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Shukongojin

A wooden sculpture of a muscular red figure with flaming hair and a third eye, stares fiercely down at us. Left head raised over head holds a vajra, a ritual object.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A wooden sculpture of a muscular red figure with flaming hair and a third eye, stares fiercely down at us. Left head raised over head holds a vajra, a ritual object.

Date:

Kamakura Period, 12th/14th century

Artist:

Japan

About this artwork

Known also as the Thunderbolt Deity, this fierce protector of the Law of Buddhism brandishes a vajra that symbolizes the power of wisdom to penetrate ignorance and destroy evil. Shukongo-jin belongs to the same category of gods as the paired guardians (nio) often placed on either side of the gateways to Buddhist temples.

Because Shukongo-jin was not intended to blend into a sculptural ensemble, artists frequently used the opportunity to portray him as an occasion for eccentric and exaggerated effects. This figure, for example, is comparatively small, but it still conveys the threat of explosive force appropriate to the deity’s role. He stands surrounded by churning waves, while a divine wind blows his garments about and fuels the flames that are his hair. The hyperrealism of his chiseled muscles and bulging veins is a characteristic feature of Japanese sculpture of this era.

On View

Arts of Asia, Gallery 103

Title

Shukongojin

Origin

Japan

Date

Made 1199–1399

Medium

Wood with traces of polychromy

Dimensions

37 x 14 x 11 in.

Credit Line

Kate S. Buckingham Endowment

Reference Number

1958.120

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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