originated on the Indian subcontinent following the historical life of Siddhartha Gautama, 6th to 5th century BCE, and thereafter evolved by contact with other cultures as it spread throughout Asia and the world. Many are therefore shown under the various geographical zones and periods. ultcult.com gathers here a selection of these under the generic heading of Buddhist art.

Buddhist art depicts Buddhas and bodhisattvas, presents other entities historical and mythical, shows the narrative scenes from the lives of these, presents mandalas and other graphic aids to practice and the physical objectsused in Buddhist practice, such as vajras and bells, and the architecture of stupas and temples.


Image source: Wikimedia commons

India: ‘Footprint of the Buddha’ from the 1st c BCE, discovered in Gandhara (NW India, today Afghanistan/Pakistan).

It is on show at the ZenYouMitsu Temple, Setagaya, Tokyo.
India: Inscribed seated Buddha from the Northern Satraps/Kushan Period, at the end of 1st c CE.

It is on show at the Government Museum, (formerly Curzon Museum of Archaeology) at Mathura, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons

India: 1.2m high, painted stone figure of the Bodhisattva Padmapani, from cave #1 of the Ajanta Caves. It is dated to 450-490 CE.
India: 86 cm red sandstone figure of a ‘Standing Buddha offering protection’ from Mathura, Uttar Predesh.
It is dated to the Gupta Period and late 5th c.

The metmuseum suggests that it ’embodies the qualities of radiant inner calm and stillness, the products of supreme wisdom. The figure once raised his right hand (now missing) in the characteristic abhaya-mudra, a gesture dispelling fear and imparting reassurance’.

Image source: metmuseum.org

Image source: tourslanka.com

Sri Lanka: The Buddha statue at Avukana (aka Avukana Pilimaya), is a rock carving of a standing Buddha. It is 175 kms from Colombo in Avukana in the North Central Province Sri Lanka.

Avukana was built during the reign of King Dhatusena in the 5th c. Standing over 12.2m high, Avukana is the tallest of the ancient Buddha statues in Sri Lanka.
Korea: 13.5 cm stone Buddha in the meditation pose. It is from the Sabi Period (538-660) of the Baekje Kingdom in Korea.
Buddhism was first transmitted to the Baekje Kingdom in 384, during the reign of King Chimnyu (384-385), by the Serindian monk Mālânanda who came to Baekje from China’s Eastern Jin Dynasty (317-420). It was really flourishing during the reign of King Seong (523-554).

Image source: museum.go.kr

Image source: museum.go.kr

Korea: 11.2 cm Gilt-bronze Bodhisattva from the Baekje Kingdom. It is dated to mid-6th c CE.
Japan: The Daibutsu at the Asuka dera in Asuka. The Asuka-dera is one of the oldest temples in Japan, This statue is the oldest known sculpture of Buddha in Japan which has an exact date of manufacture, 609 CE. The sculpture was made by Kuratsukuri-no-Tori, son of a Korean immigrant.
Image source: Wikimedia commons

China: These Bodhisttavas are from the Longmen Caves main grotto in Henan, China. They were carved as outside rock reliefs and may originally have been painted. There are some 100,000 statues within 2,345 caves, ranging from 25 mm to 17 m in height. The area has nearly 2,500 stelae and inscriptions.
Image source: Wikimedia commons

Japan: At the Yakushi-ji temple (lower image) there is a Yakushi Nyorai Buddha (192 cm high), placed on a huge (9m diameter, 90 cm high) circular platform which almost entirely fills the Hon-dō. Together with six small Buddha images on its halo, the main statue forms a group of Seven Buddhas of Healing. Yakushi Nyorai is protected by Twelve Heavenly Generals arranged around him facing outward. These Twelve Divine Generals are roughly life-size and were carved in clay c729–749 CE. They were originally coloured: their skin was salmon colour, beards were drawn with ink, clothing and armor were painted in bright colours and gold leaf was applied in some areas; not much of their original decoration remains. [Source: arsartisticadventureofmankind.wordpress.com]
Image source: arsartisticadventureofmankind.wordpress.com

Image source: travel-around-japan.com

Image source: chinaonlinemuseum.com

China: This is part of a Tang Dynasty (618-907) handscroll that depicts ‘Fu Sheng Expounding the Classic’. Fu Sheng was a great patron of scholarship, he is here lecturing on Shang shu, the most basic Confucian text of politics and philosophy, which he had saved from the Great Qin book-burning. Fu Sheng continued to teach even at the age of ninety.
It is attributed to Zhang Sengyaoi, created in ink and colour on silk,
25 x 45 cm. It is on show at the Osaka City Museum of Fine Arts.
China: The Leshan giant Buddha is the largest stone Buddha in the world, located in city of Leshan, China. This 7.1m tall stone Buddha was carved in the cliff side of Xijuo peak in the 8th c, The statue faces mount Emei, one of holiest sites of Buddhism in China. Mount Emei and the Leshan Buddha are listed as a UNESCO’s world heritage site.
Image source: themysteriousworld.com

Image source: historyofinformation.com

China: The Diamond Sutra is the earliest dated example of woodblock printing, and the earliest surviving dated complete book. It was published in China in 868. A scroll 4.88m long by 27 cms wide, fabricated from seven strips of yellow-stained paper. pasted together to form the scroll. Its Chinese text is one of the most important sacred works of the Buddhist faith. 

An inscription states, ‘reverently made for universal free distribution by Wang Chieh on behalf of his parents on the fifteenth of the fourth moon of the ninth year of Xian Long (May 11, 868).’

This illustration shows the Buddha expounding the sutra to an elderly disciple called Subhuti. It is the earliest dated book illustration.
Indonesia: The Borobudur Temple Compounds is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in the world, built in the 8th and 9th c CE during the reign of the Syailendra Dynasty. The monument is located in the Kedu Valley at the centre of the island of Java, Indonesia.

The Borobudur Temple has a base, body, and superstructure following the conception of the Universe in Buddhist cosmology. This suggests the universe is divided into three superimposing spheres, kamadhatu, rupadhatu, and arupadhatu, respectively the sphere of desires where we are bound to our desires, the sphere of forms where we abandon our desires but are still bound to name and form, and the sphere of formlessness where there is no longer either name or form.

Image source: whc.unesco.org

Image source: vam.ac.uk

India: The Sañchi Torso, dated to 900 CE is on show at the Indian galleries of the V&A, London. It has become the most famous and widely admired piece of Indian sculpture in the Western world.
This sketch shows how the torso was part of a three-part ensemble:

Image source: vam.ac.uk
India: A monkey offers honey to Buddha Shakyamuni, who is meditating in the lotus position. This black stone statue is from Bihar India, probably Pala dynasty, c1000 CE.

It is on show at the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities (Östasiatiska museet) in Sweden

Image source: Wikimedia commons

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Thailand: The 66cm tall Emerald Buddha is described as a talisman for the safety of the country depends. It is housed in the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok. It is an image of the meditating Gautama Buddha seated in the lotus position. It is fabricated a semi-precious green stone, jasper rather than emerald or jade, and is clothed in gold. The image shows the Buddha adorned in its three different seasonal outfits.

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