We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of NSW stands.


Stele of Shakyamuni, the historical Buddha, and Maitreya the Buddha of the future

512 CE-532 CE


Unknown Artist

  • Details

    Other Titles
    Rectangular votive steel carved on all four sides with the figures of Buddha, Maitreya, Bodhisattvas, spirit kings and donors
    Votive stele
    Buddhist stele
    Place where the work was made
    Northern Wei 386 - 535 Northern dynasties 420 - 589 → China
    512 CE-532 CE
    Media category
    Materials used
    143.8 x 53.3 x 19.5 cm
    Signature & date

    Not signed. Not dated.

    Purchased with assistance from the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales and the Edward and Goldie Sternberg Chinese Art Purchase Fund 1995
    Not on display
    Accession number

    Reproduction requests

  • About

    The front side of this stele is carved with a principal image of Shakyamuni Buddha seated in a niche, while the reverse features a principal image of the Future Buddha, Maitreya, sitting cross-legged. The Shakyamuni Buddha sits beneath a flame-ornamented canopy and is flanked by a pair of Bodhisattvas: those most human of beings in the vast pantheon of Buddhist deities who, having achieved Buddhahood, elect to remain on earth out of compassion. The figure of Maitreya sits beneath an ornately decorated canopy and is also flanked by a pair of small Bodhisattva images. Above both the principal images the stele is carved with miniature Buddhas. A dedicatory inscription on the upper right bears the now partially damaged reign date, which reads: 'chang yuan nian...'. The absence of the first character precludes a precise date, but indicates either 512, 525 or 532. Further inscriptions on all sides of the stele give the names of donors who contributed to its construction as an act of Buddhist devotion.

    Art Gallery Handbook, 1999. pg.249.

  • Places

    Where the work was made


  • Exhibition history

    Shown in 5 exhibitions

  • Bibliography

    Referenced in 14 publications

  • Provenance

    1966, published in Saburo Matsubara, 'Chinese Buddhist sculpture: A study based on bronze and stone statues other than works from cave temples', Yoshikawa Kobunkan, Tokyo, 1966, plate 82a, b and 83a.

    Amamiya Collection, pre 08 Jun 1993, Kyoto/Japan, as published in Eskenazi, 'Early Chinese art from tombs and temples', London, 1993.

    Eskenazi Ltd Oriental Art, 08 Jun 1993-Jun 1995, London/England, exhibited in Early Chinese art from tombs and temples, London, 8 June-9 July 1993. Purchased by the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.