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They are not the terracotta warriors of Xi'an, but in 1996, a suggested number of at least 320 Buddhist sculptures were found by chance at a school sports field in the city of Qingzhou in Shandong province, northeast China. An archaeological survey suggested that the site was once where the long-ruined Longxing (Dragon Rise) Temple once stood. The discovery was one of the more important archaeological finds of the 20th century.

The sculptures known as the Qingzhou Discovery had a sheer quality; majority carved from fine grained limestone which permits a high degree of precision and a smooth finish.

I'd have to admit that I've never taken a close enough look at so many Buddha and Bodhisattvas statues all at once. Neither did I knew their difference. Following the guided tour, we were carefully introduced to the 6th century CE sculptures of the Northern Wei, Eastern Wei (500-550 CE) and Northern Qi dynasties (550-77 CE).

As the hour long tour progressed, I started to appreciate the artistic changes that developed over the span of only 50 years. Many artistic influences also derived from India.

Paranakan Museum Qingzhou Discovery 21022009 01
Entrance of the "Serenity In Stone" Exhibit on the 3rd Level of the Peranakan Museum

Paranakan Museum Qingzhou Discovery 21022009 06
Sculptures during the Wei Dynasty had Buddhas with eyes opened, looking down at his people with a broad smile

The sculptures were probably commissioned by Buddhist monks or members of the local Buddhist community, as an act of merit that would contribute to a favourable rebirth. The archaeologists discovered that these broken sculptures were deposited carefully in the pit, in an east-west orientation. The better preserved stone torsos were in the centre; the broken-off heads were found along the edges, while other fragments made in pottery, clay and wood were found at the bottom of the pit. Judging from the dates on coins found in the pit, these sculptures were buried in the 12th century. The reason for their burial remains a mystery.

Paranakan Museum Qingzhou Discovery 21022009 08
In the Qi Dynasty Buddha sculptures have their eyes closed in a more contemplative look. Their bodies also took on more shape and curve as they stood upright instead of against a rock wall

A total of 35 sculptures on display in this exhibition are among the best preserved and most exquisite of the sculptures from the Qingzhou find. They are on display from 16 Jan - 26 Apr 2009 at the Peranakan Museum.

See also Greek Masterpieces from the Louvre (March 2008)

More Serenity In Stone: The Qingzhou Discovery Pictures

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