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.
- Buddhist Votive Stele
- 551 AD
- Inscription "...the true believer Ning Hanzong, talented men and female believers of the township...has made a stele in sixteen feet height...May the Emperor, grand Counselor-in-Chief, all the officials, teachers, priests, parents, live and deceased relaitves, all unelightened living creatures, awaken to the voidness of all existence. May they be the first one at the Maitreya's three assemblys under the Naga pusap tree [dragon-flower tree; bodhi-tree of Maitreya]. The great Wei [Western Wei], in the seventeenth year of the Datong reign-era, the cyclical year of xinwei , in the seventh month, the second new moon, on the twenty-third day [day jiawu], [this stele] was made."
- 339 × 99 × 21.6 cm (133 1/2 × 39 × 8 1/2 in.)
- Gift of The Orientals