Important Cultural Property
Casted bronze, gold-plated
Northern Wei period, China/Taipingzhenjun 4(443)
Kyushu National Museum
The Maitreya image wears a cloth around both shoulders, bends both arms and stretches the left hand forward with the palm upward and the right palm facing front, standing with both feet apart on a lotus pedestal set above a four-legged step. While the Nikkei (lump) and hair on the head are represented in a regular spiral pattern, the earlobes do not have a hole (Jidakanjo) and the neck has three wrinkles (Sandoso). The hands have a web-like membrane (Manmoso). The inside of each side of the four-legged step is in the form of bracken ferns (Warabite) with a sawtooth pattern (Kyoshimon) and water jars appear in relief on the front side.
The bronze image and pedestal are created all in one cast and finished with gold plating. The casting skill is of the highest quality. The total height is 53.5cm, which is relatively tall for a gilt bronze image created during the Northern Wei period. On the back is a square opening (3cm (L) x 2cm (W)) in the center, where something might have been stored.
The back and the left side of the four-legged step bear inscriptions, which show the reason for creating this image: In 443 during the Northern Wei period, people in Boye, Hebei created this image praying for the guidance of Maitreya in obtaining enlightenment for the prince and their clans, including their parents. It was during the reign of Emperor Taibu (reign: 423 – 452), who, out of a strong inclination for Taoism, aggressively and fiercely implemented repressive policies against Buddhism in 446. Many of the images of Buddha that had been created before 446 were destroyed and very few remained. Therefore, this bronze image is truly a valuable piece.
The characteristics, such as the slender body, the dignified standing appearance with arms spreading out and feet apart and the thin robe adhering closely to the body emphasizing the stout physique, are common to those of stone images in the #169 stone cave of Heireiji Temple in Gansu, China and show more influence of the western styles of Buddha images, such as the Gupta style in India. On the other hand, the smiling face, the oval-shaped head and the pleats represented by a few ridge-like lines already show the characteristics of the coming gilt bronze images of Buddha that were created after the revival of Buddhism in the Northern Wei period.
Nevertheless, this image is extremely valuable as one of the large refined images of Buddha of the Northern Wei period and in tracing changes in ancient Chinese Buddha images.