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Ming dynasty (1368-1644) China
Goddess Tara 1426-35 Description: Green Tara [Shyamatara] holding a blue lotus
Place made: China
Creation Notes: Ming dynasty, Xuande reign
Materials & Technique: sculptures, bronze, gold, pigment; cast in the lost wax technique, gilding, painting
Primary Insc: A Chinese inscription on the base reads: `Bestowed in the Xuande reign of the Great Ming'.
Dimensions: 26.6 h x 16.3 w x 15.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1977
Accession No: NGA 77.289

The Buddhist saviour goddess Tara is a manifestation of the compassionate bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara who has chosen to delay enlightenment to assist others to achieve the same goal. Cast in one piece from bronze, and studded with precious gems, this gilded figure depicts the goddess in her form as Green Tara (shyamatara). According to some interpretations of Tara’s genesis, the fierce Green Tara, along with peaceful White Tara, was born from the tears of Avalokiteshvara that fell from heaven as he contemplated his inability to save the world’s beings from suffering.

Associated with protection from fear, Green Tara is shown here seated on a lotus in lalitasana, with one leg folded and the other pendant, resting on a smaller lotus. Her left hand is raised in a gesture of giving refuge (sharanagamana mudra) while the right extends forward, palm open, promising wish fulfilment (varada mudra).

The sculpture was made in China in Tibetan style. During the Ming dynasty China’s rulers supported Tibetan Buddhism and had religious art produced under the direction of Tibetan artists. Used for ceremonies at the imperial court, such objects were also part of a complex exchange of gifts between Ming emperors and Tibetan monasteries. A Chinese inscription on the base of this sculpture reads: ‘Bestowed in the Xuande reign of the Great Ming’.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2014
From: Collection highlights: National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2014

The saviour goddess Tara is an emanation of the compassionate bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. Seated in this pose and holding a blue lotus, here half-opened, she is known in Tibet as Green Tara. This sculpture was made in China, in Tibetan style. During the Ming dynasty, China’s rulers were ethnic Chinese, but supported Tibetan Buddhism and had religious art produced under the direction of Tibetan artists. A Chinese inscription on the base reads: ‘Bestowed in the Xuande reign of the Great Ming’.


Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label