Section of a Buddhist Pagoda

A work made of limestone.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of limestone.

Date:

Tang dynasty (A.D. 618–907), dated 724

Artist:

China

About this artwork

These two stone slabs originally formed the first story of a miniature Buddhist pagoda, which was elevated on a tiered base. Many such pagodas, usually standing seven or nine stories tall, are preserved from the eighth century in northern China.

Now separated for display, these slabs were once tightly aligned to form one chamber whose interior was visible only though a canopied doorway cut into the front slab. Dynamic guardians, flying apsaras (heavenly beings), writhing dragons, and an ogre mask protect this doorway, which opens into a sacred space. The Buddha, seated in the center, is flanked by two bodhisattvas (compassionate saintly beings) holding lotus flowers. The bodhisattvas’ fluid postures, which echo those of sensual images from contemporary Indian art, distinguish many Buddhist sculptures of early-eighth-century China.

A long inscription, carved into the left side of both slabs, states that the family of Jia Heida commissioned this pagoda in honorable devotion to his deceased parents. Replete with Buddhist metaphors and allusions to the Buddha s life, this text opens with a bleak perspective on the physical world and then praises both Buddhist teachings of spiritual redemption and secular values of Chinese filial devotion. The inscription closes with a prayer extolling Buddhist principles.

The back of the rear slab is incised with images of two brothers, the bodhisattvas of medicine, who vow to heal the sick. The elder brother (left) holds a bowl containing a lotus flower, which symbolizes medicine; the younger brother (right) joins his hands in prayer. A small figure in the lower-left corner, who reaches out with one arm, as if pleading for medicine, may represent a faithful devotee. Inscriptions along the far-left and far-right edges identify the patron of these images as Konghui, a Buddhist nun. Inscriptions to the left of both brothers offer praise to the bodhisattvas.

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Asian Art

Title

Section of a Buddhist Pagoda

Origin

China

Date

724 AD

Medium

Limestone

Dimensions

66.0 × 43.2 × 41.9 cm (26 × 17 × 16 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Lucy Maud Buckingham Collection

Reference Number

1927.287

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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