Buddhist Deity, Ushnishavijaya (Zun Sheng fo mu)


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 208

This eight-armed goddess can be identified by the implements she holds as Ushnishavijaya, one of several female deities who began to play a prominent role in Indian Buddhist practices during the seventh and eighth centuries. She has three faces and is thought to personify the ushnisha, the cranial protuberance that marks a Buddha. Therefore, she is generally associated with the development of practices focusing on spiritual understanding. The goddess holds a small seated Buddha in her upper right hand and a two-pronged vajra suspended from a long rope in her upper left. Her second pair of hands holds a bow and arrow, while the third clutches a four-pronged vajra (a ritual implement symbolic of adamantine power) before her chest. The seventh and eighth hands, the lowest pair on the sculpture, offer a gesture of beneficence and hold a covered vase. The style of the sculpture reflects the close ties between the Buddhist cultures of Tibet, Mongolia, and China during the Qing dynasty.

Buddhist Deity, Ushnishavijaya (Zun Sheng fo mu), Gilt brass; lost-wax cast, China

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