Jikoku-ten, Guardian of the East, one of a set of four Shitenno (Guardian Figures)

Historical period(s)
Kamakura period, 1185-1333
Wood and polychrome with gilt, crystal-inlaid eyes
H x W x D: 67.3 × 35 × 20.5 cm (26 1/2 × 13 3/4 × 8 1/16 in)
Credit Line
Purchase — Charles Lang Freer Endowment
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Figure: guardian

Buddhism, Japan, Kamakura period (1185 - 1333)
Provenance research underway.

Jikoku-ten (Dhrtarastra), Guardian of the East, is one of a set of four Shitenno (guardian figures). (See also F1970.14, F1976.12, and F1978.28). These images are the guardians of the four directions, and would have been placed within a temple sanctuary protecting one or more centralized Buddhist images. They were created and positioned to be viewed frontally as a logical and dynamic composition.  Each figure stands on a writhing demon, symbolizing dominance over any enemies of Buddhism.

Based on varied devotional settings, the four guardian figures hav been produced in many sizes, from more than double the size of a human, to the diminutive forms seen here, to even smaller. These lithe, animated figures are excellent examples of a hyperrealistic style that came to prominence in Japanese Buddhist sculpture in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

Published References
  • Zaigai Nihon no Shiho [Japanese Art: Selections from Western Collections]. 10 vols., Tokyo, 1979 - 1980. vol. 8: pls. 61, 63.
  • Julia Murray. A Decade of Discovery: Selected Acquisitions 1970-1980. Exh. cat. Washington, 1979. cat. 39c, p. 51.
  • Paths to Perfection, Buddhist Art at the Freer/Sackler. Washington. pp. 196-197, 210-211.
Collection Area(s)
Japanese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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