Classifying China: shifting interpretations of Buddhist bronzes in Liverpool Museum, 1867-1997

Louise Tythacott

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter examines the lives of a set of five Chinese Buddhist deity figures in Liverpool Museum, from 1867 to 1997. The largest figure, an almost life-size bronze statue of the Goddess of Compassion, Guanyin, probably dates from the early fifteenth century. The other four - Wenshu, Puxian, Weituo and Guangong - are early-seventeenth-century creations. All five belonged to a temple on Putuo Island, off the east coast of China. For over a thousand years this was one of the most important Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the country, devoted to the worship of Guanyin. The statues were taken from their temple in the 1840s by a British soldier just after the First Opium War (1839-1842). Once transported to England, they appeared at the Great Exhibition in 1851, the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, and were auctioned at Sotheby's two years later. After passing through the hands of antiquarian collectors, the Chinese statues were accessioned into Liverpool Museum in 1867, where they remain to this day (Tythacott, 2009 [90-97]).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMuseums and Biographies
Subtitle of host publicationStories, Objects, Identities
EditorsKate Hill
Place of PublicationWoodbridge
PublisherBoydell & Brewer
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781782044628
ISBN (Print)9781843837275, 9781843839613
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2012
Externally publishedYes


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