Important Cultural PropertyLine-engraved Avalokitesvara (Kannon Bosatsu) (rectangular mirror with the motif of crane holding a pine branch in its mouth)

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  • 1 piece
  • Cast bronze
  • Front: L19.9, W12.5 Frame: thickness0.55, W0.18
  • Heian~Kamakura period/12-13th century
  • Tokyo National Museum

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 represents the image of Kannon Bodhisattva kneeling down with both hands holding up a lotus pedestal, which is line engraved on the surface of a rectangular mirror cast in nickel. On the back surface, a pattern of a crane holding a pine branch in its mouth is placed in the upper and lower parts of the surface with pine branches between them. The mirror body is thin and its rectangular shape is rare among Japanese mirrors, most of which are round. The patterns are clearly cast and the design demonstrates the elegance of the late Heian period when Japanese mirrors enjoyed their heyday. However, since some rigidness can be seen in the representation of the patterns, it is estimated that this was created during the period from the late Heian period to the early Kamakura period. On the other hand, although the image of Kannon represents Kannon raigo-zu (a scene where Kannon comes down to welcome the deceased to the Pure Land), which became popular from the late Heian period onward due to the spread of Pure Land Buddhism (Jodokyo), the lines of the image show irregularity (sometimes thick and sometimes thin), suggesting that the carving was done much later than the creation time of the mirror.
Since there are two small holes in the upper part of the mirror, it seems that a string was passed through them to hang the mirror.