STANDING WOOD BUDDHA
VIETNAM, MEKONG DELTA
3RD- 6TH CENTURY
HEIGHT 165 CMS, 65 INS
A majestic, slender life-size wood figure of Buddha Sakyamuni, standing on a raised lotus pedestal, his right hand missing but probably once raised in abhayamudra (the gesture of dispelling fear) and his left possibly holding the hem of his robe, the face smiling and serene beneath a conical usnisha with pronounced curls, wearing an ankle-length sanghati with a rippling hem, his right shoulder left exposed.
This remarkable, mysterious sculpture is carved from calophyllum inophyllum wood, known in Vietnam as Mu-u. Because of their fragility, early wooden sculptures are exceptionally rare and these figures probably owe their survival to having been immersed for many centuries in the saturated coastal earth of the Mekong Delta. Buddha figures of similar date and appearance have been discovered at Binh Hoa, Thap Muoi, Phong My and other sites in the Delta. For a related image from the Museum of Vietnamese History, Ho Chi Minh City, found at Binh Hoa village (Plain of Reeds), Long An Province, Mekong Delta, see cat. no. 27 in N. Tingley, Arts of Ancient Vietnam: From River Plain to Open Sea, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, 2009. See also plates 21, 24 and 25 in Louis Malleret, L'Archéologie du Delta du Mekong, Vol. 4, Paris: École francaise d'Extrême-Orient, 1959-1963.
Early Chinese writers refer to a maritime kingdom in Cambodia called Funan, its Mon-Khmer population profoundly affected by Indian influences. It extended along the coast of Indochina from the Gulf of Siam to central Vietnam. There is abundant archaeological evidence of a flourishing Funanese commercial society centered on the fertile Mekong Delta from the 1st century to the 6th century AD. Excavations at the port city of Oc-Eo in what is now southern Vietnam reveal that the town was served by a network of canals and was an important trade link between India and China.
Radiocarbon 14 age determined by ETH Zurich as:
256 - 298 AD (11.6% probability)
318 - 466 AD (79.1% probability)
473 - 532 AD (9.3 % probability)
Note: A section of the hem has been reattached.
PROVENANCE: Private American collection.