The Evolution of Early Chinese Buddha Figures

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Chang Yuan Zang
Nantakorn Piyabhani
Sanu Mahathanadull


The Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha compose the Triple Gem in all Buddhist traditions
(Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana), and the Buddha figure, image or statue usually
represent the Lord Buddha after his Mahaparinirvana. However, Buddha figures evolved
in different cultures and developed in various styles influenced by the Buddhism that was
introduced into and practiced in those different cultures.
The aim of this article is to study the evolution of early Chinese Buddha figures that
were produced over the period of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 B.C. – 220 A.D.) and though
to end of the Tang Dynasty (618 A.D. – 907 A.D.). This period was important because it
was during this time that Buddhism developed and transformed from being a cultural import
into something more uniquely Chinese in style. This adaptation into a real Chinese form
of Buddhism can be seen in the areas of sutra translation, Buddhist teachings and Buddha
figures. This article is mainly focused on the characteristics of Chinese Buddha figures, such
as roble style, facial features, and hairstyles during this early time of evolution. The article
also examines the factors that influenced the evolution of early Chinese Buddha figures;
these factors caused the Buddha figures to gradually change in appearance.


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How to Cite
Zang, C. Y., Piyabhani, N., & Mahathanadull, S. (2019). The Evolution of Early Chinese Buddha Figures. The Journal of International Association of Buddhist Universities (JIABU), 12(1), 20–40. Retrieved from
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