"The Lost Buddhas" exhibition in New South Wales, Australia

Art Gallery NSW, May 27, 2008

Sydney, Australia -- The discovery in 1996 of an enormous cache of hundreds of stone Buddhist sculptures dating from as early as the sixth century is considered one of the most significant archaeological finds of the 20th century in China, on a par with the First Emperor's terracotta soldiers.

The sculptures were found buried in a pit on the site of the long-destroyed Longxing (Dragon Rise) Temple in Qingzhou, Shandong province in eastern China when construction workers were levelling a sports field.

Mostly created during a period straddling the Northern Wei to the Tang dynasties (6th-9th centuries), the sculptures were interred during the 12th century for reasons that are still unclear. The refined and sensual sculptures illustrate the dramatic stylistic changes that occurred during a time when Buddhist art in China reached its apogee.

The lost Buddhas: Chinese Buddhist sculpture from Qingzhou displays 35 of the best preserved and most exquisite sculptures from the Qingzhou discoveries centring on those from the sixth century.

A distinctive feature of the works is the painted and gilded detail that remains. Some sculptures in the exhibition are monumental in size, many are stelae with one central Buddha and two attendant bodhisattvas.

The largest stele is over three metres high and weighs over a ton. Perhaps the most impressive are free-standing figures of Buddha or bodhisattvas, which are life-size and naturalistic in expression.

What: "The Lost Buddhas" Exhibition
Where: Art Gallery NSW
When: 29 August-23 November 2008