up, one down; Shakyamuni displays the vitarka mudra on his right hand pointing
towards the heavens, while his left displays the varada mudra downwards towards
the earth. Gestures of protection and charity, respectively, together they achieve
a notable aesthetic equilibrium; the bottoms of his palms perfectly in-line with
his navel. Indicative of the pieces’ Chinese origins, Taoism considers the navel
as the major emotional center of being, in addition to the main storage spot for
ch’i (energy). Shakyamuni’s gestures center our attention on this point, ‘the
mind palace’, a beautiful symmetry throughout.
Wonderfully sculpted and painted with a heavy a red, blue, and cream white
pigments, which held up well despite the pieces’ age. Its Ming dynasty styling
is apparent in the very shape of the Buddha’s body, short and stout; the three
folds upon his neck. Hand carved chisel marks cover every unpainted surface, the
rest, including his skin, is smooth. His face is deeply downcast and serene, a
gesture of blessing beneath heavy lids.