Buddhist altarpiece

Historical period(s)
Sui dynasty, 597
Bronze with gilding
H x W (with stand): 32.1 x 14.1 cm (12 5/8 x 5 9/16 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Metalwork, Sculpture


abhaya mudra, bodhisattva, Buddha, Buddhism, China, lotus, Sui dynasty (581 - 618), varada mudra

To 1914
Worch et Cie, Paris, to 1914 [1]

From 1914 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Worch et Cie in 1914 [2]

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


[1] See Original Bronze List, S.I. 501, 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)

Worch et Cie (C.L. Freer source)
Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919


This Sui dynasty altarpiece carries an incised inscription on the base with a date of 597. The text does not identify which Buddha in the Buddhist pantheon is represented, but it provides the names of sixteen donors who contributed funds to sponsor the image. Some of the donors seem to have been women active in the Sui court. 

The central Buddha holds his right hand in the "fear not gesture" and his left hand is pictured in the "giving gesture." The Buddha wears monastic dress and looks elegantly modest,  while the flanking bodhisattvas (enlightened beings) wear flower-strewn headdresses, long floating ribbons, and jewelled chains. All of the figures have a "peach-shaped" halo, each of which is inclinded slightly forward contributing to a sense of personal interaction.

Published References
  • Daisy Yiyou Wang. Charles Lang Freer and the collecting of Chinese Buddhist art in early-twentieth-century America. vol. 28, no. 3. .
  • Angela Falco Howard. Highlights of Chinese Buddhist Sculpture in the Freer Collection. vol. 24, no. 5 Hong Kong, May 1993. cover.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 118, vol. 1: p. 178.
  • Grace Dunham Guest, Archibald Gibson Wenley. Annotated Outlines of the History of Chinese Arts. Washington, 1949. p. 7.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 41.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 46-47.
  • Angela Falco Howard. Highlights of Chinese Buddhist Sculpture in the Freer Collection. vol. 24, no. 5 Hong Kong, May 1993. p. 94.
  • , Li Song, Wu Hung, Yang Hong. Chinese Sculpture. The Culture & Civilization of China New Haven. p. 297, figs. 3-104.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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