About this artwork
This figure is said to represent the seventh-century Korean monk Hyeja, the foremost spiritual teacher of the first great Japanese patron of Buddhism, Prince Shotoku Taishi (573–621). The sculpture was made in the ichiboku technique, utilizing only a single block of wood. Its dramatic power is enhanced by the artist’s use of the natabori method of carving, in which the chisel marks are clearly visible on the surface. Here Hyeja looks as if he has been chipped away; his devotion to Buddhism and consequent asceticism have reduced him to a frail figure.
This work reflects the coexistence of Shinto and Buddhism. In Japan there was a belief in honji suijaku, a theory that Shinto deities (kami) were manifestations of Buddhist deities. This principle was also applied to historical figures like Prince Shotoku, and less commonly to individuals like Hyeja.
- Shinto Deity in the Guise of the Monk Hyeja
- Wood with traces of pigment
- Heian period
- H. 97 cm
- Kate S. Buckingham Endowment