The Art of the Buddha's Life which depicts the life and before-life of Buddha flourished in Sanci and Bharhut in the ancient India and in Gandhara during the Kushan period. More than one hundred scenes from Buddha's life were represented in the form of relief sculpture or wall painting. They are found in Gandhara and Mathura during the Kushan period, Amaravati and Nagarjunakonda during the Satavahana period, in Mathura and Sarnath during the Gupta period, and during the Pala Period. They unfolded in various forms and styles according to the text(Buddhist scripture), layout, and expressive technique.
In Mathura, where the Evolution of the Buddha image was made about the same time as in Gandhara during the Kushan period, the Buddha's life was presented in a number of scenes related to the sacred sites; in four or eight scenes. In the case of the Eight Great Events of the Buddha's Life, the four scenes out of eight were different from those that were represented in Sarnath during the Gupta period, manifesting a transitional period.
The Gupta period is widely known as the time when the classic artistic style was established. The art of Buddha's Life was produced only in Sarnath during this period, and it was the time when the Eight Great Events of the Buddha's Life was established as iconography, providing a model for those of the Pala period. Also, it was the time when the single image of Buddha was produced such as the 'Buddha delivering his first sermon,' 'Buddha's Enlightenment,' and 'Buddha's Death,' thus showing the emergence of the single Buddha image from the narrative Buddha's life image.
In this paper, a general introduction of the relief sculpture of the Buddha's life from Sarnath during the Gupta period was given.
The art of Buddha's life gave great influences on that of China, Korea, Japan and Southeast Asia, and can be emphasized as an important subject in understanding the development of the Buddhist art in East Asia. A further study will be made on the art of Buddha's Life of Southeast Asia in the future, which will enhance the understanding of the art of Buddha's Life in East Asia as a whole.