This Buddhist figure wears the monastic robe draped over the left shoulder--an iconographic feature of many Buddha depictions. The folds of the robe are delicately incised, the seams gather above the knees and over the shoulder, giving the appearance of transparency. Seated in the meditative position, the figure is full of motion and vitality--his torso raised with his cocked right arm and turned to the left propped by his left arm. A look of complacency emanates from his facial expressions, as if he delights in a higher state of spiritual and mental absorption. The curvature of the eyes and mouth convey this sense of joy, and the three-dimensionality of his face and head reveal the figure's human quality.
This image differs from earlier portrayals of Buddhist figures in its humanistic stylization. After Sung and Yuan rule in China, Buddhism faced a decline in court sponsorship, yet continued to be popular among the common people who transfused it with their own indigenous thoughts and among adherents of Ch'an (Zen) Buddhism. Ch'an philosophy held out the ideal that man could attain the state of nirvana by his own efforts. Thus, there was a growing trend toward humanistic depictions of individuals imbued with the pervasive power of Enlightenment; the Arhat figure developed along these new lines of artistic expression.
This lustrous bronze sculpture exudes a quality of contentment and spiritual bliss making it a cherished piece of Buddhist art.