Period: Tang dynasty (618–907)
Date: early 8th century
Medium: Gilt leaded bronze; lost-wax cast
Dimensions: H. 8 in. (20.3 cm); W. 5 3/4 in. (14.6 cm); D. 5 1/2 in. (14 cm)
Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1943
Accession Number: 43.24.3
The teaching gesture made by this figure, in which the thumb of the right hand touches the little finger of the left, identifies him as Vairocana, a transcendent manifestation of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni who played an important role in certain early esoteric traditions that grew increasingly popular in China in the eighth century. The unusual wheel-like configuration at the bottom suggests that this sculpture may once have been encased within five lotus petals that could open and close.