The cult of Maitreya grows with millennial superstitions, a thousand years after the historical preaching of Gautama Buddha. The first emperor of the Sui dynasty cleverly relies on Buddhism to unify China. The images of Sakyamuni and Maitreya are often undifferentiated.
The Sui regime is a military theocracy. The emperor uses arms to eliminate those who do not follow his own conception of Buddhist orthodoxy. We are already far away from the moral principles of this religion.
His son and successor is a megalomaniac who wants to conquer Viet-Nam and Korea with huge armies of conscripts. He fails miserably and the surviving troops return with malaria. The peasant revolts that erupt throughout the country put an end to the unity of the Sui empire. The apocalyptic atmosphere is conducive to a renewed favor of the Maitreya cult. More concretely, order and unification are not restored by the deity but by a skilled general who founds the Tang dynasty.
On May 30 in Hong Kong, Christie's sells as lot 2801 a gilded bronze figure of Maitreya Buddha made during the Sui-Tang transition about 1400 years ago. The future redeemer makes the gesture of preaching in a smiling attitude of pacification. He is sitting, each foot resting on a lotus.
Between Han and Tang the sculpture is dominated by stone. The gilded bronze is rarer, chosen to simulate by its reflections the light emanating from the divinity. Its height of 32 cm appears as a limit of feasibility of this technique at that time.
Please watch the video shared by Christie's.