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this buddha has a unique status amongst buddhas in china Michael Knight senior curator of Chinese art it has an inscription on the back that is equivalent to three three eight and that is the earliest date inscribed on any Buddhist sculpture from China not just in our museum but anywhere in the world and the fact that it is the earliest dated Buddha and such a large one for the period it's a masterpiece no question while the sculpture itself is almost completely intact there are some elements missing if you can kind of peek around to the back you will see sticking out of the back of the head there's a square protrusion with a round hole in the middle it suggests that something was once attached to the back of the Buddha most likely an umbrella so as you look at this piece you have to imagine there would have been a shaft going up with an umbrella on the top of that shaft and then hanging from the outside edge of that umbrella would have been a series of bangles also on the front if you look at it closely there are three holes and those three holes most likely would have supported a pair of guardian Lions on either side and then in the center a lotus and the Buddha was completely covered in gold except for the head which was probably painted dark blue or black it was Buddhist missionary monks from Central Asia who brought images of the Buddha to China you