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Jasper Carving of a Buddha Seated in a Mountain Cave

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Period: Qing dynasty (1644-1911)
Dimensions: Height: 16.6 cm, width: 12.7 cm, depth: 6.7 cm

This Buddhist statue is carved from a piece of jasper (considered a type of jade, or yu, in Chinese). The figure meditates serenely in a mountain cave as he sits in the commonly seen lotus position in which both legs are crossed and each foot rests upon the opposite thigh. Pine trees, wisteria, and lingzhi mushrooms (ganoderma) grow luxuriantly outside the cave, while mountain streams cascade down the cliffs. Creating an isolating and serene ambience, the dark green of the jasper harmonizes with the Buddhist theme. 

  Buddhism has been a regular theme throughout the long history of traditional Chinese art. Sculpture has been the primary medium for Buddhist artistic expression. Although Tibetan-style Buddhist sculptures dominate the Qing court“s religious collection, they are rarely seen in jade carvings. Sculptors working with jade typically fashioned their Buddhist statues with Han Chinese features. Their subjects usually consisted of Han Chinese renderings of revered Buddhist figures such as Tathagata (Chinese Rulai), Bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara, and Maitreya. The sculptors producing these elegant works of jade were usually part of the Qing Imperial Workshop. 

  The Qing emperors were adherents of Buddhism, and their palaces are replete with Buddhist sanctuaries and other places of worship. Consequently, Buddhist images and sculptures are found throughout the imperial courtyards. The emperors themselves even wore small Buddhist figurines  as venerated accessories.

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