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Gold Bodhisattva with Inlaid Eastern Pearls

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Period: Qianlong Period of Qing Dynasty
Medium: Eastern pearl; gold
Dimensions: overall height: 49.5 cm; width 32 cm
This standing Bodhisattva faces forward in a noble composure. With a straight nose and thin eyebrows, the figure has slightly opened eyes and smooth cheeks. A lotus crown embellished with a central pagoda (baota, lit. "treasure tower") graces his head. His upper body and slim waist are bare, and his lower body is covered in a long skirt-like garment. He stands barefoot upon a pedestal with a lotus petal pattern (lianban wen). In addition to the crown, he is adorned with pearl-inlaid necklaces—one of which reaches to below his navel. A long scarf-like ribbon rests around his shoulders and drapes elegantly to the pedestal below. He raises his right hand to his chest and displays the mudra of teaching (a ritual gesture called dharmachakra, Chinese shuofa yin). He slightly bends his left arm with the elbow facing outward and the palm of his left hand facing downward. Both arms are ornamented with bracelets and armlets; anklets and ornamental bands decorate his feet. The Bodhisattva is flanked on either side by an elaborate, winding plant, which has a thick stem and luscious leaves. The top of each plant is in bloom with a large, ornate lotus flower; meanwhile, the Wheel of the Dharma (lun) and a vase emerge from the flowers. These ornate floral designs in openwork serve as the figure“s mandorla (beiguang, large full-body halo).

Reflecting light in a dazzling effect, the statue was delicately cast from gold. The work contains a total of 182 Eastern pearls that add to the impressive presentation. During the Qianlong reign (1736-1795), a large quantity of statues  was produced in promotion of Tibetan Buddhism; this statue is a prominent example of the dynasty“s religious art. Establishing a unique style for Buddhist art, the Qing court (1644-1911) often elaborately ornamented Bodhisattvas and other Buddhist art with pearls and various objects. Eastern pearls (dongzhu) are found in the Songhua River of the Northeast, which is also the homeland of the Manchu people (manzu). These pearls are considered auspicious and were exclusively reserved for use by the imperial family.

Keywords:
Eastern pearl (dongzhu), Bodhisattva (pusa), lotus petal pattern (lianban wen), necklace (yingluo), inlay (xiangqian), mudra of teaching (shuofa yin), mandorla (beiguang), Tibetan Buddhism (zangchuan fojiao), votive statue (zaoxiang), Songhua River (songhua), Manchu (manzu

Translated by Adam J. Ensign
Edited by Zhuang Ying

 
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