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An image of Maitreya (Buddha of the future) by


Maitreya (Buddha of the future)
Other titles:
Figure of Manjusri
Figure of Maitreya
Seated Maitreya
Seated bodhisattva
Place of origin
Yuan dynasty 1279 - 1368 → China
14th century
Media category
Materials used
gilt bronze

69.0 x 40.0 x 31.0 cm

Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Purchased 1996
Accession number
Lower Asian gallery
Further information

In the Buddhist art of China and North Asia, Maitreya is represented as both a Buddha and a Bodhisattva. The Historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, is said to have visited Maitreya in the Tushita heaven when he appointed him to be his successor. For this reason Maitreya is also known as the 'Future Buddha'. In later times and in yet another form, Maitreya became one of the most popular of Buddhist images as Budai, the manifestation of the Future Buddha: always represented as a fat jolly fellow commonly referred to as the 'laughing Buddha'. Here Maitreya is represented as a Bodhisattva, identified by the hands held in the dharmachakra (teaching or turning the wheel of the law) 'mudra', with the legs pendant: the only deity in the vast pantheon of Buddhist gods to be shown seated in the European manner. Also visible are the now broken stems of the lotus flower traditionally held by Maitreya. The ornate 'dhoti' tied at the waist and elaborate necklaces, headdress and jewellery are all characteristic of Bodhisattva images of this time, when the influence of the Tibetan style was being felt.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg.251.

Bibliography (9)

Edmund Capon, Look, 'The Arts of Asia', pg. 20, Heidelberg, Apr 1997, 24 (colour illus.).

Jonathan Cooper (Editor), The Art Gallery of New South Wales Bulletin, 'The Collections', pg. 44-45, Sydney, Feb 1997-Apr 1997, 45 (colour illus.).

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 251 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Co-ordinator), The arts of Buddhism, Sydney, 2001, back cover (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), Buddha: Radiant awakening, Sydney, 2001, 165 (colour illus.), 188. 121

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, China 'Buddhist Art', Sydney, 2003, 98 (colour illus.).

Tom Stannage (Editor), Gold and civilisation, Canberra, 2001, 191 (colour illus.).

Judith White, Look, 'A landmark for the city', pg. 16-19, South Yarra, Apr 2001, 17 (colour illus.). In this publication this object is titled 'Figure of Maitreya'.

LIU Yang, Orientations, 'The Discovery of Mass: A Footnote to the Stylistic and Iconographic Innovation in Chinese Buddhist Sculpture', pg. 88-95, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 94 (colour illus.). fig.6

Exhibition history (4)

Gold and civilisation:

Buddha: Radiant awakening, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 10 Nov 2001–24 Feb 2002

Great collections (2009):

Conversations through the Asian collections, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 25 Oct 2014–05 Sep 2015