Square fragment: showing Buddhist procession

Historical period(s)
Northern Wei dynasty, early 6th century
H x W x D: 41.2 x 45.1 x 14.3 cm (16 1/4 x 17 3/4 x 5 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 17: Promise of Paradise
Sculpture, Stone

Sculpture (fragment)

Buddhism, China, Northern Wei dynasty (386 - 534)

To 1913
Yamanaka & Company, New York to 1913 [1]

From 1913 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company, New York in 1913 [2]

From 1920
The Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [3]


[1] Undated folder sheet note. See Original Miscellaneous List, S.I. 432, pg. 131, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

[2] See note 1.

[3] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Yamanaka and Co. (C.L. Freer source) 1917-1965


Four male figures are depicted in this sculptural fragment, which agrees in style and scale with a missing section from the front, or south, wall of Cave 1 at Gongxian, Henan Province. If it is the lost fragment, these figures belonged to a larger group of fifteen or more men in a procession led by a Buddhist monk. The distinctive headgear and robes of the main figure (second from right) indicate that the scene depicts a wealthy patron, who is surrounded by attendants, one holding a fan and one raising a canopy.

Recent cleaning of this fragment has revealed that the surface has many layers of paint, including greens and reds-an appearance consistent with the presumed age of the object. But small details-hands clutching the handles of the poles, for example-are not found in the relief sculptures still in place in the Gongxian cave-temple. While it is likely that this fragment in the Freer Gallery is genuine, it is also possible that it is a copy of the original. If so, it was created in the early twentieth century for sale as a genuine antiquity, and the location of the original image is unknown.

Published References
  • Osvald Siren. Chinese Sculpture from the Fifth to the Fourteenth Century: Over 900 Specimens in Stone, Bronze, Lacquer and Wood, Principally from Northern China. 4 vols., London. vol. 2: pl. 107a.
  • Jan Stuart, Chang Qing. Chinese Buddhist Sculpture in a New Light at the Freer Gallery of Art. vol. 32, no. 4 Hong Kong, April 2002. p. 30, fig. 3.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 37.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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