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"Returned to Light: Masterpieces of Buddhist Statuary from Qingzhou City"

by Zhang Jinhua
Beijing Chinasight Fine Arts Co., Ltd.

The exhibition entitled "Returned to Light: Masterpieces of Buddhist Statuary from Qingzhou City", opened at the Chinese History Museum on 12 July 1999. This group of carved stone Buddhist images encompassing two thousand years of history is one of China's ten most significant archaeological finds of 1996. The high artistic value of this statuary attracted world-wide attention and was praised as the "culmination of Chinese ancient sculptural art" and "China's most important discovery in Buddhist art and archaeology this century." This exhibition of openly displayed but mysterious Buddhist artifacts is the first public exhibition after more than two years of research and sorting out. Assistance in the excavation of these treasures was provided by Beijing Chinasight Fine Arts Co., Ltd.

This group of Buddhist icons from the storage pit at Longxing Temple numbered around four hundred after initial count. The statues are made from seven types of materials: limestone, white marble, granite, pottery, iron, clay, and wood. In terms of configuration, there are stelae, individual standing Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, luohans, offerants, etc. The tallest measures 320 centimeters high, and the smallest only about 50 centimeters high. The statues range in date from the Northern Wei (386-534) and the successive dynasties of Eastern Wei (534-550), Northern Qi (550-577), Sui (581-618), Tang (618-907), to the Northern Song (960-1127), spanning more than 500 years. Among these, those originating from the Northern Wei and Northern Qi constitute the majority and the largest images. Carving techniques include low relief, rounded carving, latticework, and high relief. Remarkably, the original brilliant hues, colored designs, and gold leaf on most of these images have been preserved, which is extremely rare.

From the small portion of the horde on display, we can see the distinguishing characteristics, as well as the evolution of sculptural technique during different dynasties. At the same time, the well-preserved original polychrome patterns and applied gold on the Northern and Southern Dynasties pieces allow us to rectify the common misperception of unadorned white Buddhist images. On the contrary, we can now recognize the prevalence of color on Buddhist sculpture.

In recent years, quite a few of the Buddhist sculptures from Qingzhou have already been dispersed outside the Chinese border. Many experts and scholars have commented on the comprehensiveness of the excavation. But this is beside the point. This exhibit provides an opportunity to reveal extraordinary Chinese art to the larger audience of laymen.




*Click on each image to enlarge.

Buddha triad. Eastern Wei- Northern Qi. Limestone.

Standing Buddha. Northern Qi. Limestone. Height 74 cm.

Buddha stele. Northern Wei. Limestone. Height 121.5 cm.

Standing Boddhisattva. Eastern Wei. Limestone. Height 95 cm.

Standing Buddha. Northern Wei. Limestone. Height 133 cm.

More Images from Qingzhou

Even More Images from Qingzhou


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