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Gallery Text

Crafted for Japanese Buddhist image halls of the Heian (794–1185) and Kamakura (1185–1333) periods, the objects in this case were once part of magnificent architectural and sculptural ensembles intended to render the Western Pure Land of the Buddha Amitabha physically present in our earthly realm. To be reborn in the Western Pure Land guaranteed the attainment of awakening; the splendors of this distant land were evoked with gleaming, gilded sculptures of Amitabha and his heavenly entourage, including bodhisattvas and angel-like apsarases. Icons of Amitabha were further canopied with stylized flower garlands in gilt bronze.

This period saw the rise to prominence of wooden statuary, which came to surpass bronze as the main material for Japanese Buddhist sculptures thereafter. Placed within the magnificent settings of image halls, Buddhist sculptures themselves became increasingly decorative and included the extensive use of brilliant polychromy; cut-gold leaf patterning (called kirikane) in the drapery; and metal adornments for crowns, headdresses, and accessories. Despite the richness of their robes and settings, the idealized facial expressions of the figures are serene and introspective — characteristics that reflect the aesthetic ideals of the statues’ courtly patrons.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
Virūdhaka (Zōchōten), Guardian King of the South, one of the Devarājas (Shitennō), or Four Heavenly Guardian Kings
Other Titles
Transliterated Title: Shitennō (Devarājas): Zōchōten (Virūdhaka)
Work Type
sculpture, figure
Heian period, c. 1075
Creation Place: East Asia, Japan
Heian period, Late, 898-1185
Persistent Link
Level 2, Room 2740, Buddhist Art, The Efflorescence of East Asian and Buddhist Art
View this object's location on our interactive map
Physical Descriptions
Wood with traces of polychromy and gilding
H. 69.7 x W. 30.4 x D. 15.5 cm (27 7/16 x 11 15/16 x 6 1/8 in.)
[James Freeman, Kyoto] sold; to Walter C. Sedgwick, Woodside, CA (by 1979), promised gift; to Harvard University Museums, 1979.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Promised gift of Walter C. Sedgwick in memory of Elizabeth Sedgwick and Marjorie Sedgwick
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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Publication History

Dorinda Neave, Lara Blanchard, and Marika Sardar, Asian Art, Pearson Education, Inc. (Boston, MA, 2015), p. 329, ill. 14-6

Exhibition History

Later Chinese and Japanese Figure Painting in Decorative Arts, Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 02/22/1992 - 06/07/1992

Japanese Art of the Heian Period (794-1185), Harvard University Art Museums, Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Cambridge, 06/06/2002 - 07/05/2002

32Q: 2740 Buddhist II, Harvard Art Museums, 11/16/2014 - 01/01/2050

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

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