Thai or Cambodian / Crowned Buddha Seated in Meditation and Sheltered by Muchilinda / 12th centuryThai or Cambodian
Crowned Buddha Seated in Meditation and Sheltered by Muchilinda
12th century

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Creator Nationality: Asian; Southeast Asian; Thai
Creator Dates/Places: Thai or Cambodian
Creator Active Place: Thai or Cambodian
Creator Name-CRT: Thai or Cambodian
Title: Crowned Buddha Seated in Meditation and Sheltered by Muchilinda
View: Full View
Creation Start Date: 1100
Creation End Date: 1199
Creation Date: 12th century
Creation Place: Thailand or Cambodia
Object Type: Sculpture
Materials and Techniques: sandstone
Dimensions: H. 42 1/2 in. (108 cm)
AMICA Contributor: Asia Society
Owner Location: New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 1982.001
Credit Line: Asia Society: Gift of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd
Context: The study of Cambodian and Thai sculpture dating from the 10th to 14th centuries is primarily the study of the civilization and culture of the Khmer empire. The Khmers inhabited and controlled parts of mainland Southeast Asia from the 6th century onward.This 12th-century sandstone sculpture of a Buddha reflects a shift in iconography that occurred during the reign of Jayavarman VII (1181-c. 1218), a Khmer monarch who ruled as a buddha-king rather than as a Hindu god-king, and thus dedicated his monumentsto Buddhist rather than to Hindu divinities. Seated in a meditation posture, the Buddha holds his hands in the gesture of meditation (dhyanamudra). He wears a long skirtlike garment (sampot) with thick waist and hemlines, a crown, earrings,a necklace, armlets, and bracelets, and is seated on the coils of the seven-headed cobra Muchilinda.

The emphasis placed on this new type of Buddhist image, that of a crowned Buddha seated on the cobra Muchilinda, is one of the many changes in Buddhistart as well as thought fostered by Jayavarman VII. Images of a Buddha without a crown and protected by the hood of Muchilinda have a long history in Buddhist art. They illustrate a moment in the life of Buddha Shakyamuni when he was sheltered froma storm by the serpent. This event, which is believed to have occurred within the first six weeks after Shakyamuni attained buddhahood, is often represented in the visual arts.

The crown and jewelry worn in this example add several layers of meaning to the iconography, representing both the omnipresence of the Buddha and the legitimacy of the ruler. The serpent, who helps to identify the iconography and represents the powers of water, is also a longstanding emblem of royalty throughout South and Southeast Asia. As it is associated withhealing, the serpent may also have had a personal meaning for Jayavarman VII, who is noted for the many hospitals that were built during his reign. The jewelry also links this sculpture of Shakyamuni with the tradition of Esoteric Buddhism, in which deities wear jewelry.Jayavarman VII's preference for this particularly complicated branch of Buddhist thought may have had political implications as well: it has been suggested that the shift to Buddhism during the 12th century was a result of the search for a more potent religion after a disastrous Cham attack on the Khmers in 1117.

Related Document Description: Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 112.
AMICA ID: ASIA.1982.001
AMICA Library Year: 1999
Media Metadata Rights: Copyright, Asia Society

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