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92 Items in this Learning Collection

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A Votive plaque depicting the Buddha Amitâbha (Chinese, Amitofou) preaching in his Western Paradise

Accession Number
1964/2.18

Title
A Votive plaque depicting the Buddha Amitâbha (Chinese, Amitofou) preaching in his Western Paradise

Artist(s)
Chinese

Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
618-907

Medium & Support
terracotta, molded

Dimensions
2 3/8 in. x 1 3/8 in. ( 6 cm x 3.5 cm )

Credit Line
Gift of Mrs. Caroline I. Plumer for the James Marshall Plumer Collection

Label copy
The figures represented in these miniature clay reliefs are all objects of veneration in Mayâyâna Buddhism, the most influential school of Buddhism in Tang China. Small votive plaques such as these would be purchased by pilgrims as souvenirs of a journey to a famous monastery or sacred site; or, conversely, a pilgrim would deposit votive images at selected destinations en route. In either case, the goal was the same: to prolong the contact with the sacred, and thereby to sustain the religious merit gained through the pilgrimage experience.
A seated Buddha is shown in the teaching gesture of “turning the wheel of the law” (in Sanskrit, the dharma-cakra mudrâ). His throne is elevated above a lotus pond on a single lotus stem, suggesting that this is probably meant to be a depiction of Amitâbha, the “Buddha of Infinite Light” who presided over the Western Paradise. The Lotus Sûtra promises that all those who call upon Amitâbha’s mercy can be reborn in his Pure Land. Representations of Amitâbha’s “Pure Land” typically feature a large pond, filled with lotus blossoms in various stages of bloom—each one representing a reborn soul.

Maribeth Graybill, Senior Curator of Asian Art
Exhibited in "Flora and Fauna in Chinese Art," April 6, 2002 - December 1, 2002.

Subject matter
Amitabha (Chinese, Amitofou), the Buddha of the Western Paradise, preaching. Note that his hands are in the dharmacarka mudra (the gesture of "turning the wheel of the law." One of the most widely worshipped deities in Mahayana Buddhism in China from the late sixth through 10th centuries and in Japan from the 11th century onward. Here he is shown seated on a lotus petal, rising up from a pond, and surrounded by rising tendrils of lotus buds.

Physical Description
A small, thin, molded clay plaque with a bas-relief scene..

Primary Object Classification
Sculpture

Primary Object Type
relief

Additional Object Classification(s)
Ritual Object

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Buddhas (visual works)
Buddhism
lotus (motif)
miniature (size attribute)
paradise (doctrinal concept)

4 Related Resources

Buddhism
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Devotional Objects Across Religions
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Heavens, Hells, and Afterlives
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)

& Author Notes

All Rights Reserved