Northern Wei dynasty AD 525
Height 150 cm, Width 100 cm, Thickness 45 cm
Excavated at the Dahai Temple, Xingyang, Henan Province
This square stele has statues on all sides. On the front face a niche with pointed apex has a Buddha, two disciples and Bodhisattvas, and a strong protector of the Dharma carved into the inside edge. The Maitreya Buddha wears a bejewelled crown and sits with ankles crossed. Draped in silk robes, he displays the mudra of the absence of fear and the granting of wishes. Relief carvings of lotus petals line the interior edge of his circular halo; carved feitian (flying devas) adorn the outer ring. The background halo has a flaming pattern; the sides show the Vimalakirti-sutra. Buddhas are carved on the lintel, and above, disciples and Boddhisattvas. Buddhist narratives are carved on the other sides: Sakyamuni's Descent into the World, Nine Dragons Welcoming the Birth of Buddha, the Bodhisattva Ideal, and the Birth of the Buddha. The lower sections feature carvings of 178 pious and serene donors. Statue stelae were often objects of veneration in monasteries, a locus for expression of piety by Buddhists, and an important means by which to seek fortune and avoid calamity. They were an important statuary form for the Eastern Wei and Northern Qi through to the Sui and Tang dynasties.