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Features of Buddhist Statues

Common statues of Buddhas, Bodhisattva and Arhats have their own characteristics.

Characteristics of Buddhist Statues

Hinayana Buddha believes that Sakyanuni is the only Buddha, while Mahayana believes there are numerous Buddhas. Among these numerous Buddhas, the ones frequently described, enshrined and worshiped include Sakyamuni in the present world, Maitreya in the future world, Dipamkara Buddha in the past world, Amitabha Buddha in the West paradise, Medicine Buddha in the East Bhaisajya-guru-vaidurya-prabhasa and Xianjie Thousand Buddhas at the present stage in the present world, etc. Although there are thousands of figures of Buddhas, the looks, figures and expressions are similar to each other. Their differences lie in different handprints, doctrine objects, sitting postures and in clothes, backgrounds and lotus seats. The general looks and expression of Buddhas are solemn, quiet, sublime and perfect.

Characteristic of Bodhisattva Statues

Bodhisattva Buddha can be divided into two categories. The first is Bodhisattva in attendance, such as Ahnan beside Sakyanuni, Kwan-yin Bodhisattva, Mahasthamaprapta (The Bodhisattva of Power) beside Amitabha Buddha. Kwan-yin Bodhisattvas have dozens of kinds such as One-face two-arm Kwan-yin, One-face multi-arm Kwan-yin, Multi-face Multi-arm Kwan-yin, Ruyi Kwan-yin (Buddha of good fortune), Mother Kwan-yin, Kwan-yin Sitting on a Fish, etc. The second category covers Bodhisattvas painted beside Buddha statues, like Flower Presenting Bodhisattva, Incense Presenting Bodhisattva, Music Bodhisattva, etc.

Bodhisattvas featur similar looks to Buddhas. The difference is that Buddha has a flesh bun on the top of the head, while Bodhisattva doesn't have any; Buddha's face is round like the moon while Bodhisattva's face is oval like a hen egg, sesame, or goose egg; Buddha wears simple clothes, with cassock around the body and exposing the right shoulder, while Bodhisattva wears much more splendid and solemn clothes, with heaven coronet on the head, pearl and jade necklace around the neck, Ring Sermon on hand and cloth floating in air.

Bodhisattvas have similar looks and clothes to each other; the only way to distinguish them is to check the different handprints and religious objects. For example, the Kwan-yin Bodhisattva has a Poplar Branch and Pure Aquarius in hand while Mahasthamaprapta (The Bodhisattva of Power) has a lotus in hand. Their clothes are almost the same. There is a pagoda in Maitreya's hand, a Buddhist scripture basket or a copy of the scripture in Manjusri's hand, and Muni pearl and tin bastinado in Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva's hand, etc.

Characteristic of Arhat Josses

Arhat is very popular in Chinese Buddhist painting and sculpture in about 3 categories. The first includes Arhats in groups, like Five Hundred Arhats. The second category covers separate Arhats selected from the Ten Great Disciples or Sixteen Great Arhats described in Buddhist Sutra. The third includes monks painted by artists at will without consideration of proportion but called Arhats.

These Arhats, whether subduing a dragon or taming a tiger, whether living in a same cave with snakes or being neighbor to tigers and leopards, show a great affinity of mercy, sedateness and good appetency. Arhats might look ugly and strange but they own the intrinsic beauty of quietness, mercy and solemnness, incarnating the power of mitzvah, equanimity and wisdom.

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