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Arts of Asia

The MFAH collections of art from China, India, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia reflect Houston’s diverse communities. Ancient and contemporary works are displayed together to create innovative juxtapositions.


Early 12th century
Cypress wood

39 3/8 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

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Arts of Asia

Mahayana Buddhism reached Japan during the 6th century through Korea and China. As Buddhism gained footing in Japan, individual bodhisattvas or bosatsu rose to prominence. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings that are able to achieve nirvana but reject it to remain on earth and help humankind.

This figure of the standing bosatsu bears traits traditionally ascribed to the Buddha himself, such as long earlobes, a small mouth, slightly elongated eyes, and a round face. The delicate surface carving of this piece is characteristic of late Heian period (794–1185) sculpture. Yosegi, the process of pegging and gluing wood used to create the bosatsu, was developed during the 10th century.