18th–19th century
Gilt bronze, semiprecious stones
23 × 14 3/4 × 10 1/2 in. (58.42 × 37.47 × 26.67 cm)
Arts of Asia
Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Mrs. E.R. Brown
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

Manjushri is the bodhisattva of wisdom. He appears here in his peaceful, two-armed form. His hands are held at his heart in the teaching gesture or dharmachakra mudra. They hold the stems of lotuses that blossom above each shoulder. On Manjushri's right, the lotus supports his flaming sword of wisdom that cuts through ignorance. The lotus on his left holds scriptures containing the wisdom of the Buddha. The hands in the teaching gesture indicate that Manjushri's teaching itself performs the functions of the sword and book. Some Tibetan icons of Manjushri show him actually holding the sword in his right hand and the book in his left. The lotus blossom above the shoulder is a device in Tibetan art that allows the deity to hold his or her attributes while also demonstrating the appropriate symbolic mudra or gesture.

This image is typical of 18th to 20th-century Tibetan gilded bronze icons. The bronze is a copper alloy that may contain a variety of metals including tin, zinc, antimony, and often some silver and gold. It is finished with gold gilding and set with precious and semiprecious stones such as rubies, garnets, turquoise, and coral. The figure is modeled according to iconographic conventions laid out in the ancient Indian Tantric texts attributed to Buddha Shakyamuni. The texts were translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan mostly between the 7th and 15th centuries. The conventions can be seen in the calm appearance of the face and body, the divine attributes and ornaments, and the formal posture of the hands and the body. The body is seated in the vajra position with the knees firmly on the ground and the ankles crossed, the back perfectly straight, and the head titled slightly to the left.

The lotus throne is commonly found as the seat of all buddha and bodhisattva images. It indicates that the deity seated upon it has attained a state of wisdom, called enlightenment (bodhi), that frees him or her from the cycle of birth and death (samsara). It also indicates possession of the universal compassion that requires the deity to remain actively engaged with the world in order to bring salvation to all beings. The halo here is made up of stylized flames surrounding the head.

Adapted from

  • Robert Warren Clark "Manjushri," in The Arts of India, South East Asia, and the Himalayas, Anne R. Bromberg (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Have: Yale University Press, 2013), 176.

  • Anne Bromberg, "Manjushri," in Dallas Museum of Art: A Guide to the Collection, ed. Suzanne Kotz (Dallas: Dallas Museum of Art; New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1997), 55.

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