Western Paradise of the Buddha Amitabha

High relief carving of Western Paradise. Amitabha presides over a lotus pond that contains flowers opening to reveal newborn souls. Numerous deities and celestial attendants fill in the tableau.

Historical period(s)
Northern Qi dynasty, 550-577
Limestone with traces of pigment
H x W: 159.3 x 334.5 cm (62 11/16 x 131 11/16 in)
China, Hebei province, Fengfeng, southern Xiangtangshan, Cave 2
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Freer Gallery 17: Promise of Paradise: Ancient Chinese Buddhist Sculpture
Sculpture, Stone


abhaya mudra, Amitabha Buddha, Avalokitesvara, bodhisattva, Buddhism, cave, China, lotus, Mahasthamaprapta, meditation, Northern Qi dynasty (550 - 577), Pure Land, relief, sutra, temple, throne, tree
Provenance research underway.

High relief carving of Western Paradise. Amitabha presides over a lotus pond that contains flowers opening to reveal newborn souls. Numerous deities and celestial attendants fill in the tableau.


The Buddha of Infinite Light (Sanskrit, Amitabha), is lord of the Pure Land called the Western Paradise. Devotees believe that absolute faith in Amitabha entitles a person to be reborn in that paradise. In this mural, Amitabha presides over a pond and welcomes newly reborn souls who emerge from within lotus blossoms. This mural is among the earliest known depictions of the Western Paradise in Chinese art.  It is from the Southern Xiangtangshan Buddhist cave-temple site, Cave 2. The Xiangtangshan caves were located close to the city of Ye, the capital of the Northern Qi dynasty. Their carving was an imperially sponsored project. A related object in the Freer collection is F1921.1.

Published References
  • Red Pine. Why Not Paradise: The Pure Land of Amitabha Buddha. Spokane, WA. frontis and p. 56.
  • Patricia Eichenbaum Karetzky. Making Sense of Buddhist Art & Architecture. London. .
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 78, vol. 1: p. 172.
  • , Katherine Crawford Luber, Alison J. Miller, Emily J. Sano, Lucie G. Teegarden. Heaven and Hell: Salvation and Retribution in Pure Land Buddhism. Exh. cat. San Antonio, TX. p. 27, fig. 2.4.
  • Masanori Nakayasu. "箜篌の研究:東アジアの寺院荘厳と絃楽器単行." Study of Kugo: East Asian temple solemn and Gengakk. Kyoto, Japan. p. 27, fig. 1-2.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 36-37.
  • Masterpieces of Chinese and Japanese Art: Freer Gallery of Art handbook. Washington, 1976. p. 38.
  • Ideals of Beauty: Asian and American Art in the Freer and Sackler Galleries. Thames and Hudson World of Art London and Washington, 2010. pp. 70-71.
  • Shakyamuni and Shinran. Exh. cat. Japan. p. 94, fig. 104.
  • Sonya S. Lee. Surviving Nirvana: Death of the Buddha in Chinese Visual Culture. Hong Kong. pp. 161-164, fig. 3.18.
  • Dorothy C. Wong. Chinese Steles: Pre-Buddhist and Buddhist Use of Symbolic Form. Honolulu. p. 163, fig. 10.10.
  • Studies of Heian Period Gardens. no. 17, Japan. p. 204.
  • Jerome Ducor, Helen Loveday. La Sutra des Contemplations du Buddha Vie-Infinie. Biblioteques de l'ecole des Hautes etudes sciences religieuses 14S, . p. 277, fig. 19.
  • , Li Song, Wu Hung, Yang Hong. Chinese Sculpture. The Culture & Civilization of China New Haven. p. 280, figs. 3-83.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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