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This bodhisattva figure represents Maitreya—a future Buddha and successor to Shakyamuni Buddha. The figure wears a tri-leaf coronet that is fastened by a ribbon. Covering his inner garment, a shawl wraps around his shoulders and drapes to the throne. Adorned with necklaces, he sits with his legs crossed at the ankles and holds a religious apparatus ressembling a lotus bud in the right hand. His left hand assumes the varada mudra—a hand gesture expressing charity and wish-fulfillment. Two indras (Dharma guardians) support his feet. A votive text is carved on the plain rectangular base and records that Zhang Shuangwo commissioned this sculpture for her late husband Yang Zao on the first day of the fifth lunar month in the second year of the Tianbao reign (551).
Maitreya is one of the major deities featured in Buddhist sculpture. This style—with Maitreya crossing his legs at the ankles—is primarily found at massive Buddhist grottoes, such as the Mogao Caves at Dunhuang, the Yungang Grottoes in Datong, and the Longmen Grottoes in Luoyang. Most of them are dated to the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534). However, at Dingzhou, Hebei Province, very few of the Maitreya sculptures are dated to that earlier period. It is not until the Northern Qi (550-577) that Maitreya became one of the major subjects in Buddhist scupture. This work reflects the local characteristics of the Maitreya cult. The sculpture was excavated at the Xiude Monastery, Quyang County, Hebei Province.