The Posture of Lalitāsana: Buddhist Posing Hierarchy in a Tang-Dynasty Chinese Bronze Sculpture
2. Identity and Style
4. Attendant or Principal Figure
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No inscription confirms this dating, nor are there any records linking Tianlong Shan to imperial sponsorship, but a prominent patron seems likely because these sculptures are so exquisite, suggesting an affluent taste. Imperial patronage is suggested, as the Empress Wu’s father was a military governor during this period, when Taiyuan became the de facto northern capital under the empress.
Tianlong Shan buddhas and bodhisattvas are clad in sheer, clinging garments that reveal soft, relaxed bodies. The vivid naturalism, human-like attitudes, and tranquil, dream-like moods of these deities evoke the atmosphere of the court, rather than that of a divine assembly. See (Howard 2006, p. 309).
Unlike buddhas, who wear the robes of monks, bodhisattvas are arrayed like kings. Not only do they wear royal garments, but they are always adorned with jewelry; a crown, diadem, or other headdress; and elegantly styled coiffures. The embellishing garments display the spiritual perfections of a bodhisattva and demonstrate the resourcefulness that a bodhisattva commands in order to liberate sentient beings. The luxurious attire of a bodhisattva suggests that the bodhisattva engages wholly in worldly affairs, but does so out of compassion and, therefore, without any loss of purity or equanimity. See (Huntington and Huntington 1990, chp. 2).
The bodily proportions of divinities are often rendered according to idealized schemes, and their bodies may display auspicious or aesthetically preferred features, in addition to the significance of the posture adopted in the sculpture.
The small amount of S-curve sway is more appropriate to the Chinese tradition and a good reflection of the painting context of Zhou Fang周昉.
Seated lotus postures are the postures most frequently employed for the images of the Great Buddhas. They have many variants, such as Vājraparyānka, Kichijō-za-zō, Sattvaparyanka, and Padmāsana. Virasana (posture of the hero) or Vajrasana (diamond posture), or even Ardhapadmāsana (half-lotus posture) are Padmāsanas with a single foot showing. The single foot showing lotus postures are very prevalent in Northern Wei Buddhist sculptures. For more information on this topic, please see (Frédéric 1995, p. 55).
In Gandhara art, in particular, the feet may be placed on a small stool, thus raising the knees. This is found very early in the Gandhara and in India (Buddha of Sarnath, Gupta period, fourth and fifth centuries AD), and in South-east Asia (Chandi Mendut, near Borobudur, Java, eighth century AD), as well as in many statues and paintings in Tibet, China, Korea, and Japan (where it is a typical posture of Maitreya).
While the central figures of Chinese Buddhist triads were usually Buddhas, bodhisattva were sometimes elevated to this position.
The personages of Seishi Kannon (Mahasthamaprapta) and Sho Kannon (Aryavalokitesvara), in particular, are sometimes represented in kneeling postures when they are considered subsidiary to another deity. See (Frédéric 1995, p. 53).
In Sekai bijutsu daizenshū, the MOA bronze was considered to be an attendant bodhisattva, set to the Buddha’s right hand. See (Donohashi 1997, p. 387).
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Huang, B. The Posture of Lalitāsana: Buddhist Posing Hierarchy in a Tang-Dynasty Chinese Bronze Sculpture. Religions 2022, 13, 740. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080740
Huang B. The Posture of Lalitāsana: Buddhist Posing Hierarchy in a Tang-Dynasty Chinese Bronze Sculpture. Religions. 2022; 13(8):740. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080740Chicago/Turabian Style
Huang, Bing. 2022. "The Posture of Lalitāsana: Buddhist Posing Hierarchy in a Tang-Dynasty Chinese Bronze Sculpture" Religions 13, no. 8: 740. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13080740