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Cave 2, Southern Xiangtangshan

Freestanding Sculptures

Two tall, bejeweled bodhisattvas displayed in Echoes of the Past represent deities that accompany the Buddha Amitabha, who presides over the Western Paradise, also known as his Sukhavati. In their original setting—the main altar of the central pillar in Cave 2—these images and pairs of less finely attired bodhisattvas and Pratyekabuddhas together illustrated the divinities residing in Amitabha's heavenly realm.

Devotional worship of the Buddha Amitabha grew quickly during the sixth century, coinciding with the construction of the Xiangtangshan caves. According to scriptures, believers devoted to this Buddha need only call upon his aid to be reborn in his paradise.

Relief Sculptures

The beauty of Amitabha's Pure Land is depicted in a massive relief that was carved above Cave 2's entrance. The relief was purchased by the Freer Gallery in 1921; it is now built into the wall of the museum. Visit Gallery 17 in the Freer to see this and the companion relief that once occupied the cave's central pillar.

Standing Bodhisattva

Standing Bodhisattva, Freer Gallery of Art, Gift of Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer, F1968.45.

Explore objects from Cave 2 in southern Xiangtangshan »

As renovation work continues in the Freer Gallery, the Sackler Gallery also will close on July 10, 2017. This museum-wide closure will allow us to completely reinstall our exhibitions and revitalize features to improve your visit. Both spaces will reopen on October 14, 2017, when we will welcome the public back to the Freer|Sackler: two galleries, one destination. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.