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About This Artwork
Shukongojin, 12th/14th century
Wood with traces of polychromy
91 cm high
Kate S. Buckingham Endowment, 1958.120
Known also as the Thunderbolt Deity, this fierce protector of the Law of Buddhism brandishes a vajra that symbolizes the power of wisdom to penetrate ignorance and destroy evil. Shukongo-jin belongs to the same category of gods as the paired guardians (nio) often placed on either side of the gateways to Buddhist temples.
Because Shukongo-jin was not intended to blend into a sculptural ensemble, artists frequently used the opportunity to portray him as an occasion for eccentric and exaggerated effects. This figure, for example, is comparatively small, but it still conveys the threat of explosive force appropriate to the deity’s role. He stands surrounded by churning waves, while a divine wind blows his garments about and fuels the flames that are his hair. The hyperrealism of his chiseled muscles and bulging veins is a characteristic feature of Japanese sculpture of this era.
— Permanent collection label
Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America, 1958.Archives of the Chinese Art Society of America, 1957.
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