Vimalakirti Tableaux

6th-century Buddhist Stele at Metropolitan Museum


Buddhist Stele Commissioned by Helian Ziyue

Metropolitan Museum

Date: inscription dated 533–43

Medium: Limestone

Dimensions: H. 24 in. (61 cm); W. 53 in. (134.6 cm); D. 33 in. 83.8 cm)


The upper half of this 6th-century stele in Metropolitan Museum depicts an renowned episode from the Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra: Manjusri's call on Vimalakirti. Vimalakirti sits in a curtained and tasseled pavilion at right, attended by fourteen figures; Manjushri is accompanied by thirty attendants. Standing to either side of the two trees at center are the monk Shariputra and a goddess, who together represent the scene's most dramatic moment:

The goddess used her supernatural powers to change Sariputra into herself and herself into Sariputra to demonstrate that all phenomena are unreal; all things are neither male nor female.

Read the Text of Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra

Vimalakirti Tableaux

in Dunhuang Buddhist Caves