“Three Legged Buddha”

The “Three Legged Buddha” is a structure influenced by the Buddhist philosophy and ideas. The creator Zhang Huan was greatly inspired by the catastrophe of ruins and destroyed monasteries from the time of the Cultural Revolution in Tibet. Zhang collected copper and steel from the leftover fragments of Buddhist sculptures in Tibet to construct the “Three Legged Buddha”. The sculpture was created in 2007 and stands at the height of twenty-eight feet tall and forty-eight feet wide. The sculpture, given its colossal structure weighs more than twelve tons (over 25,000 pounds). In the “Three Legged Buddha”, Zhang Huan uses technique and shape to display the balance and religion of the sculpture and life. The admirable construction of the sculpture serves as a tribute to Buddhism. The fragments of the sculpture also leaves room for questioning the artist’s view of what being Buddhist negates. After thoroughly examining Zhang’s artwork, despite its admirability, I question its authenticity to Buddhism. While the sculpture clearly represents strength in the practice of Buddhism, it also refrains from ending the cycle of reincarnation. Because the artists display a work in which eternally remains reincarnated, it defies the very definition of what it means to be a Buddhist. Constrain to Buddhism. Zhang’s use of fragments from destroyed religious sculptures and structures suggests the idea of life, death, and rebirth. Zhang additively constructs the fragments by nailing and welding copper and steel together. When the sculptures had been created in the past, they “lived” spiritually; however, during the Cultural Revolution Mao Zedong came to power and destroyed almost all of the monasteries. This destruction is significant to the sculpture because it signifies death. Later Zhang’s had used the leftover fragments to create his sculpture. The recycled material could have potentially been disposed. The use of recycling fragments demonstrates rebirth and reincarnation. The idea of rebirth is an important focus of the sculpture because it leaves room for questioning. The Buddhist religion places a large focus on escaping the cycle of rebirth by obtaining Nirvana. It is particularly curious to me that Zhang, who is portraying the Buddhist religion, seeks to portray rebirth, while Buddhism ultimately revolves on ending the cycle. The goal of Buddhism is to obtain Nirvana so that reincarnation does not continue. The artist however, chooses to portray an eternal cycle of rebirth in his sculpture. Zhang uses inorganic shape in order to represent his art. In the “Three Legged Buddha”, Zhang continue to use unique structure to catch the eyes of his viewers. This sculpture as the title insinuates, has three legs; two of which rests on thin stilts and the other leg placed on top of upper half of an eight-foot-high male head. The contorted leg posture shows distorted and cruel events of the past. The legs are muscular which can represent strength or power. This power was seeming to be represented by the Cultural Revolution or Mao Zedong’s men that over powered and destroyed Tibet. The leg placed on top of the head shows the authority killing the spirit of Buddha or having defeated Buddha. Despite the efforts to defeat Buddha, the sculptures facial expression suggests tranquility. While the head seems to endure pressure, the brutal force from the third leg leaves the face unfazed and humble. The tranquility suggests a strength on its own, unwilling to yield to a higher power. This goes to show that Buddhist are peaceful and stand their ground despite the violent efforts that are against them. Zhang demonstrates his creative use of shape to display a deeper meaning of the past.

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