Bodhisattva, probably Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin) with Crossed Ankles
Northern Wei dynasty (386–534)
Sandstone with traces of pigment
H. 57 1/2 in. (146.1 cm)
Rogers Fund, 1922
Seated bodhisattvas with their legs crossed at the ankles are among the most ubiquitous images found in the cave-temple complex at Yungang, near Datong, in north Shanxi province. Both large and small examples were carved on the side walls of many of the caves, as well as on the large central pillars that often filled the interiors of these constructions. The figure of a small seated Buddha on the front of the crown is intriguing. By the late fifth century, such figures were used in Indian art to identify the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, who embodies the virtue of compassion. The presence of such a seated Buddha has remained an iconographic symbol of Avalokiteshvara for millennia.
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