Pensive Bodhisattva

UnknownThree Kingdoms Period, Early 7th century

National Museum of Korea

National Museum of Korea
Seoul, South Korea

This statue strikes a classic contemplative pose: one leg perched up on the other knee, with fingers raised up against the cheek. This pose is quite common in Buddhist sculpture, and it was derived from the young Indian Prince, Siddhartha Gautama, contemplating the nature of human life. In China, such pensive statues were most common in the 5th and 6th centuries, while in Korea they are usually from the 6th and 7th centuries. This Pensive Bodhisattva statue (designated as Korea’s National Treasure #83) is 93.5 cm tall, making it the tallest of all the pensive bodhisattvas made during the Three Kingdoms period (1st century BCE – 668 CE). Other distinguishing features of this statue include the crown, which is called either a Samsangwan (Crown with Three Peaks) or a Yeonhwagwan (Lotus Crown), and the simple yet elegant necklace that the prince wears on his naked upper torso. This sculpture is widely admired for the benign smile and fine physical proportions, which make it a splendid object of religious worship. This work closely resembles a red pine bodhisattva from Koryuji temple in Japan, which was established by a Silla monk. Thus, this artistic masterpiece is also an important archaeological artifact, attesting to the exchange of Buddhist images between Korea and Japan during their early history.


  • Title: Pensive Bodhisattva
  • Creator: Unknown
  • Date Created: Three Kingdoms Period, Early 7th century
  • Physical Dimensions: h93.5 cm
  • Original Title: 국보 83호 반가사유상
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: National Museum of Korea
  • External Link: http://youtu.be/xaJCrUW0I1M

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