Chinese archaeologists have discovered 446 Buddha figures, dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), carved into stone on a mountain in Jixian County, Tianjin, a port city in north China.
The 446 Buddha figures were found in areas around the Qianxiang Temple (Thousand Figures Temple), which stands at the eastern foot of the Panshan Mountain, 12.5 kilometers from the seat of Jixian County.
This is the largest group of Buddha figures carved in stone that have ever been found in China, according to archaeologists with the Tianjin Municipal Cultural Heritage Protection Center.
These Buddha figures of different sizes are carved on stones of various shapes and each piece of stone contains several figures.
The Qianxiang Temple used to be one of major temples in China held sacred by Buddhists. The temple was destroyed in the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-1945). Today, only the foundations of the temple exist.
Jin Wan Bao evening news reported that these Buddha figures date back to between the Tang and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties. Most of the statues were done by folk craftsmen, the paper quoted archaeologists as saying.
Su Bai, a professor with the archaeology department of Beijing University, and other experts of archaeology with the Palace Museum and the State Administration of Cultural Heritage spoke highly of the artistic and historic value of the Buddha figures.
They said an over-two-meter-high statue of the Laughing Buddha was of high artistic value as it was cast in an extraordinary mold and has graceful lines. It would have a niche in the history of China's Buddha figure carving, they said.
(Xinhua News Agency December 11, 2003)