Aesthetics of Cintanā  (思惟) (pondering) 

and the Pensive Bodhisattva Seated in the Half-lotus Posture (半跏思惟像)

The "Pensive Bodhisattva" is the name for a type of bodhisattva statue seated on a pedestal in a meditative posture known as the half-lotus paryaṅka position. Such figures can be traced back to the Indian tradition depicting the young Prince Siddhartha Gautama contemplating the human condition. Such statues were popular in Korea and Japan from the late 6th to the late 7th century.


Gilt-bronze Pensive Bodhisattva (金銅半跏思惟像)

Three Kingdoms period, late 7th century, gilt bronze, H. 18cm. Tokyo National Museum, Japan. ⓒColBase (https://colbase.nich.go.jp/)

The right leg rests on the left in the half-lotus paryaṅka posture, the head is tilted slightly to the side, and the right hand lightly touches the chin. Despite its small size of 18cm, the drape of the skirt and the expression of the hands and feet are extremely sophisticated. In addition, the benign smile of the bodhisattva seems to show the living ideal of a bodhisattva.


What other Pensive Bodhisattvas would have been produced in Korea and Japan?


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Pensive Prince Statues and the Cintanā 思惟 Posture


Cotemplating Bodhisattva with holding a Lotus Flower

(Padmapāṇi)

Gandhāra, Kushan period, 2nd~3rd century, schist, H. 54cm, W. 31.4cm, The British Museum ©The British Museum (britishmuseum.org/collection/object/A_1950-0726-1)

Because this figure seated in contemplation in the half-lotus position is derived from depictions of the young Indian Prince Siddhartha Gautama meditating on the transient nature of human life and the suffering humans experience in birth, aging, sickness and death, it is called the Pensive Prince. This type of image in found in paintings of the Buddha's life and miraculous transformation scenes. During the 5th and 6th centuries of China's Northern Wei (北魏) period, practice of contemplation, cintanā (思惟觀法), advocated by Śākyamuni was also represented in the type known as “contemplating figures (思惟像)".


Pensive Bodhisattva Statues found in China

Many statues of the “pensive-bodhisattva” type were produced in 5th and 6th century China when Buddhist iconography was transmitted from India. Examples are still found at both the Yungang (雲岡石窟) and Longmen Grottoes (龍門石窟). The type is characterized by depictions of the bodhisattva seated in  the half-lotus paryaṅka posture, or on chair with “ankles crossed” (交腳).




 Let's Think About the "Pensive Bodhisattva" and 'The Thinker by Auguste Rodin


Auguste Rodin, The Thinker Le Penseur

cast ca. 1910, Bronze, H. 70.2cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art ©Metropolitan Museum of Art (metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/191811)

Statues of Pensive Boddhisattva and Rodin's sculpture of The Thinker are in a similar posture.

Then, would their meaning be same?


While the Pensive Bodhisattva depicts religious enlightenment by putting his right hand slightly beside the chin, and with his benign, calm smile, Rodin's The Thinker depicts the anguished solemn inner world of man. From the way the thinker’s head is pressed again his hand and how his tendons are shown above the rigid muscles, the viewer may feel deep anxiety and even anguish.

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