Standing Bishamon Ten (Vaisravana)

Heian period, ca. 1162 (Oho 2)

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum
Tokyo, Japan

This is an image of Tamonten, who protects the northern quarter as a member of the Shitenno (four heavenly kings). The deity is called Bishamonten in its own right and attracted many believers. The image of this deity has a Hoto (one-storied pagoda) in its hand.The surface of this image is covered with beautiful decoration: thin strips of gold leaf form various patterns on the surface painted in green, blue, orange or red (using the kirikane technique). Such brilliant decoration is characteristic of the Buddhist images and paintings of the late Heian period. The dignified figure suggests that this was created by a first-class sculptor. Moreover, gyokugan, which is a technique to insert eyes made of crystal into the head and was popular in the Kamakura period, is used on this image, making this a good referential material of the early use of the gyokugan technique. What makes this image more valuable are the 110 prints (woodblock prints) and colored paintings of Bishamonten, which were stored within the image. Since some prints had an inscription on the back that said "March 7, 1162," it can be estimated that the image was also created about the same time. It was originally enshrined in the Nakagawa-dera Temple (formerly located in Nakanokawa-cho, Nara, but it was demolished later).


  • Title: Standing Bishamon Ten (Vaisravana)
  • Date Created: Heian period, ca. 1162 (Oho 2)
  • Provenance(Japanese): 旧中川寺十輪院持仏堂所在
  • Provenance: Formerly owned by the Jurin'in, Chusenji
  • Physical Dimensions: h1025 mm
  • Object Title: 毘沙門天立像
  • Object Notes(Japanese): 四天王のうち北方を守護する多聞天(たもんてん)は、単独では毘沙門天(びしゃもんてん)と呼ばれて信仰を集めた。片手に宝塔を捧げ持つ姿につくられる。 この像は、表面に美しい装飾が施されており、緑・青・橙・赤などの彩色の上に金箔を細く切ってさまざまな文様を表している(截金技法<きりかねぎほう>)。このような華麗な装飾は、平安時代後期の仏像や仏画の特徴。堂々とした造形からも、一流の仏師によってつくられたと考えられる。また、この像には目に水晶を嵌(は)める玉眼(ぎょくがん)という技法が用いられている。玉眼は鎌倉時代に一般的になるが、その早い例としても注目される。この像の価値をさらに高めているのが、像内に納められていた110枚に及ぶ毘沙門天を表した印仏(いんぶつ)(仏像の形を版に彫って紙に押したもの)と彩色の画像。印仏の裏面には、「応保二年三月七日」と記すものがあり、像自体もほぼ同じ頃につくられたと考えられる。もとは中川寺(なかがわでら)(廃絶・奈良市中ノ川町にあった)に安置されていたことが知られている。
  • Object Date: 平安時代・応保2年(1162)頃
  • Medium(Japanese): 木造、彩色・截金、玉眼
  • Donor(Japanese): 川端龍子氏寄贈
  • Donor: Mr. Kawabata Ryushi
  • Type: Sculpture
  • External Link: http://www.emuseum.jp/detail/100437/000/000
  • Medium: Wood with polychromy, cut gold leaf and inlaid crystal eyes

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