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HOME : Chinese Art : Archive : Ming Bronze Sculpture of the Buddha Seated in the Dhyanasana Position
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Ming Bronze Sculpture of the Buddha Seated in the Dhyanasana Position - H.015 B
Origin: China
Circa: 1368 AD to 1644 AD
Dimensions: 16" (40.6cm) high x 9" (22.9cm) wide
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Bronze

Additional Information: sold

Location: UAE
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Upon leading a victorious rebellion against the foreign Mongul rulers of the Yuan Dynasty, a peasant named Zhu Yuanzhang seized control of China and founded the Ming Dynasty in 1368. As emperor, he founded his capital at Nanjing and adopted the name Hongwu as his reign title. Hongwu, literally meaning “vast military,” reflects the increased prestige of the army during the Ming Dynasty. Due to the very realistic threat still posed by the Mongols, Hongwu realized that a strong military was essential to Chinese prosperity. Thus, the orthodox Confucian view that the military was an inferior class to be ruled over by an elite class of scholars was reconsidered. During the Ming Dynasty, China proper was reunited after centuries of foreign incursion and occupation. Ming troops controlled Manchuria, and the Korean Joseon Dynasty respected the authority of the Ming rulers, at least nominally.

Like the founders of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.- 220 A.D.), Hongwu was extremely suspicious of the educated courtiers that advised him and, fearful that they might attempt to overthrow him, he successfully consolidated control of all aspect of government. The strict authoritarian control Hongwu wielded over the affairs of the country was due in part to the centralized system of government he inherited from the Monguls and largely kept intact. However, Hongwu replaced the Mongul bureaucrats who had ruled the country for nearly a century with native Chinese administrators. He also reinstituted the Confucian examination system that tested would-be civic officials on their knowledge of literature and philosophy. Unlike the Song Dynasty (960-1279 A.D.), which received most of its taxes from mercantile commerce, the Ming economy was based primarily on agriculture, reflecting both the peasant roots of its founder as well as the Confucian belief that trade was ignoble and parasitic.

Culturally, the greatest innovation of the Ming Dynasty was the introduction of the novel. Developed from the folk tales of traditional storytellers, these works were transcribed in the everyday vernacular language of the people. Advances in printmaking and the increasing population of urban dwellers largely contributed to the success of these books. Architecturally, the most famous monument of the Ming Dynasty is surely the complex of temples and palaces known as the Forbidden City that was constructed in Beijing after the third ruler of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Yongle, moved the capital there. Today, the Forbidden Palace remains one of the hallmarks of traditional Chinese architecture and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the vast nation.

This gorgeous bronze sculpture depicts the Buddha seated in the dhyanasana position (also called the padmasana position), the posture of meditation better known in the West as the lotus position upon a double lotus throne. With his right hand, he forms the bhumisparsa mudra, literally translated as the “gesture of touching the earth” in which the Buddha, when seated underneath the Bodhi tree, touches the ground in order to call on the earth to witness his enlightenment. This gesture is considered a symbol of unshakable faith and resolution. His other hand rests upon his leg, holding a small begging bowl. All Buddhist monks must possess a begging bowl in which they collect food offerings. They became a symbol of law, and therefore the Buddha himself. The origins of begging bowls are Indian, and they appear in Buddhist art as early as the Gandhara era.

During the Ming Dynasty, representations the Buddha displaying Tibetan influences were cast in bronze, such as this gorgeous example. A thick robe of many folds drapes over his left shoulder and swoops around the neck with graduated layered edges hanging over his right shoulder. His facial features are well modeled with a serene, content expression. His pendulous earlobes droop down, resulting from the heavy earring he used to wear during his royal youth. The Buddha's tightly curled coiffure is crowned by an ushnisa, or bump, which symbolizes his divine intellect. The creation of Buddha images, both large and small, highlights the devotional intent of Buddhist art. The pious hoped to gain merit in the next world by making and offering images of the Buddha. The images themselves were also didactic, conveying aspects of doctrine and belief. - (H.015 B)


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