Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara

Date: second quarter of the 8th century

Culture: Northeastern Thailand

Medium: Copper alloy inlaid with silver and glass or obsidian

Dimensions: H. 56 in. (142.2 cm); W. 22 1/2 in. (57.2 cm); D. 15 1/4 in. (38.7 cm); Wt. est. 2001 lbs. (907.6 kg)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1967

Accession Number: 67.234


The savior Avalokiteshvara, identified by the seated image of the Buddha Amitabha in his headdress, embodies infinite Buddhist compassion. The cult of ascetic bodhisattvas—observe his simple attire—was particularly powerful in Southeast Asia during the seventh and eighth centuries. This bronze image has a high tin content which would have given it the appearance of silver when newly cast. It was undoubtedly the product of elite royal patronage, yet the region where it was discovered, in northeastern Thailand, remains an historical enigma. It may be linked to a polity referred to as Canasa, with a capital named Canasapura, somewhere in the Khorat Plateau of northeast Thailand. But associating this object with that kingdom is speculative at best. Essentially the polity responsible for this extraordinary high quality and high value object remains unknown.