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A musician playing the qin

Place made: 
Asia; China; Henan Province; Longmen Grottoes
A musician playing the qin, 6th century CE
Gray limestone
Overall: 20 1/4 in x 15 3/4 in x 4 in; 51.4 cm x 40 cm x 10.2 cm
Purchase with the Nancy Everett Dwight Fund
MH 1950.4.J.OI

Above the banks of China’s Yi River loom the Longmen Caves, a monumental complex of elaborate grottoes carved into the limestone cliff. The carvings at Longmen are considered a tour de force of Chinese Buddhist art. This sculpture from the grottoes depicts a musician playing a stringed instrument called a qin (an ancient form of zither). Today a Unesco World Heritage site, the area is composed of more than 1,000 caves filled with tens of thousands of Buddhist carvings and inscriptions dating primarily from the Northern Wei (386–534 CE) and Tang (618–906 CE) dynasties. -Aaron Miller, Associate Curator of Visual and Material Culture, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (Sept. 2017)