A Chinese veined marble head of a Bodhisattva, Northern Qi Dynasty, 550-577 AD

the head finely carved with small, delicate featurescharacterized by a serene yet remote expression that is typical of Northern Qi Dynasty religious images.   The eyebrows arch above half-open eyelids that are carved in easy flowing lines; the eyes cast down as if in deep contemplation; the nose is narrow and the lips, pursed in a gentle serene smile, are full and fleshy while the elongated earlobes represent Buddha’s divine status.  The hair is drawn up behind a crown that is carved with stylized clouds.  

Such stylistic traits portray Buddha as a worldly and sensuous being who, at this stage, remains conscious of the human world.

Background:  Following its introduction from India centuries earlier, Buddhism flourished in China under the powerfully cosmopolitan Qi dynasty.  Buddhist shrines were built under the Emperor's personal auspices. Eminent monks were invited to serve as “teachers of the state”. Under imperial orders, all the queens and imperial concubines became lay Buddhists. The entire country’s resources were pooled to build grottoes for Buddha worshipping on Mt. Xiangtang in what is now Handan, Hebei, and Mt. Tianlong in what is now Taiyuan, Shanxi. As some historical records put it, statues there are “magnificent enough to stun not only human beings but also beings in the nether world.”  They combine artistic simplicity and painstaking attention to details, in fact largely modeled after real persons in scale and, therefore, they look natural enough to bring back to life those upper class men and women who lived at the time. 

Condition:  The head originally from a larger statue, intact and well preserved, the lips preserve their original carmine red, with good traces of pigment to the crown and back of the head.  A beautiful example in excellent condition overall.  Custom mounted.

Dimensions:  Height: 12 inches (30.48 cm), Mounted Height: 18.5 inches (46.99 cm)

Provenance:  Private NC collection, acquired from the NY art market in the early 1990's.


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