Important Cultural PropertySolitary deity and a Triad (reliefs on unglazed clay tiles)

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  • Excavated from Minamihokke-ji Temple, Takatori-town, Nara Prefecture
  • 1 piece
  • Asuka period/7th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • J-35633, J-35634

 Senbutsu is a Buddhist image that is carved on a clay surface via a middle-relief technique and then fired. A large quantity of Senbutsu was produced by using molds. They became popular in the late 7th century, centering on temples in the Asuka region. They were used to decorate halls and pagodas or as nenjibutsu (a Buddhist image used for personal daily worship).
 This dokusonzo senbutsu is small in size and represents Tathagata sitting on a chair placed on a lion-shaped pedestal with the right hand making a semuin mudra (a mudra that bestows fearlessness). Although small in size, this one displays sharp workmanship. For the sanzonzo (triad) senbutsu, the principal image sits on a chair on a lotus pedestal with both hands making a join mudra (a meditation mudra) and both attendants stand on lotus pedestals while joining hands in prayer. There is a canopy above the principal image and celestial beings are flying on both sides of the canopy. Compared to the dokusozo senbutsu, the representation of the triad lacks in sharpness.
 Minamihokkeji Temple is a temple of the Shingon sect located in Takatori-cho, Nara, which is said to have been established in the early 8th century. It is commonly called Tsubosakadera and well known through a Ningyo Joruri (Japanese puppet show) program "Tsubosaka Reigen-ki."