Song Dynasty Limestone Head of a Buddhistic Monk, China (960 - 1279 CE.) Finely detailed thick white limestone facial section of a monk. Sensitive carved male head with wide nose, almond shaped eyes, thin lips, defined eyebrows and elongated ear lobes. Large chip on back of head where lobed off architectural structure, lose of one earlobe, minor chips due to age, but otherwise in very good condition. 13 1/4" high on custom stand, limestone head is 8" x 6" x 5 1/2". By the Tang dynasty, Buddhist temples and shrines had spread across the country. Buddhism enjoyed a great deal of state support. Then as now, lay people made donations to monks and temples to secure earthly and spiritual rewards. More specifically, they could accrue merit (positive actions resulting in spiritual and practical benefits) through charity, the support of public works (such as refurbishing a local temple), the donation of property, or the commissioning of artworks (a statue, or cave shrine, or production of a set of Buddhist texts). Individuals entering monastic life as monks or nuns still aroused suspicion from some members of society, particularly strict adherents of Confucianism. Sacrificing one’s family name, the possibility of offspring, cutting of one’s hair (a defilement of the body), and embracing poverty ran counter to many time-honored Chinese beliefs. In a Buddhist context, grand celebrations were often held in honor of rulers, on festival days, in honor of new public works, and to protect the nation from famine or invasion. Some festivals involving the parade of sacred relics were criticized by various members of the court, in particular for arousing hysteria and for lavish expenditures. Buddhism was severely persecuted in 845 and again in the 900s during the Five Dynasties period between the Tang and the Song. Many of the reasons for this suppression were economic. Thousands of temples were destroyed and metal objects melted down for hard currency. Many monks and nuns were forced to return to lay life, where they could contribute to the general tax base.