Figure of Buddha seated ‘in the lotus position’ on a lotus pedestal in front of a flamed halo. Jade, gilt copper, coral, lapis lazuli and turquoise. China, probably Beijing. Qing dynasty, AD 18th–19th c. Donated by Elizabethe Casenave-Tambakopoulou (25468).
The Buddha is depicted wearing monastic robes and an ushnisha (domed protuberance) among the curls of his hair represents the spiritual power of his enlightenment. He is holding a miniature stupa, a building for holy relics. The shape of his pedestal evokes the lotus flower, a symbol of purity and of the blossoming of Buddha’s virtues. The swastika is a Buddhist symbol of eternal return while the bat in China signifies happiness and joy and is a homophone for good fortune (fu).
Buddhism was introduced in China from India during the Han dynasty (206 BC–AD 220). The interest of the three Qing dynasty emperors Kangxi (r. 1661–1722), Yongzheng (r. 1723–1735) and Qianlong (r. 1735–1799) in Tibetan Buddhism resulted in the commission of works of private devotion executed in precious materials for use in the imperial palace and rich households.