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A Votive plaque depicting the Buddha Amitâbha (Chinese, Amitofou) preaching in his Western Paradise


Artwork Details

A Votive plaque depicting the Buddha Amitâbha (Chinese, Amitofou) preaching in his Western Paradise
terracotta, molded
2 3/8 in. x 1 3/8 in. ( 6 cm x 3.5 cm )
Gift of Mrs. Caroline I. Plumer for the James Marshall Plumer Collection

On Display

Not currently on display


The figures represented in these miniature clay reliefs are all objects of veneration in Mayâyâna Buddhism, the most influential school of Buddhism in Tang China. Small votive plaques such as these would be purchased by pilgrims as souvenirs of a journey to a famous monastery or sacred site; or, conversely, a pilgrim would deposit votive images at selected destinations en route. In either case, the goal was the same: to prolong the contact with the sacred, and thereby to sustain the religious merit gained through the pilgrimage experience.
A seated Buddha is shown in the teaching gesture of “turning the wheel of the law” (in Sanskrit, the dharma-cakra mudrâ). His throne is elevated above a lotus pond on a single lotus stem, suggesting that this is probably meant to be a depiction of Amitâbha, the “Buddha of Infinite Light” who presided over the Western Paradise. The Lotus Sûtra promises that all those who call upon Amitâbha’s mercy can be reborn in his Pure Land. Representations of Amitâbha’s “Pure Land” typically feature a large pond, filled with lotus blossoms in various stages of bloom—each one representing a reborn soul.

Maribeth Graybill, Senior Curator of Asian Art
Exhibited in "Flora and Fauna in Chinese Art," April 6, 2002 - December 1, 2002.

Subject Matter:

Amitabha (Chinese, Amitofou), the Buddha of the Western Paradise, preaching. Note that his hands are in the dharmacarka mudra (the gesture of "turning the wheel of the law." One of the most widely worshipped deities in Mahayana Buddhism in China from the late sixth through 10th centuries and in Japan from the 11th century onward. Here he is shown seated on a lotus petal, rising up from a pond, and surrounded by rising tendrils of lotus buds.

Physical Description:

A small, thin, molded clay plaque with a bas-relief scene..

Usage Rights:

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