Tang dynasty(AD 618-907)
Height in Damaged State I7I cm
Excavated at Dahai Temple, Xingyang, Henan Province
A portion of the knee of this statue has been broken off. The Bodhisattva's hair is in a high coil, with eight small heads carved in the frontal face, the uppermost of which is a Buddha image identifiable by its ushisha; the other seven are identifiable by their decorations. A fearsome face is carved behind the left ear and a benevolent face is carved behind the right ear. The Bodhisattva has an urna, with six arms carved onto the body. Two of the arms are extended forward with joined palms, another two hands are in the attitude of preaching the doctrine, while the remaining two hang down by the Bodhisattva's side with the left hand clasping a silk belt. The figure is adorned with necklaces, armlets and bracelets. Its shoulders are covered by flowing silks that are thrown across the figure's armpit and elbow. The lower portion of the body is covered with skirts.
This statue accords with the design of Tantric Buddhist works, evident from the beautiful and extensive decorations, which are the most characteristic feature of Tantric statuary. Tantric Buddhist statues also often feature multiple faces and arms, with various Buddhist implements held in their hands. The transformational forms of Guanyin are the most highly venerated subjects for such works, with the eleven-faced Guanyin foremost among the six Guanyins of the Tantric tradition. Tantric Buddhist sculpture flourished mainly in the Sichuan region of China, with this style less popular in the central region. Excavations of esoteric sculptures in the round such as this have been particularly rare in the Henan region. As such, this work provides valuable evidence for research into the beliefs and transmission of Tantric Buddhism in China.