Pinyin English

Decorative Designs in Chinese Art 中国文物的纹饰

Fire Design 火纹
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Buddhist 佛教

Sakyamuni Buddha 释迦牟尼佛, also known as Siddhattha Gotama (c. 500 BCE), was the founder of Buddhism. Usually, if one simply writes the Buddha, then Sakyamuni Buddha is intended. Bronze has a history of over 1500 years for Buddhist artifacts, mostly for statues, incense burners, and bells. The statue below is an early one from the Northern Wei. The striated pattern on the nimbus or halo 背光 behind the Buddha is very effective in bronze.

Bronze Statue of the Buddha
北魏元年公元504上海博物馆
Bronze Statue of the Buddha
Northern Wei, First year of the reign of Zheng Shi (504) Shanghai Museum

Besides Sakyamuni Buddha, other buddhas are mentioned in Buddhist sutras. According to the Amitabha Sutra 阿弥陀经, Amitabha Buddha 阿弥陀 is the founder of the Western Pure Land 西方极乐世界. Chanting Amitabha Buddha's name is a common practice for the Pure Land School 净土宗 of Buddhism, which is one of the most common schools of Chinese Buddhism. In the bronze artifact below shows three Amitabha Buddha figures with hands showing speaking the Dharma mudra 说法印, indicating that Amitabha is expounding the teachings of the Buddha.

Bronze statues of Amitabha
公元581〜618) 上海博物馆
Bronze statues of Amitabha
Sui (581—618) Shanghai Museum

In the picture his hands are in a Dhyana mudra 禅定印, symbolizing meditative concenration. This is the same hand position taught in Buddhist medication classes.

Seated Buddha statue
台湾佛光山
Sakyamuni Buddha seated statue
Foguang Shan, Taiwan

Mount Putuo 普陀山 is one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China 四大佛教名山and the earthly abode of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva 观音菩萨. The recently cast statue shown below is one of the main attractions of Mount Putuo. The statue was created in 1997. Located on the southeast corner of Mount Putuo, at 18 meters tall on a 13 meter tall platform, it is visible from a great distance. The statue was cast with a gold colored bronze alloy and weighs over 70 tonnes.

South China Sea Avalokitesvara Statue
普陀山
South China Sea Avalokitesvara Statue
Mount Putuo

Incense symbolizes purification. The incense burner below is typical for a large temple. incense burners usually feature intricate artwork and, in some cases, can be about two stories high, reflecting the importance of burning incense in Chinese Buddhism. The incense burner below is two meters tall, cast copper and is located in front of the Great Hall of the Heros at Lingyin Temple. It was donated by Ming Palace Eunuch Sun Long 太监 in 1601.

incense burner / thurible
杭州灵隐寺
Incense Burner
Linyin Temple, Hangzhou

The incense burner below was constructed in the shape of a pagoda 佛塔, which is related to the use of pagoda's for keeping the relics of important Buddhist figures.

incense burner / thurible
山西五台山
Incense Burner
Mount Wutai, Shanxi

Many incense burners have a flame emblem on top. This one from Linyin Temple in Hangzhou was nearly as impressive as the blaze coming from the pile of incense below.

Bronze flame
杭州灵隐寺
Bronze flame
Lingyin Temple, Hangzhou

Prayer wheels 传经筒 contain prayers or sutras and are spun to transmit them to world, which is the literal meaning of the Chinese word. They are mainly used in Tibetan Buddhism 藏传佛教. The prayer wheel shown in the picture below is located at the Lama Temple 雍和宫 in Beijing.

Prayer wheel
北京雍和宫
Prayer wheel
The Lama Temple, Beijing

Four-faced Buddha 四面佛 are common in Theravada Buddhism 南传佛教, especially Thailand. Now with the overseas Chinese population mixing more with the Mainland Chinese population it is sometimes seen in China. The photograph below is from a Buddhist temple in Malaysia.

Four-faced Buddha
马来西亚
Four-faced Buddha
Malaysia
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