China, Shaanxi province Northern Song dynasty (960–1279)
Height: 15 inches (38.1 cm)
Gift of F. Eunice Shatzman, Class of 1949, and Herbert F. Shatzman
This votive tile with its design of seated Buddhas continues a Tang dynasty tradition of making tile(…)
This votive tile with its design of seated Buddhas continues a Tang dynasty tradition of making tiles with multiple images of buddhas, bodhisattvas, or lohans that is ultimately based on Indian Gupta prototypes. Sixteen appliqué images of seated Buddhas of pleasant demeanor adorn the front of the stele, while on the back is an impressed inscription that reads: “sixth month of the first year of Daguan,” the equivalent of AD 1107. The making or commissioning of multiple images of the Buddha, whether in the form of stone carving, wood-block prints, or votive tiles, was considered an important act of devotion; in fact several of the Chinese clay plaques ascribed to the eighth or ninth centuries have inscriptions that identify them as shanye or “excellent karma.” As a final devotional act, the ashes of devout monks were sometimes mixed with the clay that was used to make such plaques. The type was adopted in Central Asia and China and also spread to Southeast Asia.