Large Gilt Lacquered Buddha
A LARGE GILT-LACQUERED WOOD STATUE OF BUDDHA
VIETNAM 17TH-18TH CENTURY
A rare figure of Buddha, seated in padmasana, hands held in dhyanamudra on his lap. His facial features emphasize reclusiveness while the sharp curls on his head symbolize spirituality. Finely crafted red lacquer plinth. The base is sealed and hollow, possible still bearing original offerings inside. Also note the distinct and separately gilt ushnisha.
Height 71 cm
Provenance: From a Spanish private collection, Madrid, Spain
Literature comparison: Compare with a related Buddha, Vietnam, c. 1600, in the collection of The Pacific Asia Museum, accession 1996.28.3.
Buddhism in Vietnam (Đạo Phật 道佛 or Phật Giáo 佛教 in Vietnamese), as practiced by the ethnic Vietnamese, is mainly of the Mahayana tradition and is the main religion. Buddhism may have first come to Vietnam as early as the 3rd or 2nd century BCE from the Indian subcontinent or from China in the 1st or 2nd century CE. Vietnamese Buddhism has had a syncretic relationship with certain elements of Taoism, Chinese spirituality, and Vietnamese folk religion.
There are conflicting theories regarding whether Buddhism first reached Vietnam during the 3rd or 2nd century BCE via delegations from India, or during the 1st or 2nd century from China. In either case, by the end of the 2nd century CE, Vietnam had developed into a major regional Mahayana Buddhist hub, centering on Luy Lâu in modern Bắc Ninh Province, northeast of the present-day capital city of Hanoi. Luy Lâu was the capital of the Han region of Jiaozhi and was a popular destination visited by many Indian Buddhist missionary monks en route to China. The monks followed the maritime trade route from the Indian subcontinent to China used by Indian traders. A number of Mahayana sutras and the āgamas were translated into Classical Chinese there, including the Sutra of Forty-two Chapters and the Anapanasati.
Jiaozhi was the birthplace of Buddhist missionary Kang Senghui, who was of Sogdian origin.
Over the next eighteen centuries, Vietnam and China shared many common features of cultural, philosophical and religious heritage as a result of geographical proximity and Vietnam being annexed twice by China. Vietnamese Buddhism is thus related to Chinese Buddhism in general, and to some extent reflects the formation of Chinese Buddhism after the Song dynasty. Meanwhile, in 875 new Cham king Indravarman II who was a devout Zen Buddhist, established Mahayana Buddhism as Champa’s state religion, and built the large monastery complex of Đồng Dương. His dynasty continued to rule Champa until the late 10th century.
During the Đinh dynasty (968–980), Mahayana Buddhism was recognized by the state as an official religion (~971), reflecting the high esteem of Buddhist faith held by the Vietnamese monarchs, included some influences from the Vajrayana section. The Early Lê dynasty (980–1009) also afforded the same recognition to the Buddhist sangha. The growth of Buddhism during this time is attributed to the recruitment of erudite monks to the court as the newly independent state needed an ideological basis on which to build a country. Subsequently, this role was ceded to Confucianism.
Vietnamese Buddhism reached its zenith during the Lý dynasty (1009–1225), beginning with the founder Lý Thái Tổ, who was raised in a pagoda. All of the kings during the Lý dynasty professed and sanctioned Buddhism as the state religion. This endured with the Trần dynasty (1225–1400), but Buddhism had to share the stage with the emerging growth of Confucianism.
By the 15th century, Buddhism fell out of favor with the court during the Later Lê dynasty, although still popular with the masses. Officials like Lê Quát attacked it as heretical and wasteful. It was not until the 19th century that Buddhism regained some stature under the Nguyễn dynasty, which accorded royal support.
A Buddhist revival movement (Chấn hưng Phật giáo) emerged in the 1920s in an effort to reform and strengthen institutional Buddhism, which had lost grounds to the spread of Christianity and the growth of other faiths under French rule. The movement continued into the 1950s.