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Asian art

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Amida Buddha

11th century-12th century


Unknown Artist


This classic image of the Amida Buddha echoes the qualities of formality and spiritual serenity so characteristic of the Buddhist art of Japan. The personification of eternal life, compassion and boundless light, Amida is the Buddha who reigns over the Western Paradise. He is the central deity of the Pure Land sect of Buddhism that had its foundations in the teachings of the fourth-century Chinese monk Hui Yuan, and grew to become the most popular sect of the faith in East Asia. Central to its teachings is the doctrine that for rebirth in the Pure Land nothing more than the constant invocation of the name of Amida is required. In Japan, under the inspiration of the Heian period monk Genshin (942-1017), the sect gained immense influence: not only through its promise of a passage to the Paradise, but also through Genshin's colourful descriptions of the Western Paradise and the beguiling imagery and art they stimulated. Carved from a hard, dense nutmeg wood - with that inherent feeling for the qualities of the material for which the Japanese artist and craftsman are so admired - the image conveys the peace, harmony and spiritual certainty that is the promise of the Western Paradise of Amida.

Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg. 268.


Other Title

Seated image of Amida Buddha

Place where the work was made



11th century-12th century

Media category


Materials used

nutmeg wood with black lacquer and traces of gold leaf


96.8 cm :

a - figure, 53.5 x 40 cm

b - stand, 57 x 50 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Purchased with assistance from W.H. Nolan Bequest Fund 1984


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Shown in 4 exhibitions

Exhibition history


Setsu Gatodo Co. Ltd., Fine Arts & Antiquities, Apr 1983-May 1984, Chuo-ku/Tokyo/Japan, purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 1984.

Referenced in 10 publications


Adam Geczy, Art Asia Pacific [Issue 35], 'Buddha: Radiant awakening', pg. 29-31, St Leonards, Jul 2002-Sep 2002, 29 (colour illus.), 30-31.

Bruce James, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian Collection: East Asia', pg. 246-287, Sydney, 1999, 268 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, Asian Collection Handbook, Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'Introduction', pg. 9-17, Sydney, 1990, 14 (illus.).

Jackie Menzies, AGNSW Collections, 'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan', pg. 173-228, Sydney, 1994, 212 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), Buddha: Radiant awakening, Sydney, 2001, 105 (colour illus.), 186. 77

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, 'The art of Buddhism and other worlds', Sydney, 2003, 191 (colour illus.).

Jacqueline Menzies, Art Gallery of New South Wales handbook, 'Asian', pg. 72-93, Sydney, 1988, 78, 80 (illus.).

Justin Paton, Look, Conversations. A new way to engage with the Gallery's Asian art, pg 22-13, Sydney, Oct 2014, 23.

Public Programmes Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales and The Japan Foundation (Editors), Art speaks Japanese: Japanese language education kit from the collection of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, 2007, colour illus. card no. 01

Public Programmes Department, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Adventures in Asia. An education kit for the Asian gallery, Sydney, 2003, 9 (colour illus.). card no.9