This colossal 1,400-year-old statue of the Amitābha Buddha stands in the Museum’s North stairs. Standing 5.78 metres tall on a lotus base, the statue was donated to the Museum in 1938 from the Chinese Government.
The two emperors of China’s Sui dynasty (AD 589-618) were both devout Buddhists and they are recorded as being responsible for the creation and repair of many Buddhist images. This marble figure of the Buddha Amitābha, the Buddha of the Western Paradise, is thought to be one such work. The hands are missing but the right hand would have been raised, palm outwards in the gesture of reassurance (abhaya mudra), and the left hand lowered in the gesture of liberality (varada mudra).
A team of British Museum conservators used scaffolding to examine the statue’s surface condition and carefully clean it. This also allowed an inscription on the Buddha’s plinth to be fully read for the first time. The script names the Buddha’s original location in Chongguang Temple in what was then Hancui Village, Hebei Province, northern China. The Department of Conservation also used scanning electron microscopy to identify the wood in the left arm of the Buddha as jujube tree, widely cultivated in China for over 4,000 years.
The conservation of the Amitābha Buddha was made possible by funding from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Art Conservation Project.
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Shared by britishmuseum (British Museum) and selected for Art.