Antique Ming/Qing Wood Shakyamuni Buddha in Meditation, China (16089BMEM)


H: 14”  W: 9.375”  D: 7.25” | CALL/EMAIL FOR SHIPPING QUOTE

This fine extremely rare Ming/Qing carving depicts Shakyamuni Buddha in meditation made from fine dense wood with much of its iridescent pigmentation. He is masterfully carved with a serene, benevolent and pensive expression with downcast eyes below arched eyebrows, and a slightly smiling mouth, tightly coiled curls surrounding his ushnisha, and his pendulous ears frame his rounded face. His plain but elegantly carved monks robe leaves his chest bare and extends over his shoulders and to his back. This is a small yet very powerful image.


Although there have been countless Buddhas over the centuries, only Shakyamuni-Buddha  is considered The Buddha, the historical figure who lived on earth and was the source and creator of the teachings that became Buddhist doctrine. He sits in meditation (dhyana) denoting perfect physical and spiritual balance with legs in padmasana with one bare foot faced up and both hands in his lap, right atop the left, palms upward. Dhyana is the most represented pose of Buddha-Statues in Mahayana Buddhism during the Ming through Qing dynasties and is said to be derived from the position the Buddha assumed when meditating under the Bodhi tree before his enlightenment. He wears a three-part monks-robes cascading in folds and revealing the lower garment of a monk’s three part robe (dhoti) gathered at the waist with the shawl over his shoulders extending to his back. His presence brings serenity radiates serenity with his beautiful benign expression emphasized by downcast eyes, an aquiline nose, and a slightly smiling mouth. He has the identifying features of a great and exceptional spiritual being referred to collectively as lakshanas: pendulous ears symbolizing his enlightenment, three neck creases symbolizing luck, and an ushnisha, a raised cranial protuberance denoting the seat of intellectual powers, wisdom, and divine energy. The ushnisha is centered with a slight hemispherical bump, called a nikkeishu in Japanese, representing a jewel radiating the light of wisdom. His head is snail-crowned, i.e., full of raised rounded spiral curls, an allusion to the legend that when the Buddha was lost in meditation he was oblivious to the Sun’s rays beating on his head. Snails in gratitude to him and his love for all sentient beings formed a protective hood with their own cool bodies. (Williams, p. 351). According to the Laita-Vistara the religious text which recounts Shakyamuni’s life, he had a “…large skull, broad forehead…skin fine and the color of gold; his hair black and curly.” Medium size and fine Buddha antique-Chinese-wood-carving images in good condition extremely rare, and many this display some old insect and damage from dry conditions during China’s modernization. This one was composed of two pieces of wood, as seen from the underside front which is partially covered with a tightly woven gauze-like textile. We do not know whether this was a replacement for an original damaged section as it was common for both white paint and white textiles to cover damaged sections or the original front of the piece. In any case, it does not affect the integral structure or visible beauty of the piece. As Buddhist-statues of Shakyamuni Buddha were rarely placed on home altars, this striking image was likely placed on the altar/shrine of a provincial clan or a community temple, and if the front was repaired, it was likely routinely done very long ago under the auspices of a Buddhist temple. Donors often authorized and financed temples for repairs on pieces needing them in order to gain merit.This is part of VA Spiritual-and-Inspirational Collection of Buddhist-Art Collection


Fredrick W. Bunce, A Dictionary of Buddhist and Hindu Iconography, New Delhi, D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd., 2001.

Patricia Eichenbaum Karetzky, Images of Asia: Chinese Buddhist Art, New York, Oxford University Press, 2002.

Meyer McArthur, Reading Buddhist Art: An Illustrated guide to Buddhist Signs and Symbols, London, Thames and Hudson, 2002.

Keith Stevens, Chinese Gods: the Unseen World of Spirits and Demons, London, Collins and Brown, 1997.

C.A.S. Williams, Chinese Symbols and Art Motifs, New York, Dover Publications, 1978.

Additional information

Place of Origin



Antique, Ming/Qing Dynasties


17-18th Century

Materials and Technique

Wood, polychrome, lacquer

Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 14”. W: 9.375” D: 7.25”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 35.56cm W: 23.81cm D:18.41cm


Excellent, See Descripton

Reference Number



12” to 17.9”

Shipping Box Size