East Asia, China, Ming Dynasty, ca. 1368 to 1644 CE. A gorgeous carved stone panel depicting a standing Buddha flanked by two attendants (probably bodhisattvas). The Buddha stands in the Abhaya-vara mudra, with one hand raised, palm out, and the other facing downward, palm out. This is the gesture of fearlessness, representing protection, peace, and dispelling fear. The Buddha and his attendants are all standing on round, lotus-shaped pedestals against a curved, stupa-like background. Below their pedestals is a slightly raised platform, its face decorated with relief imagery of two fu-dog style chimera animals flanking a round symbol that might be a mirror. Size: 10" W x 19.1" H (25.4 cm x 48.5 cm)
This panel was most likely an architectural feature, placed in the wall of a temple. During the Ming Dynasty, Buddhism flourished, despite imperial edicts controlling it and constant criticism from Confucian officials. People from all segments of Ming society, including ethnic Chinese and non-Chinese people and elites and non-elites, were enthusiastic practitioners. Some of the Ming emperors even gave official patronage to the religion, and Buddhist monasteries and monks had tremendous power.
Provenance: private Stockton, New Jersey, USA collection
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