Important Cultural PropertyImage of the Deities of Kumano Twelve Shrines

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  • 1 piece
  • Forged bronze, gold plated
  • D 32.5
  • Kamakura period/14th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 1257(工267)

This is a rimmed hanging copper plate, on which the Honji deities (the true deities that the avatars represent) of the 12 Gongens (avatars) enshrined in the three Kumano shrines are represented. On each side of the plate, there is a base with a ring for hanging (note that the one on the observer's left was newly added). The images and pedestals are created all in one cast and holes are bored above and below each image, through which copper wires fasten the images to the plate. The halos are made of gilt bronze and decorated with openwork. On the base of the central Amitaba Tathagata, there is an indication that a hanging decoration was attached. Between the deities, gilt bronze flowers are attached and beside Fudo-Myo-O (Acala) and Bishamonten (aka Tamonten: the God of War and Warriors), there is a water jar. The plate is silver plated and the images are coated with gold. The lips are colored. Although the images have a noble appearance characteristic of the Kamakura period, it is estimated that this was created in the fourteenth century, since it shows some formalization.

The Honji deities of Sansho Gongens (avatars at three locations) are comprised of Amida Nyorai (Amitaba Tathagata) in the center (Hon-gu), Senju Kannon (a thousand-armed Kannon) on the observer's left (Nachi) and Yakushi Nyorai (Healing Tathagata) on the right (Shingu). In the upper center is Shaka Nyorai (Sakyamuni Tathagata) (Kanjo 15-sho) and there are the following deities surrounding the Honji deities of Sansho Gongens in a clockwise direction: Monju Bosatsu (Manjusri Bodhisattva) (Ichiman-gu), Jizo Bosatsu (Ksitigarbha) (Zenji-gu), Ryuju Bosatsu (Nagarjuna Bodhisattva) (Sei-gu), Fudomyoo (Acala) (Higyoyasha), Bishamonten (aka Tamonten) (Yonemochi Kongo), Sho Kannon (Holy Kannon) (Komori-no-miya), Nyoirin Kannon (Wish-fulfilling Kannon) (Konomiya) and Fugen Bodhisattva) (Juman-gu). Gosho Princes (princes at five locations) except Wakamiya are placed above and below the Sansho Gongens and Yonsho Myojins are placed on the right and left of the Sansho Gongens. The format where Fudo-Myo-O and Bishamonten are placed at the bottom is characteristic not only of the Kumano Mandala, but also of the mandalas of the Tendai sect. Moreover, since the three Sakyamuni deities are placed in the upper part, the aforementioned structural principles seem to have been strictly followed when creating this plate.

Since the central primary deity is outstanding in size and flowers are scattered between the deities, it can be said that this was made based on the strong desire for and faith in the coming of Amitaba Tathagata, the Honji deity of Hon-gu.