Pensive Bodhisattva

Pensive Bodhisattva with Lotus Crown © NATIONAL MUSEUM OF KOREA. ALL RIGHTS RESERVEDThe pensive bodhisattva is posed with its right leg crossed over its left knee, while its right hand touches its cheek, in deep meditation. The origin of Buddha statues of this style is the figure of Prince Siddhartha in contemplation pondering the four phases of life (birth, old age, sickness, and death). Established first in India, the Pensive Bodhisattva was made in countless numbers in China but not till it came to Korea did it reach a high level of artistic completion and become adopted as a main object of worship.

The pensive bodhisattva statue that is the 83rd Korean National Treasure is 93.5 cm tall. It is also called “Gilt-bronze Pensive Bodhisattva with Lotus Crown.” It is the largest of the bronze pensive bodhisattva statues, and shows an incomparable artistic beauty. The crown decoration is simplified as much as possible, as well as the bracelets and necklaces and there is no mantle. The body is expressed realistically, marking a significant point in stylistic changes in Buddhist art. It is simple, yet perfectly proportional. It has a gentle smile on the face, the image of the sublime beauty from an object of worship in religion that adds to the natural drapery folds on the pedestal, the vivid facial expression, and highly elaborates casting work. That said, there is no denying that the Pensive Bodhisattva with Lotus Crown has as special place in world art.

In addition, as it is very similar to the wooden pensive bodhisattva statue at the Koryu-ji Temple of Kyoto (Japan), it is considered by some to be the work that introduced Korean Buddhist statues to ancient Japan.

Extracted from the NMK Magazine Vol.04


 [Above] Excavated from Mulgeum-eup, Yangsan, Gyeongsangnam-do, this statue exhibits a particularly nice esthetic quality, compared to other small statues of a pensive Bodhisattva. Overall, the body gives an impression of masculinity with its scarcely curved body contours and thick waist. Some researchers think that it is a statue of Maitreya Buddha based on the image inscribed on the jewelled crown.

Three Kingdoms Period

© National Museum of Korea
137, Seobinggo-ro (168-6, Yongsan-dong 6-ga), Yongsan-gu, Seoul, 04383, Korea

Categories: Art, Buddhism, Chan / Seon / Zen, Encyclopedia, History, Mahayana

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2 replies

  1. It would be nice to positively identify the place, and time of manufacture of the fallowing statue.
    I gave my daughter some years ago a female statue like a Korean Buddha with a single index finger of her right hand touching her chin, and she also holds folded Asian fan in this same hand. ( A pensive pose!). This is a similar hand position that I have seen on other Korean, and Japanese Buddha’s. Her left hand holds her skirt. Her feet are bare. She has what I believe to be a Japanese hair bun. She is warring a vary unusual corseted jacket with stiff flowing curves like a temple roof coming off her hips. She has a long pearl necklace. Her face is similar to these same Korean, Japanese type Buddha’s, but is definitely a breasted female figure. A vary sensual statue, of vary dens black hardwood, as heavy as a peace of iron. I wish I could post photos for you to look at. I have never seen another like it. About 14 inches tall. 🥰

    • Without seeing a photo of your daughter’s statue Phillup, it could be anything. If it is Buddhist it sounds more like Kwan-Yin than Miroku-Bosatsu.

      The symptom of the fan could by status, wealth, or social position. The fingers represent contemplation.

      Hope this helps a bit.



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