Buddhism travelled to China from India along the
Silk Road during the 1st Century AD. By the
period of the Tang Dynasty (618-906 AD) it had
become central to Chinese religious culture. This
sculpture, dating to the Ming Dynasty, represents
a bodhisattva standing on a rectangular plinth.
The figure is positioned with its weight resting
on the left leg, while the right is delicately
extended to the front of the base. The left arm is
raised and a cloth has been expertly carved to
fall between the figure’s fingers. The right arm is
extended across the body at waist level, with the
drapery falling over the front.
The elaborate headdress is typical of a
bodhisattva. Buddhas, by contrast, were typically
depicted modestly clothed. A bodhisattva is an
enlightened being who has chosen to delay entry
into Nirvana and remain in the world to help
other sentient beings achieve enlightenment.
This mission is reflected in the figure’s
sympathetic visual expression; the rounded face,
small mouth and well-defined chin suggest a
child-like appearance. This is also implied by the
playful sense of movement. In contrast to more
static, meditative bodhisattvas, this figure is
lively and enchanting.