A Sino-Tibetan gilt-bronze figure of Buddha Akshobhya (阿芻婆), seated in a lotus position (vajrasana), on a double-lotus pedestal. He wears a dhoti pleated at the waist, incised with a geometric trim, falling loosely over one shoulder and the knees. A cloud collar (yunjian) covers the shoulders and chest. The face is framed by an impressive foliate tiara, held in place by a band at the back of the head, the ribbons falling on to the shoulders, the ends flying up. The face, with an urna on the forehead, has a benevolent expression, the eyes lowered in a serene contemplation. The hair is in tight curls with a very high crown – usnisha – topped with a round jewel. Unusual is the sumptuous jewellery, including long earrings and pendant chains, draped over the chest and shoulders. This Buddha sits with his left hand in his lap holding a kalasha vase and the right hand in the earth-touching gesture (bhumisparsha mudra). Only Akshobhya, (one of the future Buddhas) and Shakyamuni (the historical Buddha), are depicted in this pose.
Buddha Akshobhya (阿閦如来), whose name translates to 'immovable' or 'unshakeable', is one of the five transcendent Buddha's, each reigning over one of the five directions. Akshobhya is the Buddha who resides in the east, as Lord of the Eastern Pure land Abhirati.
Images of the Buddha first appeared in China in the second century, as a result the spread of Buddhism from India to the East. Religious imagery was adapted accordingly, flourishing within the newly adopted rituals of Mahayana Buddhism. Images were intended to help believers longing to ‘see the Buddha’ (Jian Fo), facilitating them to reach their ultimate goal of salvation. These representations were thought to be vessels in which deities were actually present; visible symbols, such as posture and hand mudras, revealing that particular Buddha’s message.
In the 18th century, there was a renewed flourishing of Buddhism in China. The new Manchu Qing Emperors actively supported Tibetan Buddhism, which had geo-political as well as personal benefits. Particularly Kangxi and Qianlong were actively engaged with Buddhism, personally writing thousands of copies of the Heart Sutra and aiding the construction of monasteries and shrines in Beijing. In the Forbidden City, there was even a special area devoted to Tibetan Buddhism – The Hall of Central Righteousness – where the production of religious artefacts also took place.
The Honolulu Museum of Art has a similar figure (acc.nr. 10888.1). Compare also a Seated figure of Amitāyus Buddha from the Tzs Shan Museum, Hong Kong (Acc. nr. 2017.41).