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Vajradhara

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Period: 1794, Qianlong reign (1736–1795), Qing dynasty (1644–1911)
Medium: Copper, partial gilding
Artist(s): Qing imperial workshop

Dimensions: Height: 79 cm; base diameter: 48 cm

Vajradhara, variously translated into Chinese as Dachi Jingang, Chi Jingang or Jingang Chi, is worshiped as the most sacred Adi-Buddha in Esoteric Buddhism. Esoteric Buddhism regards Adi-Buddha as the origin of all beings, including other buddhas. Various esoteric sects worship different Adi-Buddhas; Vajradhara is worshipped by the Gelug school.

This Vajradhara is wearing a five-leaf crown. The figure makes the vajrahumkara mudra (i.e., a symbolic hand gesture) with his hands while holding a bell and vajra crossed before his bare chest. He sits cross-legged on a gilded lotus throne. The front of the throne’s lower edge bears an inscription in imitation-Song script reading “Reverently made in the jiayin year (1749) of the Qianlong reign of the Great Qing Dynasty”.

The statue is made of a special alloy called zijin (lit. “violet gold”), whose formula was introduced from Nepal into Tibet. During the Qianlong reign (1736–1795), Tibetan zijin statues were acquired by the court and attracted the interest of the emperor, who ordered artisans in the palace workshops to imitate them. After studying the formula for a number of years, the workshops were eventually able to produce works in line with the emperor’s aesthetic standards. This Vajradhara statue, large and exquisitely crafted, retains a lovely luster typical of zijin on its surface and stands out among Buddhist statues created by the workshops. It not only testifies to the reverence of the Qing court for the Gelug sect but also demonstrates the technical advancement of Buddhist statue-making in the court.

Website version edited by Adam J. Ensign and Zhuang Ying

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