The Joy of Museums

Finding Beauty & Meaning in Museums

Walking Buddha

Asian Civilisations Museum - Joy of Museums - Walking Buddha

This “Walking Buddha” is a three-dimensional sculpture representing the transcendent qualities innovated in the Sukhothai period. The Kingdom of Sukhothai as an early kingdom in north-central Thailand from 1238 to 1438. Sukhothai is derived from Sanskrit, and means “dawn of happiness”. This simply clad Buddha figure steps forward in smooth fluid motion with the right hand in the gesture of fearlessness, known as the abhaya mudra.

The image depicts the Buddha walking back and forth in meditation or chankrama. This sculpture displays the ideal features and marks prescribed in Buddhist doctrine. They include:

  • an egg-shaped head
  • eyebrows like drawn bows
  • a nose shaped like a parrot’s beak
  • a lion-like torso
  • lotus petal-shaped eyelids
  • chin in the shape of the mango seed
  • arms like a young elephant’s trunk

Asian Civilisations Museum - Joy of Museums - Walking Buddha 2

The dynamic walking posture with arms like a young elephant’s trunk, the tapering fingers, the fitted robe with flowing hemline and the raised hand accentuate the sense of motion. The pose represents the Buddha’s walking meditation after his enlightenment.

Other South Asia and Islamic world highlights from the collection include:

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                 Walking Buddha
  • Dates:               15th or 16th century
  • Provenience:  Sukhothai, Thailand
  • Materials:       Bronze
  • Dimensions:   H: 117 cm
  • Museum:         Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

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“Putting a gold leaf on the back of the Buddha image.” Thai Proverb

(Meaning: Doing something good without seeking for attention.)

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Photo Credit: By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons