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Buddha, 9th century
Gilded bronze
7 x 2 inches (17.8 x 5.1 cm)
The Louis E. Stern Collection, 1963
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Looking Questions

  • How is this man dressed?
  • Who could this be?
  • Of what is the sculpture made?
  • Does it look heavy or light, old or new?
  • What details do you notice about his head, eyes, ears, and hands?
  • Does the face express anger or peace? How?

Art Activity: Drawing Clothing

Representing folds of fabric is a difficult artistic challenge. Clothing is a very important aspect of portraying the Buddha, and different Buddhas can often be distinguished by their clothing. This one is wearing monk's robes that wrap around him and let us see the volume of his body beneath. Using simple white paper and a pencil, have students draw only the clothing of this Buddha. They should pay special attention to the lines created by the folds of the fabric. When done, their drawing should resemble the sculpture. For a more difficult challenge, drape a piece of large fabric around a student in your class. Have students draw only the fabric and all of its folds.

Group Activity: Buddha in Asian Art

Buddhism began about 2,500 years ago in India, then spread throughout Asia. Divide your class into small groups and assign each group one or two Asian countries, such as India, Nepal, Korea, China, Japan, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, or Malaysia. Have each group look through books to find images of Buddhas. As a class, compare and contrast the images from different countries. How are they the same? How are they different?

Research Idea: Mudra

Buddhist sculptures are meant to convey many messages to worshipers. One way they do this is through very specific hand positions called mudra. The Buddha raises his right hand with its palm facing us and his thumb and middle finger brought together. The open palm is meant to calm our fears. The fingers make a circle, which represents the wheel of Buddhist learning and therefore signifies the Buddha's desire to teach us. Two fingers on the left hand are broken but the position of the palm facing upward is a gesture of giving, as if you had an object in your hand and offered it to someone. Research Internet sites to learn more about mudra. Practice some of these positions and then demonstrate to the class.

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