Buddhism reached China in the 1st century AD via the Silk Road and by sea and in just a few centuries it became one of the three most important religions in the country, alongside Daoism and Confucianism (both traditional Chinese beliefs).
Highlights in this section of the collection include a beautifully carved polychrome wooden sculpture of the Bodhisattva.
The Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva or Guanyin in Chinese, is a bodhisattva who embodies compassion. Translated as “Observing the Sounds of the World,” Guanyin describes those with the ability to hear pleas for help and have mercy on those in need. Guanyin is one of the most popular and enduring subjects represented in Chinese works of art.
Seated in vajrasana (lotus posture) with the head slightly tilted to one side and the eyes downcast with a subdued yet gentle smile this figure exudes a calm and peaceful serenity.
This exquisitely carved image, unadorned and seated in meditation, reverts back to the Tang Dynasty where very similar figures are found. The condition of this piece is very good for an object of this classic period.
An early marble sculpture, illustrated above, represents the simple image of a monk holding a “Mala”, a Buddhist rosary composed of 84 beads. Early marble sculptures often have some damage as they are usually found buried beneath the surface of the earth, sometimes in graves, to avoid destruction as a result of invasion or a change in religion by the ruling party or Emperor.
Above right is a large image of a Luohan, a Chinese word used to describe those who have completed the four stages of Enlightenment and reached the state of Nirvana. The features of this sculpture are superbly defined, and the face wears a noble, wise and peaceful expression.
Mossgreen specialists discovered a rare Ming Dynasty banknote hidden within the cavity of this sculpture.
The banknote was found crumpled inside the head of the sculpture in what Specialist Ray Trevaskis describes as ‘a thrilling moment.’
And, ‘While it was not unusual for consecration items such as semi-precious stones or scrolls to be left within the base or on the back of a sculpture, the discovery of this rare Ming Dynasty banknote is an exciting one and importantly, it verifies the date of the sculpture.’