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Seated Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Buddha)

Unknown11th Century

Kyoto National Museum

Kyoto National Museum
Kyoto, Japan

As Pure Land belief became popular in the late Heian period, people began to pray fervently for birth in the Pure Land of Amida (Skt. Amitābha). As a result, large quantities of Amida images were created to enable people to sense Amida’s paradise in the present world. Within this environment, wooden sculptures made by the celebrated sculptor Jōchō (d. 1057), active from the early to mid-eleventh century, were enthusiastically lauded by nobles of the time as the true images of Buddha. Such sculptures were called Jōchō-style images and predominated for the subsequent one hundred years.
This statue was also rendered in the Jōchōstyle, but the technique in which it was produced with pieces of relatively large wood fit together is older. In addition, the relaxed physique that does not show signs of a standardized form is similar to the sculptural style of Jōchō’s disciple Chōsei, making it possible that this was created as early as the late eleventh century.
This sculpture was formerly housed at Yakurenji, the temple affiliated with Sakuri Shrine in Kyoto’s Kumiyama-chō district. However, during the Buddhist and Shinto separatist movement in the Meiji period, it was moved to Sairin-ji Temple, also in Kumiyama-chō. In 1961, Typhoon Nancy severely damaged Sairin-ji Temple and the sculpture as well. It has fortunately been restored to nearly its original condition and is now safely stored at the Kyoto National Museum.

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