Emperor Xiaowen and his entourage worshipping the Buddha


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 206

Together with a companion piece showing an empress and her attendants (now in the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City), this depiction of an emperor and his entourage once adorned the Central Binyang Cave (also known as Cave 3) in the Longmen complex, near Luoyang, in Henan province. It was positioned centrally on the northeast wall between a group of protective semidivinities above and a narrative debate scene below. Xuanwu commissioned the construction of the Central Binyang Cave in honor of his father, the emperor Xiaowen (r. 471–99), and his mother, the dowager Wenzhou (d. 494); the emperor and empress in the reliefs are therefore believed to refer to his parents. A figure wearing court garments and holding a tasseled baton leads the procession. He is followed by a smaller figure wearing armor and another who stands before the emperor, holding an incense burner. The trees originally indicated the point at which the procession moved around a corner, from the north to the east wall. Several of the attendants hold lotuses or other flowers and offerings, and the entire procession can be understood as making offerings to the Buddhas in the cave, an act of merit making that would continue in perpetuity and improve the future lives of the participants.

Emperor Xiaowen and his entourage worshipping the Buddha, Limestone with traces of pigment, China

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.