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Contemplative Bodhisattva

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Period: Northern Qi dynasty (550-577)
Medium: white marble
Date: 551
Dimensions: height: 60 cm

The Bodhisattva wears a three-leaf coronet. The coronet ribbons fall down on his shoulders. The figure’s face is round. This shape is contrasted with Buddhist sculptures produced before the Eastern Wei dynasty (534-550) that predominantly featured oblong faces. The carved lines of the draperies on his skirt are smooth and simple, giving the statue an austere and life-like look. The plain surface of the rectangular base reveals period features of the earlier Yuanxiang and Xinghe reigns (538-542). The back bears an inscribed votive text, reading, “On the twenty fifth day of the fourth lunar month, the second year of the Tianbao reign (551), Yue Miaoxiang from Lunu County respectfully commissioned this white jade sculpture for the king, the Prince of Ruhai (a character was incorrectly carved and should read ‘Bohai’), my late husband, decesead men and women, my living family members, and myself, hoping all will be free of hardship and adversity and receive happiness, and hoping all beings in the Dharma realm will achieve Buddhahood.”
  It is believed that the Chinese characters for “Ruhai” in the votive text should read “Bohai”. According to the history book of the Northern Qi dynasty, in 532 (the second year of the Putai reign, Northern Wei dynasty), the powerful minister Gao Huan dethroned the reigning emperor Jie Min and chose Yuan Xiu to succeed the throne as the Xiaowu Emperor. After enthronement, the Xiaowu Emperor designated Gao Huan as Prince of Bohai (Bohai is the origin of the Gao clan, in present-day Hebei Province) before their mutual trust was broken. After decades of wielding power, Gao Huan as the Prince of Bohai or the Grand Councelor-in-chief established his authoritative image not only in the imperial families but also among the common people. Immediately after his death, his son Gao Yang founded the Northern Qi dynasty (550-577) in 550 and conferred him the posthumous title of the “Shenwu Emperor”. Consequently, sculptures excavated in Dingzhou, Heibei Province bear votive texts that praise Gao Huan. His influence in Dingzhou was considerable. The votive text carved on this sculpture is dated to the Northern Qi, yet Gao Huan is still addressed as the “Prince of Bohai” instead of the “Shenwu Emperor”. This archaic feature is considered a remaining convention from the Eastern Wei period.

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