Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
South-East Asia, Room 47a

Head of a Bodhisattva

Head
6th century - 7th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This stucco relief of a tile display a Bodhisattva head in its centre. The narrow head is depicted in high relief. The eyes and small mouth are straight. Holes are punched for the pupils of the eyes, nostrils and corners of the mouth. A small rosette decorates the ears. The hair is done in a high, conical topknot with a large rosette in front, and a half-flower of a different type at the sides with the bud or tassel projecting horizontally from the centre. Below these a part of the hair is also standing out horizontally. The background is entirely lost. The tiles have been accidentally burnt later on. The ornament on the right side of the head is lost as well as the rosette of the right ear. The nose is damaged. It was excavated at the major Buddhist (cave) temple site at Ming-oi which literally means “the Thousand Dwellings”, a term not solely confined to this specific site, but also to other temple sites. It is located close to Karashahr on the northern branch of the Silk Road in Xinjiang, China. In the almost one-hundred Buddhist shrines at the site, many pieces of delicately carved heads, torsos and busts were brought to light.

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.


object details
Category
Object Type
Additional TitleThe Stein Collection (named collection)
Materials and Techniques
Moulded stucco
Brief Description
Head of a Bodhisattva, 6th - 7th century, China.
Physical Description
Stucco relief tile with Bodhisattva head in its centre. The narrow head is depicted in high relief. The eyes and small mouth are straight. Holes are punched for the pupils of the eyes, nostrils and corners of the mouth. A small rosette deocrates the ears. The hair is done in a high, conical topknot with a large rosette in front, and a half-flower of a different type at the sides with the bud or tassel projecting horizontally from the centre. Below these a part of the hair is also standing out horizontally. The background is entirely lost. The tiles have been accidentally burnt later on. The ornament on the right side of the head is lost as well as the rosette of the right ear. The nose is damaged.
Dimensions
  • Height: 15.3cm
  • Maximum width: 11cm
Gallery Label
  • 14. Head of a Bodhisattva 500–700 A bodhisattva is a saviour who delays his own nirvana to help others achieve enlightenment. This head is in the late Gandharan style of eastern Central Asia. Originally coloured and complete with a background, it comes from one of many Buddhist shrines at Ming-oi on the northern silk route. Baked clay, with signs of fire damage China (Ming-oi, Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region) Excavated in 1907 by Sir Aurel Stein Museum no. LOAN: I.A. SURVEY.13(06/06/2011)
Credit line
Stein Loan Collection. On loan from the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India. Copyright: Government of India
Object history
Excavated from the recess space (Mi.xvi) next to a shrine (Mi.xv) at the site of Ming-oi.
Production
from Ming-oi
Subject depicted
Summary
This stucco relief of a tile display a Bodhisattva head in its centre. The narrow head is depicted in high relief. The eyes and small mouth are straight. Holes are punched for the pupils of the eyes, nostrils and corners of the mouth. A small rosette decorates the ears. The hair is done in a high, conical topknot with a large rosette in front, and a half-flower of a different type at the sides with the bud or tassel projecting horizontally from the centre. Below these a part of the hair is also standing out horizontally. The background is entirely lost. The tiles have been accidentally burnt later on. The ornament on the right side of the head is lost as well as the rosette of the right ear. The nose is damaged. It was excavated at the major Buddhist (cave) temple site at Ming-oi which literally means “the Thousand Dwellings”, a term not solely confined to this specific site, but also to other temple sites. It is located close to Karashahr on the northern branch of the Silk Road in Xinjiang, China. In the almost one-hundred Buddhist shrines at the site, many pieces of delicately carved heads, torsos and busts were brought to light.



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.
Bibliographic Reference
Stein, Marc Aurel. Serindia: detailed report of explorations in Central Asia and westernmost China. Oxford: Clarendon, 1921, vol. 3, pp.1218
Other Number
Mi.xvi.0017 - Stein number
Collection
Accession Number
LOAN:I A SURVEY.13

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record createdJune 27, 2007
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