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From the latter half of the tenth century Tibetans sought religious inspiration in the neighbouring Indian subcontinent, the homeland of Buddhism, where sophisticated sculptural styles had been evolving for centuries.

The Chinese Buddhist pilgrim Xuanzang (602-664) described silver statues over three metres in height depicting Avalokiteshvara and Maitreya in niches flanking the entrance to the Mahabodhi temple at Bodhgaya.

Merchants trading in Silk Road goods, South and Central Asian Buddhist proselytizers, and pilgrims who had traveled to India to study Buddhism at its source brought countless paintings, scriptures, and small bronze sculptures to China and Tibet.

These later served as the inspirations for works commissioned by local patrons.

After the metal was sufficiently cooled, the outer shell of clay was broken off to reveal the metal image.

The inner clay core was often removed to accommodate consecrated materials.

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes.

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Molten metal was poured through channels into the cavity of the mould to take the place of the wax.The statue was brought to Tibet by the Nepalese princess Bhrkuti, as part of her dowry in her marriage to the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo (c. Politically unstable times followed in Tibet that were non-conducive to Buddhism and the commissioning of sculpture.But it was the reintroduction of Buddhism in the tenth century that instigated a vast and continuous production of religious art in the land.The Nepalese are extraordinary metal workers, and shrines in the Jokhang might well have been filled with the gilded copper images for which they were famed.Indeed, according to Tibetan tradition the Jokhang was built as a shrine to a Nepalese copper image of the Buddha.

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