The present figure is remarkable for the intricacy of the carved details apparent, for example, in the superb rendering of the scarves and jewelry and the fine articulation of the fingertips and feet. It is very rare to find jade figures of this type inscribed Wanfo Lou cang. This inscription most likely refers to the Wanfo Lou tower in Beihai Yuan (or Beihai Park, formerly the imperial gardens during the Qing dynasty) in Beijing, and it is therefore possible that the present figure belonged to this shrine.
An imperial jade figure of a bodhisattva, also with a Qianlong mark and of the period and superbly carved with elegant naturalistic details but lacking the mark of a tower or temple, is illustrated in The Splendor of Jade. Four Thousand Years of the Art of Chinese Jade Carving, New York, 1974, pl. 48. See also a jade figure of a seated Buddha, from the Qing Court collection and now in the Palace Museum, Beijing, illustrated in Zhongguo yuqi quanji, vol. 6, Shijiazhuang, 1993, pl. 334, together with a standing figure of a luohan and a spinach jade figure of Guanyin, both in the Palace Museum, pls. 335 and 336.
The Qianlong emperor supported a variety of religions, but in the case of Tibetan Buddhism, he was not only a dominant financial supporter, but also a personal believer. Whether to reinforce his image as a devout and worthy ruler in the eyes of his various constituents, or because he also deeply believed in the Tibetan form of Buddhism, the Qianlong emperor commissioned the construction of several shrines both within and outside the Palace which were then furnished with Buddhist images, such as the Fanzong Lou (Pavilion of Buddhist Origin), the Baoxiang Lou (Building of Treasured Image) and the Fanhua Lou (Building of Buddhist Brilliance), believed to house the only complete existing set of statutes representing the esoteric school of Tibetan Buddhism in China.
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