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Buddha dated 338
Place of Origin: China, Hebei province
Date: 338
Historical Period: Later Zhao kingdom (319-351)
Materials: Gilded bronze
Dimensions: H. 15 3/4 in x W. 9 1/2 in x D. 5 1/4 in, H. 40 cm x W. 24.1 cm x D. 13.3 cm
Credit Line: The Avery Brundage Collection
Department: Chinese Art
Collection: Sculpture
Object Number: B60B1034
On Display: Yes
Location: Gallery 16

Description

Label:


北朝後趙338 銅鍍金  坐佛像


A Very Early Buddha
This sculpture is the earliest known, dated Buddha object produced in China, with an inscription on its base mentioning the year 338. This date, which is five hundred years after Buddhism was transmitted from India to China in roughly the second century bce, makes it an important milestone in the development of Buddhist art in China. This Buddha is among the largest bronze sculptures to have survived from this period.

The style of this Buddha was influenced by Buddhist sculptures from the ancient region of Gandhara, which included parts of modern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and northwestern India. The figure’s arrangement, with legs crossed beneath an evenly draping robe and set asymmetrically on a rectangular pedestal, is modeled after Indian sculptures brought to China via the Silk Road. However, this Buddha’s overlapping, inward-facing palms are adopted from a formal Chinese gesture of reverence.


More Information

Exhibition History: "Chinese Treasures from the Avery Brundage Collection", Asia House Gallery (New York) 1/18/1968-3/3/1968, Detroit Institute of Arts 3/26/1968-5/7/1968, The Art Institute of Chicago 6/5/1968-7/7/1968, Honolulu Academy of Arts 8/1/1968-9/15/1968, Seattle Art Museum 10/15/1968-11/24/1968, Portland Art Museum 12/5/1968-12/27/1968, M. H. De Young Memorial Museum 1/15/1969-2/16/1969

"Chinese Treasures from The Avery Brundage Collection", Osaka Municipal Museum of Fine Arts (4/5/1970-5/17/1970), Seibu Department Store, Shibuya branch, Tokyo (5/23/1970-6/10/1970), Fukuoka Prefecture Cultural Center (6/20/1970-7/5/1970), Takaoka Municipal Museum (7/12/1970-8/2/1970)
Additional Label:

The Late Zhao State
The fragmentary inscription on the back of the base attributes this sculpture to the Late Zhao, a small state founded by the Jie, a non–Han Chinese people from Central Asia who controlled China’s Central Plain during the fourth century. The state’s rulers regarded the Indian monk Fotudeng as their principal religious counsel and military adviser in the campaigns they undertook to extend their territory and authority.

Fotudeng had settled in the Central Plain in 310, preaching the Buddhist faith and seeking converts. He inspired Shi Hu, the third king of the Late Zhao, which may have prompted the ruler to commission this dignified statue. In 338, Shi Hu captured more than forty cities in the Central Plain. This Buddha was produced the same year, likely because the king believed it was a miraculous and venerated image, and worshiped it for blessings of victory.

Gilding Technique
Since gold was scarce and expensive in ancient China, it was often imitated with bronze thinly coated in gold, which also gave the metal greater resistance to tarnishing. This Buddha was cast to create a lustrous appearance using that particular strategy—gilded bronze. During the fourth century this highly costly technique was often used for small luxurious icons. The entire gilding over this large Buddha, much of which has been preserved, made the sculpture one of the most accomplished of that time.

The Chinese use of gold on bronze goes back more than two thousand years and was applied using a technique known as “mercury gilding.” The bronze is coated with a thick, melted liquid made primarily of mercury and gold, then heated by charcoal fire. The gilding is achieved by burnishing the liquid atop the surface so that it adheres without allowing air to permeate. Double-gilded pieces are more expensive than partial-gilt or plain metalware.


Label:


北朝後趙338 銅鍍金  坐佛像


A Very Early Buddha
This sculpture is the earliest known, dated Buddha object produced in China, with an inscription on its base mentioning the year 338. This date, which is five hundred years after Buddhism was transmitted from India to China in roughly the second century bce, makes it an important milestone in the development of Buddhist art in China. This Buddha is among the largest bronze sculptures to have survived from this period.

The style of this Buddha was influenced by Buddhist sculptures from the ancient region of Gandhara, which included parts of modern Pakistan, Afghanistan, and northwestern India. The figure’s arrangement, with legs crossed beneath an evenly draping robe and set asymmetrically on a rectangular pedestal, is modeled after Indian sculptures brought to China via the Silk Road. However, this Buddha’s overlapping, inward-facing palms are adopted from a formal Chinese gesture of reverence.


Exhibition History: "Chinese Treasures from the Avery Brundage Collection", Asia House Gallery (New York) 1/18/1968-3/3/1968, Detroit Institute of Arts 3/26/1968-5/7/1968, The Art Institute of Chicago 6/5/1968-7/7/1968, Honolulu Academy of Arts 8/1/1968-9/15/1968, Seattle Art Museum 10/15/1968-11/24/1968, Portland Art Museum 12/5/1968-12/27/1968, M. H. De Young Memorial Museum 1/15/1969-2/16/1969

"Chinese Treasures from The Avery Brundage Collection", Osaka Municipal Museum of Fine Arts (4/5/1970-5/17/1970), Seibu Department Store, Shibuya branch, Tokyo (5/23/1970-6/10/1970), Fukuoka Prefecture Cultural Center (6/20/1970-7/5/1970), Takaoka Municipal Museum (7/12/1970-8/2/1970)
Expanded Label:

The Late Zhao State
The fragmentary inscription on the back of the base attributes this sculpture to the Late Zhao, a small state founded by the Jie, a non–Han Chinese people from Central Asia who controlled China’s Central Plain during the fourth century. The state’s rulers regarded the Indian monk Fotudeng as their principal religious counsel and military adviser in the campaigns they undertook to extend their territory and authority.

Fotudeng had settled in the Central Plain in 310, preaching the Buddhist faith and seeking converts. He inspired Shi Hu, the third king of the Late Zhao, which may have prompted the ruler to commission this dignified statue. In 338, Shi Hu captured more than forty cities in the Central Plain. This Buddha was produced the same year, likely because the king believed it was a miraculous and venerated image, and worshiped it for blessings of victory.

Gilding Technique
Since gold was scarce and expensive in ancient China, it was often imitated with bronze thinly coated in gold, which also gave the metal greater resistance to tarnishing. This Buddha was cast to create a lustrous appearance using that particular strategy—gilded bronze. During the fourth century this highly costly technique was often used for small luxurious icons. The entire gilding over this large Buddha, much of which has been preserved, made the sculpture one of the most accomplished of that time.

The Chinese use of gold on bronze goes back more than two thousand years and was applied using a technique known as “mercury gilding.” The bronze is coated with a thick, melted liquid made primarily of mercury and gold, then heated by charcoal fire. The gilding is achieved by burnishing the liquid atop the surface so that it adheres without allowing air to permeate. Double-gilded pieces are more expensive than partial-gilt or plain metalware.


Resources:

Video: 338 Buddha (Part 1 of 2): http://youtu.be/JwFCUig2Lgs
Video: 338 Buddha (Part 2 of 2): http://youtu.be/Vu5he7UJHh0

Michael Knight discusses the oldest known dated Buddhist sculpture, which is in the Asian Art Museum's collection. A lecture presented by the Society for Asian Art on April 24, 2015.