Standing Shaka Buddha

Profound Compassion

Standing Shaka Buddha (c. 1210) by KaikeiKimbell Art Museum

In times of anxiety and uncertainty, this truly sublime figure of the Shaka Buddha conveys a sense of inner peace and calm.

The embodiment of profound compassion, this serene image is by Kaikei, the great Japanese master sculptor of the Kamakura period (1185–1333).

Artistic Technique

Kaikei is renowned for creating a Buddha image that is refined and graceful, possessing naturalistic proportions and a sense of movement, life like facial expressions, and elegantly clothed in deeply folded and realistically draped robes embellished with gold leaf.


Shaka is the Japanese name for the historical Buddha Shakyamuni. The Buddha is identified by several auspicious marks or physical traits called lakshanas that symbolize his state of enlightenment.

The ushnisha (the cranial bump) symbolizes the “expanded wisdom” the Buddha attained at the time of his enlightenment.

The urna is the mark between the eyebrows, here it is a round inlaid crystal. It refers to his supernatural wisdom.

The hair is depicted in the form of “snail shell” curls, because according to legend, when the Buddha cut his hair, the uncut portions snapped into these curls and he never had to cut it again.

The elongated earlobes symbolize the heavy earrings he wore as a young prince before attaining enlightenment. They remind us that to reach enlightenment we must surrender attachment to worldly goods.

His gracefully outstretched right hand makes a mudra (gesture) called the abhayamudra, the benevolent gesture of reassurance and the absence of fear.

The Buddha wears the robe of a monk. Adding to the sense of realism is the application of kirikane cut-gold leaf to the gilded surface of the sculpture to replicate floral and geometric textile patterns.

The figure of Shaka is framed by an openwork halo with cloud arabesque patterns and thirteen round mirrors, each bearing a Sanskrit character of a Buddhist deity.

Shaka Buddha stands on a lotus pedestal. The lotus is a symbol of purity and hence, the Buddha’s pure nature. With his left foot slightly advancing, the Buddha appears to move toward you with an expression of gentle and profound compassion. 

As you stand before the image of Shaka Buddha, his half-closed eyes cast down in a meditative gaze, you are suddenly filled with a sense of inner calm and peace.

Credits: Story

The Kimbell From Home

Kaikei, Standing Shaka Buddha, c. 1210. Gilt and lacquered wood. Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Explore more
Google apps