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A guardian king, approx. 900–1000

A guardian king

A guardian king, Heian period (794-1185), approx. 900-1000. Japan. Wood. The Avery Brundage Collection, B67S1.

This fierce-looking king is a symbolic protector of the Buddha's sacred law and also a fighter of evil spirits. His right foot is raised to stamp upon the head of a demon (now missing). His armor consists of tunic, trousers, chest and back plate, and tied sash. A lion's face decorates the plate at his waist. This figure may be one of the Guardian Kings of the Four Directions, who belong to a large class of Buddhist deities below the level of buddhas and bodhisattvas. The torso of the figure is carved from a single block of wood. Since its arms are missing, we do not know how they were positioned, or what symbolic implements they held. The entire surface was originally smoothed and painted.

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