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Shinto Deity in the Guise of the Monk Hyeja

A work made of wood with traces of pigment.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of wood with traces of pigment.


11th/early 12th century



About this artwork

This figure is said to represent the seventh-century Korean monk Hyeja, the foremost spiritual teacher of the first great Japanese patron of Buddhism, Prince Shotoku Taishi (573–621). The sculpture was made in the ichiboku technique, utilizing only a single block of wood. Its dramatic power is enhanced by the artist’s use of the natabori method of carving, in which the chisel marks are clearly visible on the surface. Here Hyeja looks as if he has been chipped away; his devotion to Buddhism and consequent asceticism have reduced him to a frail figure.

This work reflects the coexistence of Shinto and Buddhism. In Japan there was a belief in honji suijaku, a theory that Shinto deities (kami) were manifestations of Buddhist deities. This principle was also applied to historical figures like Prince Shotoku, and less commonly to individuals like Hyeja.


On View, Gallery 103


Arts of Asia


Shinto Deity in the Guise of the Monk Hyeja


Japan (Object made in)




Wood with traces of pigment


H.: 97 cm (38 1/4 in.)

Credit Line

Kate S. Buckingham Endowment

Reference Number


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Extended information about this artwork

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