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Buddha head - The Stein Collection

The Stein Collection

  • Object:

    Buddha head

  • Place of origin:

    Xinjiang (made)

  • Date:

    700-900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Moulded soft clay mixed with fibre

  • Credit Line:

    Stein Loan Collection. On loan from the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India. Copyright: Government of India

  • Museum number:

    LOAN:I A SURVEY.11

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This face of the Buddha originally came from an over life-size statue. The face has narrow, oblique and arched eyes; a small mouth with well-formed lips and deeply indented corners. The whole was painted in pink with the eyeballs painted in white. The holes for the pupils are now empty, but were probably filled with stone or paint. Directly below the under lip is a round hole, about which are remains of white paint covered with blue. The surface of nose, forehead and left side of the face are lost. It was found in a passage on the back of a platform in an ruined Buddhist shrine at the site of Yar-khoto. The ancient city of Yar-khoto was built on a high cliff to the west of Turfan and once was an important administrative centre as it was located at the junction of the Silk Roads north and south of the Tianshan Mountain range.

The Victoria and Albert Museum has more than 70 ceramic fragments and fragments of Buddhist sculptures, as well as around 600 ancient and medieval textiles recovered by Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943) during his second expedition (1906-8) into Chinese Central Asia, where he once again visited and excavated sites on the southern Silk Road, before moving eastwards to Dunhuang. At Dunhuang, he studied and excavated the Han-dynasty watchtowers to the north of the town, as well as the Mogao cave temples to the southeast, where he acquired material from the Library Cave. From there he moved on to the northern Silk Road, stopping briefly at Turfan sites but not carrying out any excavations. He made a perilous north-south crossing of the Taklamakan desert in order to hasten to Khotan where he excavated more ancient sites, before finishing off his expedition with surveying in the Kunlun Mountains.

Physical description

Face of Buddha from an over life-size statue. The face has narrow, oblique and arched eyes; a small mouth with well-formed lips and deeply indented corners. The whole was painted in pink with the eyeballs painted in white. The holes for the pupils are now empty, but were probably filled with stone or paint. Directly below the under lip is a round hole, about which are remains of white paint covered with blue. The surface of nose, forehead and left side of the face are lost.

Place of Origin

Xinjiang (made)

Date

700-900 (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Moulded soft clay mixed with fibre

Dimensions

Length: 26.67 cm, Width: 20.3 cm above eyes

Object history note

Excavated at the site of Yar-khoto.

Historical context note

Yar-khoto was an oasis town on the northern Silk Road. It served as the capital of Turfan until the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Stein was impressed by the massive ruins at the site and visited repeatedly while excavating at the town of Turfan nearby. Among the remains of several Buddhist shrines he found fragments of stucco sculpture, a quilted shoe, and a bronze ornament depicting small gilded Buddha figures seated on a lotus branch. Numerous Chinese copper coins dating to the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) indicated that the site had been occupied during this time. A larger than life Buddha head from Yarkhoto is in the V&A Stein collection.

Descriptive line

Face of Buddha, China.

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Stein, Marc Aurel. Serindia: detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China. Oxford: Clarendon, 1921, vol. 3, p.1175

Production Note

from Yar-khoto

Materials

Clay; Fibre

Techniques

Moulded; Incised

Categories

Buddhism

Collection

East Asia Collection

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