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A work made of limestone with traces of polychromy.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of limestone with traces of polychromy.


Tang dynasty (A.D. 618–907), c. 725/50



About this artwork

Following its introduction from India centuries earlier, Buddhism flourished in China under the powerfully cosmopolitan Tang dynasty. Characteristic of Tang style in its robust, tapered physique, this monumental figure exhibits iconographic features distinctive to the Buddha: tightly curled hair covering a cranial mound symbolizes his enlightenment; and a forehead depression that originally held a stone or jewel represents wisdom. The articulated folds of the deity’s flowing robe integrate Indian sensuality with a distinctly Tang blend of realism and linear elegance. Capping the deity’s right shoulder, this garment discreetly modifies a fully bare-chested style described in Indian monastic texts.

The stepped pedestal rises from a base encircled by lotus petals pure white flowers that rise from muddy water and thereby evoke Buddhist beliefs in purity and the search for enlightenment. Above, musicians encircling the tapered stem evoke an ideal, celestial realm.

Together with two attendant bodhisattvas in the Art Institute collection (1930.84 and 1930.85), this sculpture came to the museum in 1930 with a note of its discovery in a temple known as Cangfosi in northern Hebei province. Neither archaeological nor written records have been located to confirm this reported site. The scale and stone medium of these figures suggest that they were commissioned for a cave temple or shrine—a chamber carved into the face of a mountain or cliff.


On View, Gallery 101


Arts of Asia




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.

618 CE–907 CE


Limestone with traces of polychromy


219.7 × 111 cm (86 1/2 × 43 3/4 in.); Diam.: 111 cm (43 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Lucy Maud Buckingham Collection

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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