The Buddha Shaka at Birth


The Buddha Shaka at Birth

Sculpture / Asuka

Asuka period, 7th century

Gilt bronze



This small statue depicts the birth of the founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni. He was born around 2,500 years ago in Lumbini, a beautiful flower garden located in modern-day Nepal. Legend has it that after emerging from the right side of his mother, Lady Maya, Sakyamuni took seven steps, with lotus flowers springing up where his feet touched the ground. He then pointed to the heavens and intoned in a clear voice, "Holy am I alone throughout heaven and earth." With these words, he declared he had come to save all the people of the world.

The Flower Festival is held in Japan every year on April 8 to celebrate the Buddha's birthday. On this occasion, people pour scented tea over small Buddhist statues like this. In doing so, they recreate the legendary scene of the infant Sakyamuni receiving his first bath, the water of which is said to have been poured down from the heaven. In Japan, this tradition dates backs to the Asuka period around the 7th century.

In this statue, Sakyamuni is pointing to the heavens with his right hand and to the earth with his left. He is naked apart from a cloth wrapped around his waist, which makes it clear that this is as a depiction of the baby Buddha. Despite its small size, the statue radiates a sense of wisdom with its imposing brow and tightly-closed mouth, a befitting appearance for an object of veneration.

At the end of the Asuka period, when this statue was made, childlike Buddhist statues became popular. These made Sakyamuni appear both solemn and adorable at the same time. We hope you are also charmed by this ancient gilt-bronze Buddha.

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