Compare Bodhisattva Seated in Meditation (Korea. Three Kingdoms period, early 7th century CE) to Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva (Liao dynasty, 10th-12th century CE).

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This paper looks to compare and contrast two pieces of historical art pieces. The chosen works of art pieces are the Bodhisattva Seated in Meditation and the Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva originating from the previous centuries. A work of art is an art piece comprising of a physical and tangible item created for a particular purpose. It can be a painting, drawing, sculpture or architectural pieces. Art pieces define cultures, aesthetic interests or regional trademarks or feature. Some serve as symbols to signify alliances with particular religions and cults. Many pieces of art can be found in museums where they are preserved and displayed or public recognition. Both pieces of art are based on Buddhism, a religion that originated from the current India and later spread to Korea and China.

The Bodhisattva Seated in Meditation piece of art is a sculpture made of gilt bronze. This is a Buddhist sculpture of a distinctive Korean style that originated from the three kingdom period of Korea and probably during the Silla kingdom. It is a captivating Buddhist image that never fails to capture the attention of any viewer.  It is a sculpture of a person seated in a presumed meditation posture with the right hand touching the right cheek. The left leg is held down with the right leg placed in the right knee. The Bodhisattva’s face has a broad and smooth forehead with two gently declining lines making the eyebrows. The eyes of the sculpture have half-closed eyelids with a faraway gaze. Bodhisattva’s curved corners of the mouth indicate a delicate smile, which seems to be hidden from a normal viewer. The body is slender with the head having an oblique face and wearing a tri-lobed graceful crown. The sculpture was among numerous sculptures playing significant roles in the Korean religion and worship during the Three Kingdom period in the 7th century. In accordance with the Buddhist art, this image is a representation of an iconographic meditating Bodhisattva (Rhie, p 230).

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The second workpiece is the Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva, which is a divine being of compassion and mercy in Chinese BuddhismIt is a wooden sculpture with a seemingly soft skin and a contoured body. The Buddhist figure has a sitting posture of on an outcropping rock. The figure is supposedly looking over the sea. The sculpture is 16.75 inches tall with a sensuously modeled body. The bodhisattva sculpture has the left leg hanging down while the right one is raised and drawn to the body. The raised leg has a bent, raised knee that supports the right arm. Bodhisattva’s face has a shape of a full moon with seemingly perfectly curved eyebrows. The nose is delicately curved with a small mouth. The small mouth creates a sense of tranquility and elegance. The sculpture has a long scarf hanging over the shoulder with some complex decorating jewelry including necklaces and bracelets. There is a hole on the forehead of a missing jewelry, which creates a play of light. The fuller body of the bodhisattva’s sculpture has feminine features dates this Guanyin to the Liao Dynasty of the 10th century. The sculpture originated from China. The sculpture has traces of pigments with multiple layers of paint that indicate that the sculpture was once colorfully painted (Rhie, p 253).

The Seated in Meditation and the Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva sculptures have facial features that are somehow similar. The foreheads are broad and flat with long and thin eyebrows arched on the face. Their earlobes appear large and low presumably an effect of wearing weighty jewels. Both pieces of artwork have large eyes. The cheeks are fleshed out and somehow sagging. Theses facial features portray a sense of elegance, peacefulness, and kindness.

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Both of these sculptures are Buddhist statues that make up the Buddhist arts in Asia in the previous centuries. They are unique in their sizes and techniques as religious art canons, which are responsible for their charm and impression. They both portray a sitting and meditating Buddha whom according to the Buddhism religion, is a person who is enlightened after successive life incarnations. The inclined torsos and the lightly bowed heads of the two sculptures depict the human identification of a meditating. The two art pieces borrow from ancient cultures as well as from the Buddhism religion from the present day India. Such iconography is significant in the religious imagery of the religious belief. They both command attention from viewers through their charming features.

The Bodhisattva Seated in Meditation sculpture is covered with a thin layer of bronze, which gives it a smooth texture and face particularly indicated by the shiny forehead. The bronze as the material used for sculpturing has made the sculpture maintain its original features from the time of its creation in Korea in the early 7th century. This has made its preservation in the national museum of Korea, Seoul successful. The facial features have not altered with time with the sculpture’s original features carried to the 21st century. The Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva piece art was originally made of early wood in the Liao Dynasty. It was by then colorfully painted. With time, paint faded and fell off the wood with the sculpture currently having a rough texture courtesy of the aged wood and the fallen paint.

The Bodhisattva Seated in Meditation, the sculpture is made up of a typical Korean style of art. It gives a gesture of meditation of the Buddha common in all seated Buddhas in the Buddhism religion. The sculpture has Korean facial features with native carving techniques. The Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva sculpture’s style was inspired by the Chinese indigenous culture and traditions. The sculpture is wooden with a dry-lacquer, a style that dominated many Buddha sculptures from Chinese Buddhism.  The fallen paint indicates a style of colorful painting of the historical artwork in the Chinese culture.

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The Bodhisattva Seated in Meditation iconography is that of the Bodhisattva Maitreya tradition originating from the Far East. The body arrangement with the left foot in the forward position is common to this tradition. The inclination of the upper body with head bow is prominent in this tradition. The Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva sculpture uses a theme and iconography from the Avatamsaka Sutra, a Buddhism school in china. According to Chinese Buddhism, the Guanyin is illustrated as meditating while seated alongside another Buddha (Chandra, p 448).

In conclusion, the opinions of the comparison between the two pieces of art depend majorly on the viewer. The analysis of both sculptures permits a research on their origin and style. The first glance of the sculptures creates an intriguing need to identify their different stylistic features. The bodhisattvas have the characteristic of adorning worldly ornaments that include jewelry, crown or tiara and rich bracelets and necklaces. The colorful paintings also add to the sumptuous detail of the bodhisattvas. The Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva creates an impression of an ancient sculpture of calm a person looking beyond the normal view. In the case of the Bodhisattva Seated in Meditation, the melancholic smile enables a viewer to derive an ideological message hidden. The Bodhisattvas have been portrayed with decorations including colorful paintings, valuable jewels, and elegant garments. Their postures are particularly graceful similar to those of an extremely composed and relaxed person.

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Works cited

Chandra, Lokesh. Dictionary of Buddhist iconography. New Delhi: International Academy of Indian Culture Aditya Prakashan, 1999. Print

Rhie, Marylin. Early Buddhist art of China and Central Asia. Leiden Boston: Brill, 1999. Print

10 thoughts on “Compare Bodhisattva Seated in Meditation (Korea. Three Kingdoms period, early 7th century CE) to Seated Guanyin Bodhisattva (Liao dynasty, 10th-12th century CE).

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