The present finely cast figure of Amitayus belongs to a small group of deity sculptures produced during the reign of the Kangxi Emperor who was a devote follower of Tibetan Buddhism. Figures in this group are all of similar size, depicting Amitayus seated on a double lotus petal pedestal with a serene facial expression and embellished with colourful semi-precious stone jewellery characteristic of imagery used by Tibetans. Buddha Amitayus (The Deity of Infinite Life) is associated with the rites that ensure a long life. He is closely connected with Amitabha, the Deity of Infinite Light, and is thought to preside over the Western Paradise (Sukavati). Amitayus is especially worshipped by the Tibetans who believe that by faith and compassion life can be extended through long lineages. They also believe that with the help of Amitayus' life extending energy, one can achieve self-enlightenment and the welfare of others.
Compare two closely related figures of seated Amitayus illustrated in Ullrich van Schroeder, Indo-Tibetan Bronzes, Hong Kong, 1981, p. 152, pls. 152A and 152B where it is noted that the application of coloured beads indicate that images of this type were made for Tibetan Buddhism. See also two richly gilded figures decorated with semi-precious stones published in Zhongguo Zang quan fojiao diaosu quanji, vol. 2, Beijing, 2002, pls. 208 and 209; a figure sold in these rooms, 9th October 2007, lot 1547; and another sold in our London rooms, 12th May 1989, lot 518. Another comparable figure of Amitayus, in the collection of the Hong Kong Museum of Art, is illustrated in Rose Lee, 'Chinese textiles related to Tibetan Buddhism in the Hong Kong Museum of Art', Arts of Asia, July-August, 1995, p. 72, fig. 5.
Finely cast and richly embellished figures of this type were commissioned by the Kangxi emperor as a gift, possibly for his grandmother or for the Tibetan hierarchy to be installed in one of the many Tibetan Buddhist temples in the capital. They belong to a select group of Buddhist figures made in the Imperial foundry, amongst which one, cast on the orders of the Kangxi emperor for his grandmother's birthday in 1686, is illustrated in Cultural Relics of Tibetan Buddhism Collected in the Qing Palace, Hong Kong, 1992, pls. 1-2. Amitayus figures in a similar style continued to be made during the reign of Kangxi's grandson, the Qianlong emperor. It was during the Qianlong period that the popularity and worship of Amitayus increased substantially due to Qianlong's self-identification with this deity. For an example of a Qianlong figure of Amitayus see one sold in our New York rooms, 22nd September 2005, lot 50.