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March 14, 2010

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Metal sculpture shows Buddhism influence

ACCORDING to history researchers, Buddhism was established in China as early as the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). With the prosperous business and transport development along the Silk Road, its influence reached a peak strength in the Sui (AD 581-618) and Tang (AD 618-907) dynasties.

A copper sculpture of three Buddhas made in the Sui Dynasty displayed in the Shanghai Museum is a brilliant work of metal handwork and a vivid demonstration of the influential religion.

The sculpture was built on a square base with four legs.

The tallest point is a Buddha preaching while siting on a lotus base. Flames and lotus are delicately carved as open-work at the back of the Buddha, highlighting the flowing curves of the sculpture.

There are two holes on the metal base at each side of the Buddha, indicating that there should have been two additional sculptures of disciples.

Two Bodhisattvas standing with bare feet at each side of the Buddha hold sacred pearls and flowers.

They are gracefully dressed with shawls around their shoulders and half-naked bodies, wearing crowns and with facial expressions of tranquility and peace.

The other two smaller sculptures at the front are of people making offerings to the Buddha. The woman offeree holds her items in both hands and looks somber. The man holds his palms together in front of his chest, a typical Buddhism salute to show respect, with a modest and pious look on his face.

Two small lions sit in front of the pair as custodians, their mouths open and tongues out.

Though the figures on the base are small, they are carefully arranged to give good visual balance.

All the facial expressions on the sculptures are vivid and harmonious, reflecting the peaceful spirits of Buddhism. The delicate and complicated craftsmanship makes this piece one of the most outstanding copper sculptures from the Sui Dynasty and the ancient history of China.


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