In his search for the truth, Shakyamuni, the historic Buddha, tried various methods of meditation before he finally achieved enlightenment under the bodhi tree. This piece depicts him during the time when he practiced austerities and starved himself until he was skeletal in appearance. Shakyamuni wears the simple garment of a monk, and his exposed chest reveals his ribs. His eyes are half closed and his face bears a serene expression. Because Shakyamuni is Indian, the Chinese craftworker shows him with a mustache and a ringed beard. The fasting Buddha sits in meditation with one leg bent and one leg raised, resting his chin on his hands above the raised knee.
His pose and his facial features were already well established as a standard iconographical feature for this particular subject as early as the Yuan dynasty (1272– 1368), where Shakyamuni was shown in lacquered wood and bronze.
Large figures, such as this example, were not made until the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), when the supply of jade became more plentiful.