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Bishamon

A work made of wood with traces of polychromy.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of wood with traces of polychromy.

Date:

11th century

Artist:

Japan

About this artwork

Earlier sculptures of this type were usually made from clay and lacquer, like the Chinese versions that inspired them. This example reflects a shift to carving in wood that took place in the Heian period (794–1185). The carving hints at the deity’s strong body beneath his armor, which still bears the traces of elaborate decoration: patterns of dragons and flowers in gold and bright colors.

This figure represents Bishamon, the chief of the four guardian devas (or shitennō) who protect the four cardinal directions in a Buddhist sanctuary. Originally an Indian folk deity, and later adopted by Buddhism, Bishamon was believed to ward off harmful influences from the north. The sculpture once held a miniature reliquary in his left hand and a spear in his right, symbolizing his duty to defend Buddhist law.

On View

Arts of Asia, Gallery 104

Title

Bishamon

Origin

Japan

Date

1001–1100

Medium

Wood with traces of polychromy

Dimensions

H. appro×. 135 cm (52 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Robert Allerton Endowment

Reference Number

1968.145

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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