Historical: Stele with Shakyamuni and Maitreya

This double-sided stele, which dates back to China’s Northern Qi dynasty in late 6th century, shows a smiling Shakyamuni, the historical buddha, raising his hands in the gestures of fearlessness and gift-giving. To his sides are two disciples and two bodhisattvas – people that made the resolution to become a Buddha – all standing against mandorlas, almond-shaped halos, and with flying heavenly beings above their head.

The reverse side shows the Buddha meditating under twin sala trees in a contemplative pose with his head tilted. This specific pose is unique to Shakyamuni’s first meditation or Maitreya’s, the future Buddha’s, meditation.