Important Cultural PropertyJūichimen Kannon (Skt. Ekādaśamukha-avalokiteśvara) Stone Alcove

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  • 石造浮彫十一面観音龕
  • 1 relief
  • Stone relief
  • Total H 85.1
  • Tang dynasty, China/8th century
  • Nara National Museum
  • 1277(彫122)

  This is one of stone Buddhist sculptures inlaid in the Buddhist Hall and the pagoda at Baoqing-si Temple in Xi’an City, Shaanxi Province in China. This stone sculptures were originally part of the Tower of Seven Jewels at Guangzai-si Temple, which was built between Chang’an 3 (703) and the following year by Empress Wu (624–705; r. 690–705) with her close adviser-priest Tokukan (dates unknown) appointed as the general supervisor. Empress Wu temporarily changed the country name of the Tang to Zhou (also called Wu Zhou). Including the six pieces still in the seven-storied hexagonal pagoda reconstructed in the early Qing dynasty, 32 pieces are known today, and seven Jūichimen Kannon (Skt. Ekādaśamukha-avalokiteśvara) statues were comprised these pieces. All of them show a typical early Tang style with well-digested Indian influences and are highly valuable as standard works of the government-run studios in Chang’an at that time. This statue is carved out of a rectangular limestone to form a Buddha alcove and is embossed with an image of Jūichimen Kannon standing upright on a lotus pedestal with a sacred jewel-shaped head light on its back. The face of the statue is graceful, with a round face and moist eyes, and a thin robe adheres to the lower body, giving the statue a slender appearance. The upper part of the head is composed of one, four, and five faces, in order from top to bottom, with the right hand bent down to hold a seal inscribed with the inscription “Exoneration,” and the left hand hanging down with the palm in front. The Jūichimen Kannon of Baoqing-si Temple has a variety of objects, and in the case of the seal on this statue, it may be related in some way to the hand holding a jeweled seal included in the forty hands holding Buddhist objects of the Senju Kannon (Skt. Sahasrabhuja-avalokiteśvara) mentioned in the Senjusengankanzeonbosatsu kōdaienmanmuge daihishindharanikyō Sutra. However, the fact that the two syllables for “Exoneration” is associated with the repent one’s transgressions before Jūichimen Kannon in the assembly for the service of the second month (Shuni-e) at Todaiji Temple and is particularly noteworthy when considering the reality of the belief in the manifestation Kannon during the Wu Zhou period in China. Guangzai-si Temple was built at the place at which discovered myriad sarira by Imperial order. This discovery story is also founded in the Daiunkyōsho, which was compiled by Empress Wu to give her an excuse to ascend the Imperial throne. It has been pointed out that behind the construction of the Tower of Seven Jewels and the stone Buddhist sculptures, there was a clear intention to use Buddhism to support the government.