Buddha draped in robes portraying the Realms of Existence

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Historical period(s)
Northern Qi dynasty, 550-577
H x W x D: 151.3 x 62.9 x 31.3 cm (59 9/16 x 24 3/4 x 12 5/16 in) Weight (without concrete base): 818.5 pounds
China, probably Henan province
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 17: Promise of Paradise
Sculpture, Stone

Figure: Buddha

Buddha, Buddhism, Carl Whiting Bishop collection, China, heaven, hell, Lotus Sutra, Mount Meru, naga, Sui dynasty (581 - 618), Vairocana Buddha

To 1923
Taku Shanfang, Beijing to 1923 [1]

From 1923
Freer Gallery of Art, purchased from Taku Shanfang, Beijing by Carl Whiting Bishop on December 24, 1923 [2]


[1] Object file, folder sheet note #1.

[2] See note 1. Also see Original Bishop List, No. S-9, Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Taku Shanfang


According to the sacred text of the Lotus Sutra, when the historical Buddha delivered a sermon a vision of the entire cosmos often appeared before him, which is why he was sometimes called the Cosmological Buddha. The decoration on the front and back of this figure's monastic robe features scenes of the life of the historical Buddha and cosmic imagery.

On the front chest of the robe, Mount Sumeru, a sacred Buddhist mountain believed to connect heaven and earth, is depicted with two snakes, or naga, entwined around it. Scenes below illustrate the historical Buddha as a prince before his enlightenment. The tortures of hell appear above the hem.

Published References
  • Elena Goukassian. 3-D scanning reveals the many secrets of an ancient Chinese statue. Washington DC, January 29, 2016. .
  • William Watson. The Art of Dynastic China. New York, 1981. ill. no. 390.
  • David L. Snellgrove, Jean Boisselier. The Image of the Buddha., 1st ed. Paris and Tokyo. pl. 167.
  • Angela Falco Howard. The Imagery of the Cosmological Buddha. 3 vols. New York. pls. 11ab, 12-14.
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 79, vol. 1: p. 172.
  • Betsy Vourlekis, National Docent Symposium Council. Tours with Children and Teens: A Handbook for Docents and Guides. Gold River, California, June 28, 2022. p. 28.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 38-39.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 40.
  • Zong Zhang. Return of the Buddha: The Qingzhou Discoveries. Exh. cat. London, September 2001 - July 2002. p. 50.
  • Angela Falco Howard. The Monumental "Cosmological Buddha" in the Freer Gallery of Art: Chronology and Style. vol. 14 Washington and Ann Arbor. pp. 53-73.
  • Constance Bond. Body and Face in Chinese Visual Culture. Harvard East Asian Monographs, no. 239 Cambridge, Massachusetts. p. 64.
  • Shiro Ito. Standing Rushana-butsu (Virocana): Owned by the Guimet Museum, Paris, France. vol. 2 Kyoto, March 1980. p. 124.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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