Buddhist goddess Ushnishavijaya (Zun Shengfomu), Qing dynasty (1644–1911), late 17th–early 18th century
Gilt brass, lost–wax cast; H. 7 in. (17.8 cm)
Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2007 (2007.75a, b)
This eight-armed goddess is identified by the implements she holds as Ushnishavijaya, one of several female deities who played an increasingly prominent role in Indian Buddhist practices during the seventh and eighth centuries. She is understood to personify the ushnisha or cranial protuberance that marks a Buddha, and is, by extension, associated with the development of practices focusing on spiritual understanding. She has three faces and eight arms. A small seated Buddha is held in the upper right hand, and a long rope used to suspend a two-pronged vajra in the upper left. The second pair of hands holds a bow and arrow, while the third with a four-pronged vajra, a ritual implement symbolic of adamantine power, is held before the chest. The seventh and eighth arms, the lowest pair on the sculpture, are shown in the gesture of offering (the right hand) and holding a covered vase (the left). The style of the sculpture, which derives from traditions developed earlier in India and the Himalayas, reflects the close ties between the Buddhist cultures of Tibet, Mongolia, and China in the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries.