Antique Buddha Statues From China

The first known Chinese Buddhist community dates to 65 CE, during the Later Han period (25-220 CE), and the first known translators were documented in the middle of the second century. The Chinese monk Xuan Zang (c. 600-664) was probably the most famous translator of Sanskrit text, hundreds of which he had carried back from his travels in Central Asia and India. Some Buddhist practices, such as the perceived lack of filial piety embodied by the monks’ withdrawal from society, were at odds with Chinese social expectations; other practices such as meditation, resonated, largely because they were associated with indigenous Daoist beliefs. The metaphysical Buddhist doctrine gained a further foothold with the end of the strongly Confucian Han rule, a gain quite possibly because of its affinities with Daoism.

Textual evidences suggests that all the schools of Indian Buddhism found their way to China, and as in India, adherents of different schools of Buddhism coexisted within the same monastery. Imperial patronage, as exemplified during the Wei period (fourth-sixth century), was instrumental in spreading Buddhism throughout the land. During the Wei, hundreds of rock-cut caves were excavated in the north of China, notably at Yungang (near Datong) and Longmen (near Luoyang), and adorned with painted and carved Buddhas, Boddhisatvas, Arhats, donors, and other minor attendants. Here, artistic styles suggest connections with Central Asia and India, and images of Shakyamuni and the future Buddha: Maitreya, dominate in the sixth century. By the Sui and Tang periods, the Pure Land Sect had gained ground and a much larger proportion of donative inscription was dedicated to Amitabha.

antique buddha statues from china


Throughout its long history in China, Buddhism has followed an uncertain course, with royal support and encouragement alternating with a reaction against the monasteries’ power and wealth. The three centuries of the Sui (581-618 CE) and Tang dynasties (618-907) are generally considered the Buddhist age of China, though the suppression of 845 saw the destruction of monasteries and confiscation of their wealth. Buddhism thrived in subsequent periods, however, notably under Liao (946-1125) and Mongolian rule (1279-1368) and during the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), when the Manchu rulers were considered incarnations of the Bodhisattva Manjushree.

Specific schools began to distinguish themselves during the Tang dynasty. Zhiyi (538-597) established a teaching lineage and a system of meditation practices; a basic tenet of the Tiantai school of Buddhism relies on the Lotus Sutra and the writings of Nagarjuna on the philosophy of emptiness (shinyata). The Chan school, (which developed from fifth-century meditation traditions of Kashmir) was further formalized during the Song period (Northern Song, 960-1127; Southern Song 1127-1279), with lineage lists that documented the mind-to-mind transmission of teachings between patriarchs. With its emphasis on meditation as route to sudden enlightenment, the Chan path was available to lay the individual as well as to the monk and thus upheld the Confucian conviction that maintenance of family obligations was a preeminent concern.

Another important school, Pure Land Buddhism, also took root and developed in China during the seventh and eighth centuries, eventually spreading to Vietnam and Japan, where today, as in China, it has many adherents. This important school emphasizes devotion to Amitabha (Chinese: Amituofuo; Japanese: Amida), who presides over Shukhavati Pure Land (often described in English as a heaven) in the distant Western Quarter. There he receives the devout, who become enlightened upon entry into Shukhavati. Unlike Chan Buddhism, Pure Land stresses devotionalism (to Amitabha) and meritorious deeds; both schools continued to be popular throughout the Ming and Qing periods.

The Buddhist history in China has been supported by its rich Buddhist art. These Antique Buddha statues and Buddha images have been well preserved for ages. If you are interested in getting one of them you can view our online catalog.

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