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Zaō Gongen

Period:
Heian period (794–1185)
Date:
11th century
Culture:
Japan
Medium:
Gilt bronze with incised decoration
Dimensions:
H. 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm); W. 7 1/8 in. (18.1 cm); D. 3 9/16 in. (9 cm)
Classification:
Sculpture
Credit Line:
The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975
Accession Number:
1975.268.155
  • Description

    Zaō Gongen is the principal of the three deities in whom En-no-gyōja, the founder of the mystic sect Shugendō, was said to have placed his faith, and he is a rare example of a purely Japanese deity in the Buddhist pantheon. As a heavenly deva king, or myōō, his supernatural strength and wrathful righteousness protect believers. This small bronze shows Zaō in a demon-quelling aspect: his right hand grasps a three-pronged spear (now lost), his left hand pounds his solar plexus, and his right foot is raised to stamp out his fury. Many of the religious practices associated with Zaō took place in remote temples deep in the mountains. Through these rites, mountain ascetics (yamabushi), who were practitioners of Shugendō, attempted to appropriate for themselves the sheer physical power of the deities.

  • See also
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    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History
    MetPublications
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