Important Cultural PropertySuryavairocana Bodhisattva

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  • 1 statue
  • Lacquered wood with gold leaf, Color on dry lacquer layers
  • H 56.1
  • Nara period/8th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • C-218

This image together with the Gekko (Moon) Bodhisattva image at the Tokyo University of the Art and the Yakushi (Healing) Tathagata image at Kozanji Temple in Koto used to form a triad. They seem to have been enshrined at Kinrinji Temple in Kameoka, Kyoto. The posture of the head tilting to the right and the left leg pendant suggests that this image was an attendant placed to the left of the central image of Yakushi Tathagata.
This image is created with the Mokushinkanshitsu technique (a rough image is hollowed out of one piece of lumber on which lacquer is applied) and its overall structure has been made clear through X-rays. The X-rays have found the following:
The image was carved out of Japanese cypress lumber and the head-torso part is cut into two parts, the front and the back and the inside is hollowed out. The back block of wood protrudes from the hips to the right and the left, forming a triangle and to the front, on which the front half of the image is placed and a crossbar is attached for the legs and the legs and the bottom of the torso are jointed with mortises. The topknot seems to be made of a different kind of wood. While the front and back parts of the left arm are put together at the shoulder, elbow and middle part of the forearm (the rest is missing), the right arm is put together at the shoulder, the right arm is put together at the shoulder, elbow and wrist. The left leg is put together at the pendent point and the foot and the bottom of the image is boarded. In the earlobes and fingers, cores made of cloth-wound copper wire are inserted and the entire surface of the image is covered with cloth and the cores made of cloth are inserted into the points where the tenne (a long strip of cloth that hangs down from the shoulder) is separated from the body and into the hem of the mo (breechcloth) touching the pedestal. Kokuso lacquer (a mixture of lacquer and wood powder/waste textile) is applied to the cloth surface to form facial features, undulations on the body part and drapery folds. While the entire image is covered with lacquer, except the hair, which is made of plaster and colored in lapis lazuli, the current lacquer coating is a later addition. The initial lacquer coating can be seen under the current coating. The pedestal is also a later addition. While it cannot be denied that it has been formalized and lacks liveliness, the style of this image strongly reflects the structural techniques and features of the late Nara period, which can be seen in the refined facial features, natural modeling and drapery folds and follows the style of Todaiji Zobutsusho as represented by the images in the Hokkedo of Todaiji Temple, which were created in the mid-eighth century.