Standing Buddha

Object nr. 603 China, Northern Qi period (549-577) Height: 83 cm | Width: 28 cm

- Private Collection, Belgium 2019
- with Zen Gallery, Belgium 1995

Condition Report available

Price on request

This object can be viewed in our gallery.

Additional Information

Standing Buddha

A stone figure of Buddha standing upright, legs next to each other. He wears a gossamer thin mantle, with a high round neck, which clings to the body as if they were wet. The thin cloth clearly reveals the form underneath, the softly bulging belly visible. The left hand is missing, but the position of the arm indicates the hand would have been raised. The right hand hangs down, gently lifting the outer robes (uttarasanga). The hem of the undergarment (antarvastra), is softly pleated, as are the folds hanging from the arms. Root-marks and encrustation due to burial, now cover the figure. But traces of pigment and gilding indicate this figure would have been richly decorated, perhaps with a colourful strapwork pattern. The flowing lines of this figure are characteristic of sculpture from this period, as is the very realistic treatment of garments. The exact context of this sculpture has now been lost, because we can no longer see the expression or the hand gestures (mudras). The back of the sculpture is fairly flat except for some banded detailing on the robes.

With the rise of the Northern Qi Dynasty, whose rulers where devout Buddhists, came a new style of sculpture which much less Sinicized than before. This new Buddhist imagery, was greatly influenced by Indian Gupta period sculpture, clearly reflected in the transparent clothing and fuller facial features. Figures from this period, sometimes even appeared almost entirely foreign. A subject of much debate amongst rulers, was whether it was preferred that Buddha’s image should emphasise or rather blur his foreign origins, to gain more acceptance amongst the people.

After a struggle to harmonize the three religions in China, Emperor Wu of the Northern states, decided that Confucianism should take the lead in the country. In 574 AD, he officially banned Buddhism, leading to a large scale dissolution of the monasteries and destruction of religious artefacts. This rise and fall of Buddhism would continue throughout Chinese history. During an important excavation in 1996, fragments of 400 Buddhist sculptures were discovered at the former Longxing Temple site in Qingzhou, including a large group from the Northern Qi period. The great variety of styles found illustrates the rapidity and extent of the change in styles during this period of great political instability in China.

Qingzhou Museum, Shandong has several comparable figures. A complete standing Buddha published in the Return of Buddha gives a good indication of the style and decoration of this figure.

Floris van der Ven