Smiling in Contemplation

(左)国宝 半跏思惟像(右)韓国国宝78号 半跏思惟像
国宝 半跏思惟像(全身正面) 奈良 中宮寺門跡
韓国国宝78号 半跏思惟像(全身正面)

Originating in India and brought over to Japan through China and the Korean Peninsula, Buddhist statues called hanka shiyui – named after the contemplative seated position in which the Buddha is depicted – were the most popular kind of religious sculpture in Northeast Asia from the 6th to the 8th century. Held as part of the rather muted celebrations marking 50 years of restored diplomatic relations between Tokyo and Seoul, this exhibition centres on two of the finest hanka shiyui statues found anywhere – one formerly housed at Chuguji Temple in Nara and one from the National Museum of Korea, both designated National Treasures in their respective countries. When visiting Ueno's National Museum, take the chance to also check out these mysteriously smiling masterpieces of religious art.


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