Head of a Buddha
The ancient city state of Khotan was built on an oasis in what is now north-western China, and it was one of the greatest cities on the southern route of the part of the Silk Road that passed through the area known as the “Western Regions”. This sculpted head of a buddha was excavated from the ground where Khotan once stood. The buddha’s eyes are open wide and the face was given a moustache, both of which suggest that the sculpture was powerfully influenced by the Buddhist statuary of the Gandhara and Swat regions of the northwestern Indian subcontinent.
The head was made of gilt-bronze, which is produced by pouring molten bronze into a mould and then applying gold plating to the casted bronze. It is a truly valuable work as it is thought to be the oldest example of such a work produced in the Western Regions. We can see from the broken part of the head that it is solid, which makes it all the more special. In addition, the bottom surface of the neck is also solid, so it is thought that the head and body of the original sculpture would have been cast separately. Finally, parts of the face are still covered in thick gold plating, which provides us with valuable clues into ancient metal plating techniques.