This is the largest early gilt-bronze Chinese sculpture known today. The Buddha’s broad shoulders, powerful physique, and long legs derive from fifth century Indian prototypes that spread to China along the Silk Road, an example of which can be seen directly behind you in the gallery for Indian art.
Maitreya is worshiped both as a bodhisattva and as a Buddha, for it is believed that once the current cosmic era has destroyed itself, he will be reborn as the teaching Buddha of the next great era. The identification of this figure as the Buddha Maitreya is based on the dedicatory inscription at the back of the base, which dates the sculpture to 486 and states that it was commissioned in honor of the dowager empress Wenming (442–490), who controlled the Northern Wei dynasty during the last three decades of the fifth century.
This artwork is meant to be viewed from right to left. Scroll left to view more.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Title:Buddha Maitreya (Mile)
Period:Northern Wei dynasty (386–534)
Date:dated 486 (10th year of Taihe reign)
Medium:Gilt bronze with traces of pigment; piece-mold cast
Dimensions:H. 55 1/4 in. (140.3 cm); W. 24 1/2 in. (62.2 cm); D. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
Credit Line:John Stewart Kennedy Fund, 1926
Inscription: Inscribed and dated (in back, on upper band).
Tai he shi nian / zheng yue nian si ri / wei tai huang / tai hou (space) / xia wei (shi?) / di zhong sheng / zao mi li / xiang yi qu (This can be loosely translated as in the 10th year of the Taihe era (486), the first month the 24th day in honor of the Dowager Empress, for the benefit of the ten classes of beings, one image of Mile (Maitreya) was made.
[ Umeikichi Asano , Osaka, until 1926; sold to MMA]
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Fifty Centuries," November 14, 1970–June 1, 1971.
Tokyo National Museum. "Treasured Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," August 9, 1972–October 1, 1972.
Kyoto Municipal Museum. "Treasured Masterpieces from the Metropolitan Museum of Art," October 8, 1972–November 26, 1972.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Light of Asia: Buddha Sakyamuni in Asian Art," March 4, 1984–May 20, 1984.
Tokyo National Museum. "Special Exhibition: Gilt Bronze Buddhist Statues - China, Korea, Japan," March 10, 1987–April 19, 1987.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Weber Galleries Reinstallation," October 14, 1998–March 19, 2010.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200–750 AD," October 12, 2004–January 23, 2005.
Seoul. National Museum of Korea. "Masterpieces of Early Buddhist Sculpture," September 24, 2015–November 15, 2015.
Priest, Alan. Chinese Sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1944, p. 28, cat. no. 17, pl. XXVIII.
Rowland, Benjamin, Jr. The Evolution of the Buddha Image. Exh. cat. New York: Asia Society, 1963, pp. 22, 138, cat. no. 39.
Lerman, Leo. The Museum: One Hundred Years and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Viking Press, , p. 226.
Howard, Kathleen, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1983, pp. pp. 256–57, fig. 37.
Franz, Michael. China Through the Ages: History of a Civilization. Boulder: Westview Press, 1986, pp. 118–19, pl. 16.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Asia. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1987, p. 55, pl. 29.
Burn, Barbara, ed. Masterpieces of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1993, p. 170.
Howard, Kathleen, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd ed., New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994, p. 109, fig. 37.
Watt, James C. Y., An Jiayao, Angela F. Howard, Boris I. Marshak, Su Bai, and Zhao Feng. China: Dawn of a Golden Age, 200–750 AD. Exh. cat. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2004, pp. 168–69, cat. no. 77.
Howard, Angela Falco, Wu Hung, Li Song, and Yang Hong. Chinese Sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006, p. 229, fig. 3.30.
The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can connect to the most up-to-date data and public domain images for The Met collection. Open Access data and public domain images are available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.
We continue to research and examine historical and cultural context for objects in The Met collection. If you have comments or questions about this object record, please complete and submit this form. The Museum looks forward to receiving your comments.