Buddhist Deity, Ushnishavijaya (Zun Sheng fo mu)

Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911)

Date: late 17th–18th century

Culture: China

Medium: Gilt brass; lost-wax cast

Dimensions: H. 7 in. (17.8 cm); W. 4 3/4 in. (12.1 cm); D. 3 3/4 in. (9.5 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Purchase, Friends of Asian Art Gifts, 2007

Accession Number: 2007.75a, b


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.