Buddhist stele of Huang Xingji - ROM2006_7133_1


Buddhist stele of Huang Xingji

Medium:Carved marble
Geography: China
Date: c. 678 AD
Period: Tang Dynasty
49 x 36.8 x 8 cm
Object number: 952.204
Credit Line: Gift of Louise Hawley Stone
On view
Gallery Location:Matthews Family Court of Chinese Sculpture
Description"In the third year of Yifeng (AD 678), the third month, twenty first day, the devotee, of the 8th rank, receiver of guests for the imperial household, Huang Xingji, respectfully commissioned one stone Buddhist shrine, including One Fo, two pusa [bodhisattvas], two luohan, two lions, and the implements and images for worship for the sakes of: the divine emperor and empress, the ancestors of seven generations, his parents, the inner and outer [his patri- and matrilineal] relatives, and all living things in the law world [world of the Buddhist law or doctrine], that all might equally share the besssing." Thus did Huang Xingji, a minor official of the Tang court of Gaozong (emperor from AD 649 to 683) and the Empress Wu, have this stele inscribed. Properly citing first the ruling couple and last 'all living things,' he aimed through this act of merit to ensure blessings for himself and his family. The commission is engraved on the back of the base of the monument in finest Tang style. The front shows a typical Mahayana pentad - that is, the Buddha flanked symmetrically by arhats and bodhisattvas. In relief within a shallow niche under an ogee arch, the Buddha Shakyamuni is seated on a lotus, his right hand in the abhaya 'do not fear' mudra. To his right should be the disciple Ananda, 'the young monk'; to his left is the older Kashyapa. The brow wrinkles on both monkish figures are proper only to the latter, for they are one of the conventions for showing age. Ananda's wrinkles in this instance are the result of faulty guesswork on the part of a restorer: an old photo shows that Ananda's face was at one time broken. Outermost are a pair of swaying bodhisattvas, the archangelic intermediaries of Northern Buddhism: Mahasthamaprapta on the Buddha's right, Avalokitesvara with an amrta flask of holy water on his left. The four side figures stand on lotus flowers growing out of the main stem. The space below the Buddha's lotus seat is occupied by a pair of small lions in profile, forepaws extended. Round and leaf-shaped haloes provide a lacy richness against the plain background of the niche. The stele is roughly contemporary with the dedication of the great cave-temple at Longmen. Both were created not long after the famous pilgrim Xuanzang returned to Chang'an from India with sutras (scripture) and images including, perhaps, clearer renderings of the classic Indian Gupta style. On the base of the stele is a wholly Chinese delight: twelve kneeling worshippers bearing lotus buds and disposed on eight mats to either side of an ornate incense burner. The top and upper back of the stele are plain, but the sides are adorned with engraved Tang floral patterns and scrollwork.
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