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Emma-O

late 16th–early 17th century

Dallas Museum of Art

Dallas Museum of Art

Emma-O is a Japanese Buddhist version of Yama, the Hindu god of death. The idea of Emma-O as judge of the dead, who assigned people after death to one of six states of reincarnation, came to Japan from China beginning in the 8th century. This figure has the headdress, robes, and staff of a Chinese judge. Since Emma-O was imagined as the King of Hells, he is shown with a ferocious, snarling face. Yet he was also believed to send a dead spirit to favorable reincarnations, and so was seen as a beneficent power.

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