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Northern Qi Buddhas

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This is one of the 35 extraordinary 6th-century Chinese Buddhist statues that were accidentally unearthed in 1996 by workers leveling a school sports field in Qingzhou, a small city in Shandong Province on China’s northeast coast.

bq. Created during a 50-year period straddling the Northern Wei (386 – 534), Eastern Wei (534 – 550) and the Northern Qi (550 – 577) dynasties, the sculptures illustrate dramatic stylistic changes that occurred during that time. The unusual quantity of remaining gilding and vibrant red and green pigments on their surfaces provide a chance for the viewer to experience the impact of brightly decorated sculpture-the norm in ancient China. Many faces are gilded and some retain the remnants of painted mustaches, while the stone mandorlas-or backgrounds of the high relief sculptures-still display vibrant red pigments representing flames of light emanating from the Buddha.

bq. Northern Qi sculptors adopted a different style more akin to the Indian Gupta style. Free-standing figures were modeled wearing light, close-fitting monastic garments revealing the body contours of the wearer. Carved in the round, but with less-detail on the rear, these three-dimensional Northern Qi figures had downcast eyes- encouraging a compassionate exchange between the Buddha and the viewer below. Their low ushnishas furthered the impression that these Buddhas were more “human” and approachable. Iron hooks remaining on some sculptures indicate that independent mandorlas were attached to the statues. [From “Indian Archeology Mailing List”:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/IndiaArchaeology/]

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