Dashizhi Bodhisatva

Dashizhi Bodhisattva
Linfen region, Shanxi, China
Jin dynasty, 12th cent.
Wood, traces of polychrome, rock crystal;
H. 225 cm
Inv. EO.1693

During the Han dynasty, Buddhism was introduced into China from India. In the form of Buddhism that spread there – Mahayana, or Great Vehicle – bodhisattvas play a major role. A bodhisattva is a being on the verge of attaining nirvana but who postpones the moment in order to help beings living on earth to achieve enlightenment themselves.

This sculpture represents Mahasthamaprapta (Dashizhi in Chinese), a bodhisattva traditionally represented to the left of Buddha Amitabha in Chinese temples. The crown, necklace, bracelet and belt refer to the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, who lived as a prince before taking up his religious vocation. The sparkling eyes are made of crystal. A Buddhist statue is in fact consecrated in an ‘eye-opening’ ceremony, a rite that gives it a soul. It thereby becomes a sacred religious object.

Discover this masterpiece in the gallery China, on the online museum catalogue Carmentis and in the book Masterpieces of the Cinquantenaire Museum, Ludion, 2015.