Standing Juni Shinsho (Twelve Heavenly Generals): Shishin (Snake General)

Kamakura period, 13th century

Tokyo National Museum

Tokyo National Museum
Tokyo, Japan

These are the Twelve Divine Generals who, as the followers of Yakushi (Healing) Tathagata, protect Yakushi Tathagata and its believers. Wearing armor and carrying a weapon, such as a sword or an ax, they threaten enemies with a fierce look and keep close watch over the surroundings. Each of them has his own symbol (one of the twelve horary signs) on his head. While their dynamic motion is fully captured without exaggeration, their armor and clothes are represented by delicate coloring. The brilliant coloring and use of kirikane (a technique to cut gold leaf into small pieces and paste it on a surface) patterns suggest that the person (or persons) making the votive offering for the creation of these deities had ample means.It is said that these images were originally enshrined at Joruriji Temple in Soraku-gun, Kyoto, which is close to Nara. Considering that Joruriji Temple was established in the late Heian period and has since been passing on the court culture as symbolized by the nine Amitaba Tathagata images and the Pure Land Garden, it seems that the person making the votive offering was a nobleman. The sculptors seem to be members of the Kei school (a group of sculptors of Buddhist images that has produced renowned sculptors such as Unkei and Kaikei), which established a fresh style in the Kamakura period. Their efforts to create 12 unique images can be seen in the varied postures, hairstyles, hand-held symbols and armor shapes. Among the 12 images, these five images are possessed by the Tokyo National Museum and the remaining seven images are owned by the Seikado Bunko Museum (The Tokyo Metropolitan Government ).


  • Title: Standing Juni Shinsho (Twelve Heavenly Generals): Shishin (Snake General)
  • Date Created: Kamakura period, 13th century
  • Provenance(Japanese): 伝浄瑠璃寺伝来
  • Provenance: Said to have been formerly owned by Joruriji temple, Kyoto
  • Physical Dimensions: h695 mm
  • Object Title: 十二神将立像 巳神
  • Object Notes(Japanese): もと京都府加茂町の浄瑠璃寺にあったと伝えられる十二神将像。現実感にとんだ表情や軽快な運動感に鎌倉時代彫刻の特色が顕著であるが、同時に洗練された趣もみえる。13世紀初頭にさかのぼる、運慶系統の仏師の作と考えられる。いずれもヒノキ材寄木造り。
  • Object Date: 鎌倉時代・13世紀
  • Medium(Japanese): 木造、彩色・截金、玉眼
  • Type: Sculpture
  • External Link: http://www.emuseum.jp/detail/100418/003
  • Medium: Wood with polychromy, cut gold leaf and inlaid crystal eyes

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app


Google apps