Standing figure of Bodhisattva

Historical period(s)
Tang dynasty, 8th-9th century
Limestone, gilding, polychrome
H x W x D: 136.2 x 39 x 36.5 cm (53 5/8 x 15 3/8 x 14 3/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone


bodhisattva, Buddhism, China, Tang dynasty (618 - 907)

To 1917
Yamanaka & Company, New York to 1917 [1]

From 1917 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Yamanaka & Company, New York in 1917 [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. 1188, pg. 276, 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


Charles Lang Freer purchased this figure of a bodhisattva, or enlightened being, in 1917. It exemplifies some of the mistakes collectors made trying to date Buddhist sculpture in an era of little comparative material outside of China.

In 1917 dealers dated the sculpture to the sixth century and claimed they knew from which temple it had been taken in the northern province of Shanxi. There has been no way to document this provenance. However, today the bodhisattva's pose with thrust hip is recognized as typical of the Tang dynasty (618-907).

As recently as 1959, the eminent sculpture authority Osvald Siren still accepted a sixth-century date for the work, but in 1962 he proposed an early-tenth-century date. The heavy gold pigment may have misled him, since most Tang dynasty sculptures he studied in Western collections are devoid of pigment. Although it is unclear precisely when the gold was applied, almost all Tang sculptures were originally brightly colored.

Another early-twentieth-century misconception about this sculpture was that it represents a female. In fact, the long-haired, bare-chested figure wearing an Indian-style skirt is decidedly male.

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. 4: pl. 531a-b.
  • Osvald Siren. Kinas Konst Under Tre Artusenden. 2 vols., Stockholm, 1942-1943. vol. 2: p. 118, fig. 104.
  • Osvald Siren. The Chinese Marble Bust in the Rietberg Museum. vol. 25, no. 1 Ascona, Switzerland. pp. 9-22, fig. 9.
  • 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. 35, fig. 9.
  • Unknown title. vol. 91, no. 379 New York, December 1928. p. 43.
  • Current Exhibition. vol. 11, no. 4 Chicago, December 1917. p. 265.
  • Katherine Nash Rhoades. Recent Additions to the Freer Collection. vol. 8, no. 5 Washington, October 1919. p. 285.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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