Important Cultural PropertyEleven-Headed (ekādashamukha) Avalokitesvara (Kannon Bosatsu), line-engraved mirror with the motif of autumn flower plants and two birds

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  • 1 piece
  • Nickel and copper alloy, casted
  • Front D11.15, Reverse D11.2 Frame: thickness0.6, W0.3
  • Heian period / Heiji 1 (1159)
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • E-20013

Kyozo is an image of a Buddhist or Shinto deity carved on the surface of a bronze mirror. There are also colored kyozo, although they are very rare. It was from the latter half to the end of the 10th century when kyozo began to be produced in Japan. For its origin, it is generally believed that based on Honchisuijaku (an idea that Shinto deities are in fact manifestations of Buddhist deities), the image of a Buddhist deity corresponding to a Shinto deity was represented on a mirror, which was often regarded as a shintai (an object worshiped as a symbol of sacred Shinto spirit) at that time. However, many existing early kyozo have a group composition similar to that of a mandala and some claim that it is based on the practice of Esoteric Buddhism, where the Esoteric deity placed in a gachirin (a circle that represents the full moon) is worshiped and that the mirror and the image represent the gachirin and the image of the Esoteric deity. Since there are also kyozo that were produced in China from the five dynasties period to the Song period (10th century), some believe that these Chinese kyozo must have had some impact on Japanese kyozo. It seems that the origin of kyozo is diverse.
This kyozo has the image of a seated eleven-headed Kannon Bodhisattva carved out on the surface of a Japanese mirror cast in nickel. It is a typical Japanese mirror of the late Heian period, where flowing water, autumn flowers that look like Japanese bush clovers, two birds and a butterfly are carved on the back of the mirror. In the inside area separated by a dividing line, there is an inscription inscribed via kagoji (a technique to copy only the outlines of characters onto a piece of paper) which says: "May 25, 1159/Priest Kokaku." On the mirror surface, the image of a seated eleven-headed Kannon Bodhisattva with a Buddhist rosary around its right wrist and holding a lotus stem, on which a water jar is placed, in its left hand is represented via keribori technique (a line-engraving technique to make sequences of small digs via "kicking" movements). The easy, relaxed lines represent the characteristics of the late Heian period. The back of the mirror and the kyozo both constitute valuable standard works that demonstrate the inscription format of that time.