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Statue of a Bodhisattva in Upright Position (Samantamukha Avalokitesvara)
AD 691
Material and technique
grey stone
155 x 53 x 32 cm
Augusta Monferini
There is severe damage to the bottom of the statue, which has been partially reconstructed, and to the face, half of which is missing. The Bodhisattva is portrayed upright, standing on a lotus flower. The statue bears an inscription dating it AD 691, at the beginning of the Tang Dynasty.
The panel, in the shape of a pointed arch, against which the figure rests is decorated with a bas-relief of the nimbus and flames surrounding the Bodhisattva. Around his forehead are ten miniatures of the Bodhisattva’s head, alternating with buds of lotus flowers. The larger head above them is that of the Buddha Amitabha. The Bodhisattva holds a flask of amrta (ambrosia) in his hand, a typical attribute of the Bodhisattva Guanyin.  The figure is missing the right hand, which probably held a lotus flower.
When the duke Li Yuan founded the Tang Dynasty in AD 618, China entered one of the most fortunate periods in its history. Although China and Chinese society first acquired a unitary structure under the Han, it was during the Tang Dynasty that the country finally achieved strong political stability and all the provinces were brought within a single empire.  In the new climate, new tastes and new forms of art developed, which later became the models of reference for later eras. 
The new century saw a great artistic flowering, spurred by the growing popularity of Buddhism, which established a tight link between State and people. Tang sculpture attained a high level of quality during the first hundred years. The interest in Buddhism also led to an attraction for the land where the cult of the Buddha originated. Monks and pilgrims crossed Asia to reach India, returning with sacred texts, sculptures and images that paved the way for the introduction of central Asian influences. A new language developed, a sort of exotic naturalism that achieved its greatest expression in the sculpture of Shansi province.      
Statue of a Bodhisattva in Upright Position (Samantamukha Avalokitesvara)
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