Seated Buddha

Seated Buddha

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Seated Buddha. Thinking and Writing about Art History Essay

This paper will discuss the bronze statue called Seated Buddha. It is necessary to speak about the style of this sculpture, its artistic elements, and its relation to the social, religious political and cultural world of that period.

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This work of art was created in Thailand in the fourteenth century. Its height is approximately fifty inches. The name of the sculptor remains anonymous to art historians and archeologists.

The subject of this artistic piece is Siddhārtha Gautama, the originator and spiritual leader of Buddhism. His legs are crossed and one his hands nearly touches the earth. This gesture has to symbolize Buddha’s victory over Mara. One can only deduce the true purpose of this work.

Probably, this work of art strives to demonstrate the placidity of Buddha and his serenity. Similarly, the message of this sculpture may not be clear to the viewers at once. Probably, this author tried to show that only by following the principle of Buddhism one can achieve peace with the others and with oneself.

To some degree, this statue demonstrates how an enlightened person can look like. By creating this statue, the author tried to set an example for the viewers. Yet, this is just a conjecture.

This Seated Buddha was created during the so-called Sukhothai period. This period which began in the early fourteenth century, and this work has several elements of the sculptural style which evolved during that time.

Namely, we should speak about slightly elongated head of Buddha, placid facial expression, and very smooth skin. It should be noted that during that time, the statues of Buddha were usually cast out of metal and at that time it was a real departure from the convention.

Overall, the person depicted by the sculptor produces the impression of power and tranquility. In part, my response can be explained by his posture and facial expression.

Unfortunately, we do not know whether this artistic piece fits into the career of the sculptor or not. Moreover, there is very little information about the life of this sculptor. It is quite possible that he relied on both visual and literary sources.

For example, the depictions of Buddha are present in numerous illustrated manuscripts and drawings of the twelfth and thirteenth period. We can mention such sources as the so-called Pali texts which explain how the statues of Buddha should look like (Kislenko, 81).

It is worth mentioning that these Pali texts present a very detailed portrayal of Buddha there are many metaphoric descriptions of his face, body, feet, skin, and so forth (Kislenko, 81). Thus, the sculptor could have relied on wealthy literary tradition.

Currently, there are no documents of that period which discuss this work of art. One cannot tell how this piece was perceived by the contemporaries. Yet, we know that this sculpture was cast in during the time when the Sukhothai Kingdom was very powerful (Kislenko, 10).

Such sculptures could represent not only Buddha, but also the rulers of the country. Overall, this work of art demonstrates that such religion as Buddhism played a very important role in the life of the the Sukhothai Kingdom.

At that time, the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama became prevalent in the intellectual circles of the Sukhothai Kingdom. This philosophy truly became the mainstream ideology. Even now its importance cannot be underestimated.

It is possible to compare this Seated Buddha with other sculptures created earlier. For example, one can draw parallels between this statue and Amida Buddha created in the thirteenth-century Japan. They are similar in terms of posture and facial expression of Siddhārtha Gautama.

Nonetheless, the Japanese structure differs in terms of technique, since it is made of carved wooden pieces which were joined together. Apart from that, the hand of Amida Buddha makes a gesture which symbolizes peace. Thus, the statue that we are discussing emphasizes the perfection and power of Buddha, whereas its Japanese counterpart focuses on his peacefulness.

These are the main differences between them. These distinctions can be explained by the fact that the two sculptors perceived this person in different ways.

At this point, art historians do not know very much as to how this sculpture was created. One can see that this statue consists out several metal casts which were joined together. Yet, it is very difficult to determine the methods that the sculptor applied while creating this artistic piece.

Moreover, it is unclear if he/she made some preliminary steps in order to better visualize the image of Buddha. These questions are still of great interest to modern art historians and archeologists.

This sculpture is a prominent example of Thai art. It shows that during the Sukhothai period this culture achieved enormous degree of sophistication. Moreover, this piece demonstrates the extent to which Buddhism shaped the identity of Thai people.

In this case, Buddha symbolizes an ideal which everyone must try to attain. Finally, this artistic piece can be praised for its meticulous metalwork which is very difficult to surpass.

Yungang Grotto

Yungang Grotto is a cluster of caves in the cliff of Wuzhou Mountain near the city of Datong. Construction of the caves is thought to have begun in the fourth century, and since that time the caves have become a religious site of great historical importance. The grotto is particularly known for its statues that depict Emperor's down the dynasties as the Lord Buddha. Of these, Seated Buddha Cave 20 in Yungang is one of the most famous. While these Buddha's don't compare in terms of scale to statues such as the Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan province, their setting and age make them just as culturally important.

Mountains in China

The Yungang Grotto is composed of 53 caves, and runs for about half a mile from east to west. Some of these caves are dominated by pagodas, while there are more than 51,000 stone statues in the grotto in total. The grotto first came into existence in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386 - 534). Yungang Grotto art shows the influence of Indian Buddhist art, fused with traditional Chinese artistic styles. The act of hollowing out and constructing the caves is said to have taken 50 years, with over 40,000 workers struggling to complete the project. The Yungang Grotto art seen in the caves, therefore, is the labor of worshippers over hundreds of years. The grotto is one of many holy sites in the Chinese mountains, from the Himalayas in the west of the country, to Mt Tai, sacred to Taoists, in the south, and Mt Wudang, of religious importance to Buddhists, Muslims and Confucians, in the north of the country.

The caves are numbered and are widely recognized as of varying importance. The largest of the caves, cave number six, is about 65 feet in height and houses a tall column decorated with Buddhist statues and designs. The cave is filled with engravings and panels depicting the lives of sacred persons. Caves 16 through 20 are also worthy of note for their Yungang Grotto art. These five caves contain statues of Emperors as the Lord Buddha, depicting the religious theme that the emperor is the Buddha in another incarnation. Of all of these, the Seated Buddha Cave 20 in Yungang is one of the most famous. In this cave, the Buddha is depicted as martial and stately. Through the Buddha's expression, Seated Buddha Cave 20 expresses the power and glory of the Emperor.

China Map

The Yungang Grotto is located about 10 miles to the west of Datong city center. Datong, in Shanxi province, has nothing to rival Beijing attractions such as the Great Wall and the Summer Palace Beijing, so many visitors to the capital choose not to take the five-hour journey from Beijing to the city. However, Datong is often included in religious tours of China due to its fame as the City of Pagodas. Although there are only six pagodas remaining today, each one of them has a delicate and detailed design and some are more than 800 years old. The Huayan Monastery in Datong City is particularly well-known, as is the Shanhua Temple, for its vivid Buddhism frescoes.

Visitors to the Yungang Grotto can travel to Datong by bus or train, from where they can take two buses to the caves, stopping off at Xin Kai Li, or take a short taxi ride directly to the grotto from downtown Datong. The city has three bus stations and a train station, which together service most major destinations in north-east China. A bus from Beijing takes roughly five hours, while some visitors choose to take the slower trains in order to get the 7-hour night train back to the capital, and so make the journey to the caves into a day trip. Those taking flights to China will come through Beijing, as the capital has the nearest international airport.

Seated Buddha Statuette in a Viking Ship

Oseberg ship was found in a large burial mound in 1904 near Oseberg farm, Vestfold county, Norway. It is believed to be one of the best preserved and most exciting Viking ship finds, even though the burial (dating to 834 AD) was looted as early as in the Middle Ages. The ship’s prow and the roof of the burial chamber were hacked through, skeletal remains of two women were scattered, all precious metal objects stolen. However, Oseberg burial yielded wealth of grave goods that were deemed worthless by the thieves but are indeed priceless for the Viking Age archeology.

One of the most interesting Oseberg discoveries is the so-called Buddha-bøtte or Buddha bucket. It is a pail with two identical figures forming the joints of the pail handle. Both figures represent a man seated in the Lotus position. His head is flat. His face with closed eyes has a peaceful and sunken expression. The man’s breast is ornamented with red and yellow champlevé enamel as well as panels of millefiori. Four swastikas on the enamel decoration have the shape common in the Buddhist tradition, in which this symbol represents auspiciousness and good fortune.

Vikings could in fact meet Buddhist missionaries during their expeditions. Sixth-century Buddha statuette from northern India was found on the island of Helgö, Sweden (currently on display in the Swedish Museum of National Antiquities in Stockholm). However, Oseberg Buddha does not seem to have been imported from Asia. Researchers point to either Ireland or England as possible places of origin. Hexham bucket decoration represents a flat human head with the same type of broad face and the same stress on the eyes. Among other parallels, hanging bowl found at Löland, Norway (Oslo Museum), and the one found in the Maas, Holland (Leiden Museum), could be named. Both have human shaped handles with red and yellow enamel decoration. Perhaps the most striking parralel to Oseberg Buddha are the anthropomorphic escutcheons on the Myklebostad hanging bowl, which have similar elaborate champlevé in red, yellow and green, with panels of millefiori. However, the man is not seated, but standing.

Who is the person represented on the Oseberg bucket, if not Buddha from Asia? Is it a meditating Viking? A Norse god? This remains a mystery.

Photos: Upper right: Oseberg Buddha, courtesy Ancient Goths. Used by permission. Lower left: Myklebostad Buddha, courtesy Mediebruket. Used by permission.

Seated Buddha

Label Text The Pala Kingdom flourished in Bihar and Bengal provinces in northeast India from the eighth to the twelfth centuries. Serving as a great patron of monastic and pilgrimage centers, the Pala Dynasty witnessed the last flourishing of Buddhist religion in India. Due to the travels of pilgrims and monks, Pala art influenced the styles of Tibet and Indonesia as well.

This remarkably simple and elegant Buddha is an excellent example of Pala period Buddhist art. Here, the Buddha is touching the earth, calling upon the earth goddess as witness to his ability to attain enlightenment. The tree above his halo is a branch of the Bodhi tree, under which he reached the final stages of spiritual advancement. His throne is a typical "lion's throne," with two lions and an elephant decorating its base.
Exhibition History MCCM Permanent Collection Reinstallation, September 2004 - April 4, 2021
The Avatars of Vishnu, Michael C. Carlos Museum, April 24 - June 20, 2021
Published References Michael C. Carlos Museum: Highlights of the Collections (Atlanta: Michael C. Carlos Museum, 2011), 119.

Seated Buddha, 200–300

This is an image of the preaching Buddha. He is seated in a full lotus position on a dais or throne, portions of which can be seen in the corners of the statue. Two smaller figures below the throne are shown in a position of reverence.

How do we recognize the Buddha?

As a result of his enlightenment, the historical prince Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddha (the enlightened one), and thereafter acquired various marks (lakshana) that identify him as the Buddha. These markings became formalized over several centuries as sculptors refined the image of the Buddha and adapted that image to local cultures.

One of these marks is the wisdom bump or protuberance on the head. The Buddha&rsquos hair is gathered in a top knot, in keeping with the fashion of the times and similar to the way ascetics (spiritual people who renounce the comforts of material life) gather their hair in India even today. The depiction of the top knot in sculpture became more formalized over time as a bump, and the hair developed into tiny stylized curls. Another mark is the urna, a tuft of hair between the eyebrows. The Buddha&rsquos earlobes are extended in reference to the heavy jewelry he wore previously as a prince. He wears a simple monk&rsquos robe, in keeping with his spiritual purpose, and sits in a lotus position. If his hands were lying flat in his lap, he would be meditating, but in this sculpture his hands are raised in a teaching position. The Buddha is also identified as an exceptional person by the addition of a halo behind his head, which may have derived from a sun disk, and may also refer to the wheel of the Buddhist law, a symbol for the Buddha&rsquos teachings.

Seated Buddha - History

Later Zhao Dynasty, 319–351

Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA

This Buddha bears an inscription on the back that is equivalent to the year 338. This is the earliest date inscribed on any Buddha sculpture from China, anywhere in the world.

The Buddha was completely covered in gold except for the head, which was probably painted dark blue or black. While the sculpture is almost completely intact, there are some elements missing. On the back of the head is a square protrusion with a round hole in the middle. It suggests that something was once attached to the back of the Buddha, most likely an umbrella. On the front there are three holes. These most likely would have supported a pair of guardian lions, one on each side, with a lotus in the center.

Around the year 310, Northern China fell under the control of non-Chinese invaders called the Jie (羯)—Indo-Iranian people who came from Central Asia. The Jie used the spread of Buddhism to establish their right to rule the Chinese population of the area they had conquered.

Fotudeng, a religious advisor to one of the Jie commanders, was among the wave of Buddhist monks who came to China seeking converts. He brought with him a style of Buddhism in which meditation was emphasized, and focused on images of meditating Buddhas such as this one. His style of Buddhism spread throughout China, establishing the foundation for translations of Buddhist sutras and texts that still inform Buddhist practices around the world today.


The story of the Buddha's first sermon begins with the story of the Buddha's enlightenment. This is said to have happened at Bodh Gaya, in the modern Indian state of Bihar,

Before his realization, the future Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, had been traveling with five companions, all ascetics. Together they had sought enlightenment through extreme deprivation and self-mortification -- fasting, sleeping on stones, living outdoors with little clothing -- in the belief that making themselves suffer would cause a spiritual breakthrough.

Siddhartha Gautama eventually realized that enlightenment would be found through mental cultivation, not through punishing his body, When he gave up ascetic practices to prepare himself for meditation, his five companions left him in disgust.

After his awakening, the Buddha remained at Bodh Gaya for a time and considered what to do next. What he had realized was so far outside ordinary human experience or understanding that he wondered how he could explain it. According to one legend, the Buddha did describe his realization to a wandering holy man, but the man laughed at him and walked away.

Yet as great as the challenge was, the Buddha was too compassionate to keep what he had realized to himself. He decided that there was a way he could teach people to realize for themselves what he had realized. And he decided to seek out his five companions and offer to teach them. He found them at a deer park in Isipatana, which is now called Sarnath, near Benares, This was said to be on a full moon day of the eighth lunar month, which usually falls in July.

This sets the scene for one of the most auspicious events in Buddhist history, the first turning of the dharma wheel.


The construction was started by a Chinese cleric named Hai Tong in 713 with a hope that the Buddha would pacify the stormy waters of the river which troubled the shipping vessels. When the government funding was in jeopardy, he made a mark by scooping out his own eyes to show his veneration and dedication.

After his demise, the construction was halted for a long time and ultimately the project was funded by a jiedushi, and it was completed by Hai Tong’s disciples in 803. The monk’s idea was not supernatural as such a large amount of rubble poured into the river as a result of the construction that the currents indeed altered and calm down the waters to make safe passages for the shipping vessels.

Another interesting artistry is the numerous drainage systems that were laid in the body of the statue to prevent rainwater from clogging, thus safeguarding the statue from erosion and weathering. Concurrently, a thirteen story wooden structure was erected to protect it from the rain and sunshine, but it was dismantled by the Mongols during the wars.

Leshan Giant Buddha Face Side View Leshan Giant Buddha Foot Leshan Giant Buddha Front Face
Leshan Giant Buddha Hands Leshan Giant Buddha Head Leshan Giant Buddha Images
Leshan Giant Buddha Pictures Leshan Giant Buddha Top View Leshan Giant Buddha

Monday, October 24, 2011

41. Seated Buddha (Pakistan, AD 100-300)

MacGregor uses the next five objects to explore five major religions. He starts here in Gandhara, northern Pakistan, with a Buddha—a familiar, iconic image, post-enlightenment (or ‘awakening,’ as they insist it should be translated), with his earlobes stretched out by the heavy jewels he used to wear when he was a prince, with a big halo behind his head, and with his fingers in a “dharma chakra” pose of passing along the wheel of law. This very familiar image was actually new at the time, about 500-600 years into the life of the religion prior to this period, no one ever depicted the Buddha in anthropomorphic form, they imaged the tree under which he sat for 49 days when he achieved enlightenment, or they imaged his footsteps. which are apparently still a sacred object of veneration among Buddhists, I didn’t know that.

The irony, of course, is that the highest value in the religion is nothing—doing nothing, needing nothing, becoming no thing. Yet the religion spread, and achieved power and world-permanence (domination is really an inappropriate word to use here) by all the conventional means: images like this one, giving human form and flesh to what seeks to transcend human form and flesh, and of course the luxury trade routes along which the religion first spread. It started farther south, in India, and came up here to Pakistan (then part of India) where the artists were really big on making these icons. MacGregor doesn’t talk about the big Buddhas recently destroyed by the Taliban. But he does include a good 15 seconds of silence, in his podcast—any more and I’m sure the producer of his radio show would have a heart-attack, since silence is death on radio or TV—in honor of the nothingness, the stillness, the peace that’s at the heart of Buddhism.

I’m pleased to say that it’s a peace that I find more and more fulfilling, the older I get.

Watch the video: Yoga - Gentle, seated warm-up Flow - Shake Your Buddha (May 2022).