This sixth-century seated Maitreya is the earliest Chinese Buddhist sculpture in the Museum's collection. Probably intended for private devotion, the diminutive image of the bodhisattva seated in meditation (the sculpture's throne is now missing) is one of the few Maitreya bronzes attributed to the Northern Zhou dynasty. As part of the short-lived Northern and Southern dynasties, the Northern Zhou ruled an area of north-central China. Because of the political instability and the frequent wars that plagued the dynasty, Buddhist cults promising rebirth in paradise became increasingly popular. The popular bodhisattva Maitreya, as described in the Lotus Sutra, presided over a paradise for reborn believers.