Figure of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Puxian) on elephant - ROM2005_1592_11


Figure of Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Puxian) on elephant

Geography: Reportedly from the Sanda Si Temple, Zhangde Fu, Henan Province, China
Date: 8th-9th century AD
Period: Tang Dynasty
160 x 48 x 90 cm
Object number: 921.1.55
Credit Line: The George Crofts Collection
Not on view
DescriptionIn cave and other temples of west and north China, there are numerous relief and three-dimensional examples of the Wisdom bodhisattvas, Manjushri (Wenshu in Chinese) and Samantabhadra (Puxian). There are also famous wooden and painted images of them in Japan. It is quite rare, however, to find a monumental pair in stone outside China. Of these George Crofts wrote in 1921: 'Both figures obtained from the San ta Szu [Sanda Si] Temple, Chang Teh Fu [Zhangde Fu], Honan [Henan]. The heads came separately from the bodies, and the latter, with their lotus seats, were made separately from the animal bases. Of the vast numbers of archangelic embodiments of Buddhist ideals in the Far East, Manjushri and Samantabhadra are among the most important, embodying respectively Transcendental Wisdom and Universal Goodness. They appear singly, in pairs, and in triads (first flanking Shakyamuni, then Avalokiteshvara) and in all sizes and media. Manjushri typically rides a lion; he carries a book (the Prajnaparamita or Treatise on Transcendental Wisdom) and a sword symbolizing the destruction of ignorance; the remains of a book may be in this figure's right hand. Samantabhadra' s identifying vehicle is an elephant, often with six tusks; other identifying attributes are not so clear as in the case of his alter ego but include a scroll, a lotus and a ruyi sceptre. Or, as here, he may hold nothing. In many such images the bodhisattvas are accompanied by the masters or keepers of their animal vehicles, with the animals on rope leads: a foreign groom for the lion, a more scantily clad small mahout with goad for the elephant. In China, the mountain temple complex of Wutai Shan in Shanxi is sacred to Wenshu, while the home base of Puxian is Mount Emei in Sichuan.
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