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Cosmic Buddha: 3-D Scanning Reveals Many Secrets of Ancient Chinese Statue

Cosmic Buddha: Digital 3D Scans Of 6th Century Chinese Statue Reveals Buddhist Teachings

Archeologists always keep coming across astounding relics from the past, as our planet Earth, has so much in store. One such discovery was the Cosmic Buddha. It is a life size statue of a monk dating back to almost 6th century. What is more interesting, is that this statue is covered with stunning illustrations carved in limestone that reveal Buddhist teachings. The team of experts did a digital 3D scan of this statue, to reveal these illustrations, which are impossible to be seen with naked eyes. These scans would definitely aid the researchers to decipher the intricately embedded story in the robe.

imrs-1-1Digital scans of the “Cosmic Buddha” have unlocked images that are almost impossible to see with the naked eye. (Smithsonian’s Digitalization Program Office, Arthur M. Sackler Gallery)

Cosmic Buddha

Researchers found the cosmic buddha, which is the Buddha Vairochana (Pilushena) statue, from Henan province in China. It belongs to the Northern Qi dynasty (550 – 577 AD), which was an era of great artistic transformation and religious expression. The religion enjoyed both imperial patronage and abundant popular support, during that dynamic period. The work from the 6th century illustrates how beliefs, artistic techniques, and religious expression, rapidly evolved and provided a foundation for later innovations.

Cosmic Buddha: Digital 3D Scans Of 6th Century Chinese Statue Reveals Buddhist TeachingsImage Source (Image Source)

The Freer Gallery of Art, where the Buddha is on display, explains:

“Scholars have identified the headless figure as Vairochana, the Cosmic Buddha (Pilushena in Chinese). The iconography of the narrative scenes that cover its form-fitting robe represents the life of the Historical Buddha as well as the “Realms of Existence,” a symbolic map of the Buddhist world. In Buddhist texts, Vairochana is described as the generative force behind all phenomena in the universe. He is also a central figure in the Chinese schools of Tiantai and Huayan. The narrative scenes are spiritual emanations rising from the Buddha himself and illustrate fundamental Buddhist teachings. These scenes originally would have been painted, as suggested by the slight traces of pigment that remain.”

What Details Do The 3D Scans Reveal?

Cosmic Buddha: Digital 3D Scans Of 6th Century Chinese Statue Reveals Buddhist TeachingsOriginal Statue with unreadable illustrations/Image Source (Image Source)

The researchers and art historians had been trying for years to piece together the illustrations using paper rubbings, as the carvings on the Buddha are pretty much worn.

Cosmic Buddha: Digital 3D Scans Of 6th Century Chinese Statue Reveals Buddhist TeachingsImage Source (Image Source)

However, the curator of ancient Chinese art at the Freer and Sackler Galleries, Keith Wilson, turned to Smithsonian’s new 3D digitization program for assistance as this process began to wear down the surface of the sculpture. The results of these scans surprised them, as they revealed that the carvings were so clear and detailed.

According to Mr.Wilson, he found one of the most complex illustrations of the Sutra on the back of the sculpture. It was apparently a conflation of three or four events brought together in one illustration. He added that it was probably one of the earliest instances of this kind of combination as all the others were just one scene.

All the studies of these previously unreadable illustrations revealed that the Buddha may have been designed to serve as a teaching tool. Mr. Wilson further added that it may have been in a monastery where a teacher would have provided instruction on the Buddhist teachings. The researchers claimed that these artistic illustrations will help them reveal the visual culture of 6th century China.

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Cosmic Buddha: 3-D Scanning Reveals Many Secrets of Ancient Chinese Statue
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