The Eastern Art

vol.1:2, 1928.10, pp. 109-116

p. 109 In the fourth century of our era, when the Greco-buddhist art of Gandhara and of Kapisa seemed irretrievably on the decline, there appeared in that part of India held by the Gupta emperors from Sarnath to Mathura certain works inspired by a return to the national tradition, which may be rated among the most appealing and most beautiful expressions of Indian sculpture. The late schist bas-reliefs of Kapisa display a confusion of forms where of the clumsiness is particularly accented when contrasted with the delicate slenderness of the great buddhas of Mathura (Figs. I, 2). This contrast is plain, however, not only in the handling of anatomical detail, but it is equally evident in the rendering of the drapery. In late Grerco-buddhist sculpture the drapery is highly stylized: for the deep folds of the Hellenistic prototypes padded ridges were substituted at wide intervals. (Figs.I, 2). It is in antithesis to this meagreness, this stiffness, that the works of the Mathura school seem endowed with magnificent grace:the delicate folds, clinging to the body as though the garment were of thin, transparent fabric (Fig.3),(1) separate at the left shoulder and curve inward over the right side of the chest to return upwards in the direction of the right shoulder. On the lower part of the body--and this treatment is not without importance--the thighs are covered with symmetric folds. This particular rendering of the drapery is also found no more distant from India than Sarnath, where patently the figures are, anatomically, very similar in conformation to those of Mathura, but are cloaked in robes completely devoid of folds. In other words, where, on the one hand, the treatment resembles an expanse of water stirred by a gentle breeze, on the other it is the tranquil reflection of a still pool. On these grounds we cannot believe that the sculpture of Mathura is descended directly from that of Gandhara. In our opinion the origin of this very characteristic drapery in close.folds is to be found at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. The Chinese pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang, visited Bamiyan in 632 and has left us a description of the two colossal buddhas carved in the cliff of tertiary conglomerate that flanks the valley. We have had an opportunity to examine(2) the original method developed by the Bamiyan artisans for fixing the lime mortar shell which was employed to show the folds of the monastic robes on the figures. "On the right thigh of the great Buddha the holes for the wooden pegs which supported the mortar still form a dotted line, indicating the original course of the folds or monastic garments (Fig. 4). Cords were stretched from one peg to the next and these cords are still to be seen in places. These pegs and cords served as a support for the lime mortar coating. In the spots where this support still remains, the drapery resembles padded ridges arranged in parallel lines from the left shoulder, diverging. however, from the parallel toward the centre of the breast to curve upward and return toward the right shoulder." This rendering of the drapery in close padded ridges is virrtually that of the Mathura sculptors. It goes without saying, naturally, that the work at Bamiyan is decidedly earlier than that of Mathura. Nothing could be more natural than that the artists of Mathura were inspired by the statues at Bamiyan justly famous at that time throughout the Buddhist world. These same models determined also the style of sculpture in farther Asia: MM. von. Le Coq and Paul Pelliot and Sir Aurel Stein have brought to light sculpture showing this same characteristic drapery. To illustrate this point it is sufficient to examine side by side the thirty-four metre Buddha at Bamiyan and ________________________________ 1 Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India. 1922-23; Pl. XXXIXa. 2 A. Godard, Y. Godard and J. Hackin, Les Antiquites Bouddbiques de Bamiyan, Paris 1928, pp. 12-13. p. 111 the Buddha of Schor-tschuq(3) published by M: A. von Le Cog (Figs. 5, 6). In both examples the folds still curve inward toward the right side of the breast in order to extend up the length of the body. At Mathura itself this treatment was little by little abandoned, and the folds are arranged according to a somewhat different rhythm. We have observed, in examining out first example from Mathura (Fig. 3), that in the lower part of the robe the wrinkles curve inward at the crotch in order to cover the legs and the thighs with symmetrical up-pointing folds; in our next example from Mathura (Fig. 8) this rhythm reaches the breast and we maintain that all these short lines if prolonged would extend to the middle of the upper part of the body. This selfsame innovation travelled to Yun Kang (the attendant figure, for example, beside the great Buddha in Fig. 7) but here the folds were represented not as rounded quiltings, but in flat: relief, a detail which we find again in two specimens, also of Chinese provenance, one in the Metropolitan Museum(4) the other belonging to Dr. Otto Buchard, Berlin (Figs. 9, 10). In the statue at the Metropolitan (dated 476) the gestures of the two hands are not precisely abhaya-mudra (gesture of reassurance made by the right hand) or varamudra (gesture of dispensing favours made by the left) yet all examples though of different origin may be traced back, it seems plain, to the great Buddha at Bamiyan, which represents, without exception, their forebear in style, with the abhaya-mudra present and the gesture of the left hand being in the majority of instances, the varamudra. The well-known statue at the Seiryo Temple, Kyoto, (Fig. 11), does not deviate from this standard treatment. This piece is of undoubted antiquity and is closely related in other respects to models in the Gupta style which have been questioned. According to the Nihongi Ryakky the Kyoto figure was brought to Japan from China in 987 by the monk Chonen of the Todai Temple.(5) If one can give credence to one text written by the monk Jozan, pupil and travelling companion of Chhoen, a text which is little more than a compilation of works written by the monks Sonan and Jumei, this image of the Seiryo-ji was a copy, executed by a sculptor named Chang Jong, of the famous sandalwood figure(6) which King Udayana had made when the Buddha was preaching the law to his mother in the heaven of the thirty-three deities. Of this legendary attribution we need only believe the part confirming the Indian origin, and that this statue, so celebrated in the Buddhist world, found asylum, after many vicissitudes in the imperial palace of the Chinese capital Pien King (K'ai Feng-fu) and it was there that, at the end of the tenth century, a copy was made by order of the Japanese monk Chonen. The replica at Seiryo-ji follows, with certain clumsy renderings. an original which must have been related to the statue of Mathura, judging by the median drapery, which we have had occasion to ________________________ 3 A. von Le Cog. Spatantica I, PI. XXXIX. 4 A Bronze-gilt Statue of the Wei Period, by S. C. Bosch Reitz, Bulletin of the Metropolitan Museum, October, 1927 (Vol. XXI, No. 10). 5 Hi Minamoto, The Buddha sratuc of tbe Seiryo-ji Temple in Kyoto, Bukkyo Bijutsu No.1, Nov. 1924. Text ia Japanese; for an analysis of this valuable article we are under obligation to M. Serge Elisseev. 6 We should here note in regard to this famous sandalwood Buddha that M. Paul Pelliot translated (Journal Asiatique, July-August 1914, XI series, Vol.IV. p. 188-190) the memoir, where in K'ang Hsi dedicated the temple of Chan T'an Ssu (or the Temple of Sandalwood) in Peking in 1721 to this sandalwood figure which was considered the true statue that had miraculously come to China. p. 115 describe at the beginning of the present discussion (Fig. 8). it is sufficient for us to note here that the folds extend, just as in the case of the Mathura Statue, from the centre of the breast, yet the statue of Seiryo-ji has these folds but more compact and also more irregularly arranged(Fig. 11). On the lower part of the body, below the knees, the folds are arranged in unrelated curves which cover the right leg and the left leg separately while on the Mathura statue the return is brought about in the space between the legs by a simple fold which is nothing but a perfect continuation of the rhythmic folds covering the breast. It should be noted-further that the Seiryo-ji Buddha displays a tendency, in common with certain Central Asian works (those of Turfan in particular) of showing the garments clinging closely to the forward planes of the things. After examining carefully these small differences in the rendering of she drapery, there seems to us no chance of admitting any other than a purely Indian origin for the piece of sculpture which inspired and guided the artist who executed the replica at Seiryo-ji. The majority of Japanese scholars have come to the same conclusion. It is only necessary for us to introduce the opinion of M. Bunsaburo Matsumoto to maintain, after examination of the Sakya of Seiryo-ji, that the body is covered by a sheer garment, with folds which, taking the head as a centre, extend like ripples all ever the rode, a mannerism characteristic of Gupta sculpture? This work, related as, it is to the tradition of the Gupta school, harks back, through. the same inter- mediates, to the great buddhas at Bamiyan. The Tibetans also boast of owning statues which were made during the life of the Buddha. The legend relates that the first Indian statue was sent to the Emperor of China by the King of Magadha in recognition of aid lent by the Emperor at a time when Magadha was attacked by the Yavanas (the Greeks). This statue was included among the treasures taken to Tibet by the Wen-Cheng, a relation of T'ang T'ai Tsung and wife of the Tibetan king Sron Tsan Sgam-po (mid seventh century) Sarat Sandra Das(8) who tells this tale, saw this figure in the chief temple at Lhassa, where it was on display to be adored by the faithful. "The image is life-sized and exquisitely modelled and represents a handsome young prince. The Kunyer (keeper of images) said that the images represented the Buddha at the age of twelve; hence the princely apparel in which he is clothed and the dissimilarity of the image to those seen elsewhere." Two other statues, one preserved in the monastery or Kum-bun, the other at Lhassa where it is included in the treasures of the Temple or the Master (Jo-Khan) comprise, together with the figure at Chan-T'an Ssu the triad of original images which the Tibetan lamas designated under the name of Sku Gsum--three bodies (Sanskrit: Kaya traya the one at Lhassa being the Dharmakaya, that at Peking the Sambhogakaya, and the one at Kum-bun the Nirmanakaya. Unfortunately no photograph of the two statues actually at Lhassa are available, but we can gain some idea of them from the figures in modern Tibetan books; these have folds of the drapery rendered in the same characteristic manner and, therefore, it seems to us reasonable to relate these later copies to the figures on view at Lhassa, the latter being without any doubt near relations to the figure at Seiryo-ji. Figure 12, which shows a person of youthful mien, with a headdress of five jeweled points and long hanging ear-rings, will prove to be a reproduction of the statue at the main temple of Lhassa, representing the Buddha in the guise of a youthful prince. We find here again the characteristic median drapery, as well as the four folds which divide at the shoulder and terminate in a diagonal across the thighs. A second example ________________________ 7 Cited by H. Minamoto. Bukkyo Bijutsu, No. 1. This authority agrees with M. Munsabura Matsumoto and brings forward certain works which seem to him to possess similarities to the Seiryo-ji figure Ancient Khotan Pl., XVII; Serindia, Vol. V, Pl. VIII, X; P. Pelliot, Les Grottes bouddbiques de Touen Houang, Pl. CXCI, CCLXXXV, etc., etc. See also A. Foucher, L'Art greco-bouddbique du Gandbara, Vol. II. Fig. 589-590 and p. 767-771. 8 Sarat Sandra Das, Journey to Lbassa and Central Tibet, p 201-202. 9 W. W. Rockhill. The Land of the Lamas. Notes on a Journey through China, Mongolia and Tibet, p. 105. p. 116 (Fig. 13) shows Avalokitesvata,(10) if we may judge by the dhyani buddha enthroned in the headdress, with a stylization differing in one respect: the oblique folds of the preceding figure are here reduced to four strokes which represent on the upper part of the skirt three wings reminiscent in a singular manner of the drapery on the torso. These appear as most graceless superfluities. Distortion after distortion brings us thus to a rendering hopelessly divergent from the fine early standard and exhausts the subject which can well be brought to a close here. ____________________ 10 Art Bouddbique Catalogue Sommaire de la 4e exhibition des Arts de l'Asie au Musee Cernuschi, April-June, 1923, No. 642, p. 47. We cannot nerre make any allusion to the influence exercised by the Mathura school on the sculpture of Ceylon, Indo-China (the Buddha of Dong-Du'o'ng) and extending even to China by the maritime route. This subject will merit a second article.