Important Cultural PropertyBonten (Skt., Brahma)

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  • Height 32.0cm Width 18.4cm (from ear to ear)
  • Heian period/10th century
  • Kyoto National Museum

Bonten (Skt., Brahma) originally comes from a set of processional masks of the Twelve Heavenly Beings (J., jûniten) that were used in the consecration ritual (J., kanjô-e) at To-ji Temple. This mask with its compassionate expression, the Taishakuten (Skt., Indra), and Nitten (Skt., Surya) are made of paulownia wood (J., kiri), while the aged Katen (Skt., Agni) and Fûten (Skt., Vayu), and the wrathful Bishamonten (Skt., Vaisravana) and Jizaiten (also known in Japanese as Ishanaten; Skt., Isana) are of cypress (J., hinoki). Two masks, thought to be part of this set, now belong to the Honolulu Academy of Arts.
From around the end of the tenth century, Kôshô (n.d.), father of the master Buddhist sculptor Jôchô (d. 1057), organized a studio of Buddhist carvers, who primarily came to produce exquisite Buddhist images. The style of the present mask closely resembles the carvings from this time and is thought to be among the twelve deva masks rescued from the fire of 1000 (Chôhô 2) that burnt down the treasure storage of Tô-ji Temple.

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