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Buddhist Votive Stele

A large stone steele with multiple registers of images from Buddhas life and sacred texts carved on all four sides
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A large stone steele with multiple registers of images from Buddhas life and sacred texts carved on all four sides


Western Wei dynasty (A.D. 535–557), dated A.D. 551



About this artwork

Buddhist stone tablets known as votive steles were commissioned by pious individuals and families, and erected in temple courtyards and other public spaces. The horizontal registers on this stele illustrate scenes from the life of the Buddha and from sacred texts. The upper pair of niches on this side depicts the death of the Buddha (right) and preparations for his cremation (left). On the opposite side, the primary scene represents the Buddha preaching the Lotus Sutra, a major scripture transmitted from India. The niches above show the Buddha flanked by monks and bodhisattvas (enlightened beings). Surrounding carvings portray ascetics, guardians, protective lions, heavenly musicians, and priests. Inscribed around the lower portion are the names of donors who commissioned this stele to commemorate their ancestors. The most important of these donors appear as standardized figures with parasols held aloft by their attendants. By commissioning such tablets, pious devotees hoped to gain spiritual benefits for themselves and their families.


On View, Gallery 101


Arts of Asia


Buddhist Votive Stele


China (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.

551 CE




339 × 99 × 21.6 cm (133 1/2 × 39 × 8 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of The Orientals

Reference Number


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