Asia Week

What Makes This Gilt-Bronze Figure of Avalokiteshvara Unique to the Dali Kingdom | Expert Voices

London | 1 November 2023

This fire-gilded bronze figure of the four-armed bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara, comes from the 11th/12th century Dali Kingdom and exudes a truly captivating aura.

Buddhism in the Dali Kingdom (937-1253) developed as a distinctive interpretation of the faith, combining veneration of Buddhas and bodhisattvas and practice of tantric elements of esoteric Vajrayana Buddhism that originated in eastern India during the Pala period (8th - 12th century). The tantric iconography of this four-armed Avalokiteshvara — the vajra, emblem of the ‘diamond path’ of Vajrayana Buddhism; the sword that cuts though ignorance; the demon underfoot that personifies spiritual hindrance — is not described in the Indian texts (sadhana) and appears to be unique to the Dali culture.

This figure is a highlight of the Important Chinese Art sale taking place at Sotheby's London on 1 November alongside an exciting selection of early ceramics, imperial porcelains, Buddhist figures and works of art ranging from early dynastic periods to the 20th century.

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