This rare figure is an apsara, a Buddhist celestial being. These graceful figures are usually shown playing a musical instrument, here it is the sheng, a wind instrument, and are subsidiary figures placed in Buddhist shrines or as part of a paradise scene. This figure appears to come from the same group of apsara musicians as two very similar gilt-bronze figures in the Fogg Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, dated 6th century, and illustrated by H. Munsterberg in Chinese Buddhist Bronzes, Vermont/Tokyo, 1967, pls. 95 and 96, where the figures can be seen playing two different instruments, the pipa and the flute, respectively. These figures are unusual in that they are shown facing forward and kneeling rather than the more usual representation of being shown in flight with their scarves and garments floating behind them, as seen on the well-known Buddhist altar in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, illustrated ibid. pl. 116. The altar is centered by the figure of Buddha Maitreya and the apsaras are shown as if air-borne at the sides of the mandorla behind him.