Sichuan Museum – #3 Temple of Ten Thousand Buddhas 萬佛寺遺址

Since the excavation of the Wanfo Temple site in the eighth year of Emperor Guangxu (AD 1882), a large number of stone carvings have been unearthed. These are all collected and on displayed in Sichuan Museum.

Wanfo Temple is located in Tongjin Bridge outside Ximen, Chengdu. It was built in the Eastern Han Dynasty (158-167 AD). From the Southern Dynasty to the Ming Dynasty, the temple was very popular among the believers, and incense was continuous. According to the literature and the unearthed inscriptions, the Wanfo Temple was named after the Anpu Temple in the Southern Dynasties. The Tang Dynasty was named Jingzhong Temple. In the Song Dynasty, it was renamed Jingyin Temple. In the Ming Dynasty, it was also known as the Wanfo Temple. It was destroyed by fire by the invading Qing army.

Stone Stele, Tang dynasty, 618-907 AD, sandstone

The contents include Buddha statues, Bodhisattva statues, statue monuments, statues, statues and various building elements. The Southern Dynasty Liang (AD 420-589), which was unearthed, has a clear history and is an important material for studying early Buddhist art. The stone carving statue of Wanfo Temple occupies an important position in stone carvings in Sichuan and even in China. It has rich themes, complex and complete layout, exquisite and exquisite carvings, many of which have participated in many domestic and international exhibitions and have been included in various catalogues. in.

The Sichuan Museum selected some of the finest works from the stone carvings of the Wanfo Temple in the collection. At the same time, it also selected several stone sculptures unearthed in other parts of Sichuan Province to meet the needs of the masses for Buddhist art. This is the first concentrated exhibition of the stone carvings of Chengdu Wanfo Temple for more than one hundred years. It will let you appreciate the charm of Buddhist art.

The style of all these artifacts is exclusively Sichuan – note the sensuous, realistic modelling of the grace-fully swaying bodies, the naturalism of their relaxed yet elegant poses, and the landscape setting chosen for the deities. Furthermore, a Sichuanese style is reflected in the friendly and vivacious expressions of the protagonists, the warm emotionalism permeating the entire group, and the inclusion of exotic components such as the band of foreign-looking musicians and elephants with their keepers.

Standing Buddhas from Southern Liang Dynasty

Standing Shakyamuni Buddha without head 佛立像, sandstone, Southern Liang dynasty, 529

Among the Wan Fo Temple remains in the round there are about sixteen larger-than-life free-standing images carved with great skill. This group is remarkable because most of the sculptures were created approxi-mately during the time of the Liang dynasty, which was in power during the first half of the sixth century, using a variety of Indian styles -Gandharan, Gupta from Mathura, and Southern Gupta. The heterogeneity indicates that Sichuan artists were conversant with all of these styles and employed them according to their patrons’ demands.

Standing Shakyamuni Buddha without head 佛立像, sandstone, Southern Liang dynasty, 529

The standing Shakyamuni, dated Liang 529 – 1.58 meters tall and made of dark gray sandstone -is modeled on the Gupta aesthetic. But the adoption of two distinct patterns in the fall of the robe (curves for the right side, vertical grooves for the left) is remi-niscent of the south Indian Gupta style of Amaravati. The blending of the two modes took place in what are now Indonesia and Vietnam and was adopted by the southern carvers of China. According to the inscription, the patron of this imposing statue was the prince of Poyang, alias Xiao Fan, the nephew of the Liang emperor Wu. The prince served as governor of Yizhou (present-day Chengdu).

Maitreya statues in the Southern Dynasties

Thousand Buddha Stele

The Thousand Buddhas motif, one of the most popular subjects in Northern Wei Buddhist art, flourished in the early sixth century but continued to be popular throughout the sixth century. A Thousand Buddhas stele can also incorporate one or more larger niches with principal icons [as is seen here], adding complexity to the design and content of the monument. By the second and third quarters of the sixth century, the monumental, complex type of Buddhist stele came into vogue. The principal niche now consisted of a Buddha’s assembly of five, seven, nine, or more figures – a Buddha, two bodhisattavas, two disciples, two lokapalas, and in addition, pairs of apsarasas [female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology] and lions.

Dharani Dhvaja sutra pillar 陀羅尼經幢, Tang dynasty, 1st year of the Dazhong reign (853 A.D.), sandstone

The use of Buddhist sutra stone pillars as religious monoliths originated in the Tang dynasty, and in their form they are associated with the Buddhist banner: Chuang 幢 in Chinese or Dhvaja in Sanskrit. The monumental style of the writing is reminiscent of the Tang calligrapher Liu Gongquan (778-865).

The Dharani Sutra was brought to China during the Yongchun reign (682-683) of Emperor Gaozong of the Tang dynasty, and Monk Buddapala was summoned to translate it. The text of the sutra was said to consist of magic spells that wiped away all evil deeds performed in one’s former life. The number of Dharani Sutra stone pillars increased greatly after the mid-Tang period, as they were believed to be a way of gaining merit.

Sichuan Provincial Museum 四川博物院
251 Huan Hua Nan Lu, Chengdu, Sichuan, China

Dater Visited : Aug 2018

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