Head of a Buddhist guardian (deva-king)

Chinese, Later than T’ang. Head of one of the four Guardians in high relief; part of left ear and topknot missing. Color: dark gray with yellow white patina and light earth encrustations. Wooden stand.

Historical period(s)
Tang dynasty, 7th-8th century
Limestone with traces of pigment
H x W x D (overall): 38.8 x 19.8 x 14.8 cm (15 1/4 x 7 13/16 x 5 13/16 in)
China, Henan province, Luoyang, Longmen Grottoes
Credit Line
Gift of Charles Lang Freer
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Sculpture, Stone

Figure: head: (fragment)

Buddhism, China, Lokapala, Tang dynasty (618 - 907)

Probably from Longmen Grottos, Henan Province China [1]

To 1914
Abel William Bahr (1877-1959), London, to 1914 [2]

From 1914 to 1919
Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), purchased from Abel William Bahr, London, in 1914 [3]

From 1920
The Freer Gallery of Art, gift of Charles Lang Freer in 1920 [4]


[1] See Curatorial Remarks, Jan Stuart, March 10, 2003, in the object record. Also see Curatorial Remarks by Osvald Sirén, 1962, and Langdon Warner, 1916, in the object record.

[2] See S.I. 492, Original Miscellaneous List, pg. 139. Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives. Abel William Bahr (1877-1959) was a collector and dealer born in Shanghai, China. After he left Shanghai in 1910, he lived, at various points in time, in London, Montreal, and Ridgefield, Connecticut. He established a gallery in New York City in 1920.

[3] See note 2.

[4] The original deed of Charles Lang Freer's gift was signed in 1906. The collection was received in 1920 upon the completion of the Freer Gallery.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Charles Lang Freer 1854-1919
Abel William Bahr (C.L. Freer source) 1877-1959


Chinese, Later than T'ang. Head of one of the four Guardians in high relief; part of left ear and topknot missing. Color: dark gray with yellow white patina and light earth encrustations. Wooden stand.


Wrathful-looking deva-kings, or guardians of the Buddhist law, often appear near the entrance of a Chinese Buddhist temple. The bulging eyes of this high-relief sculpture express the ferocity of a deva-king's commitment to protect religious law.

The style of this object and the limestone it is carved from ing and the type of stone of this object strongly suggest its origin in one of the Tang caves at the Longmen Buddhist grottoes, near Luoyang, Henan Province. The Longmen caves were begun in 493 C.E. and over the course of almost four hundred years of Chinese imperial patronage, the site was transformed into a richly endowed complex with over 2,300 caves and niches in cliff walls adorned with sculptures. In the early twentieth, century many sculptures and fragments were removed from Longmen and entered the international antiquities market, but these objects usually were not properly identified at the time. Scholars today are working to research secure identifications for these sculptures.

Published References
  • Dr. John Alexander Pope, Thomas Lawton, Harold P. Stern. The Freer Gallery of Art. 2 vols., Washington and Tokyo, 1971-1972. cat. 119, vol. 1: p. 178.
  • Chang Qing. Search and Research: The Provenance of Longmen Images in the Freer Collection. vol. 34, no. 5 Hong Kong, May 2003. p. 19, fig. 6.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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