Voting begins today for the Smithsonian’s Summer Showdown. Last year more than 90,000 people from across the country voted for their favorite object in the Smithsonian. This year, Freer|Sackler is represented by the Cosmic Buddha, one of our most iconic images that is currently on view in the exhibition, Promise of Paradise: Early Chinese Buddhist Sculpture.
Like all Buddhas (fully enlightened beings), this life-size limestone figure of Vairochana, the Cosmic Buddha, is wrapped in the simple robe of a monk. What makes this object exceptional are the detailed narrative scenes that cover its surface. They represent not only moments in the life of the Historical Buddha but also the “Realms of Existence,” a symbolic map of the Buddhist world. Heaven appears at the top toward the shoulders, while various hells are at the bottom, along the hem of the figure’s robe. Humans, animals, spirits, and demigods reside between the two.
With help from the Smithsonian’s Digitization Program Office, the Cosmic Buddha also exists as a 3D model. This format enables scholars to study the work as never before, and it provides worldwide access to this masterpiece of Buddhist sculpture.
Vote for this amazing object in #SIShowdown!