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Japanese Gallery (Honkan) Room 11  November 16, 2021 (Tue) - January 30, 2022 (Sun)

Kamakura period, 13th century (Important Cultural Property)

Japan has three main traditions of sculpture: Buddhist deities, Shinto deities, and portraits of people. Buddhism was introduced to Japan from the Korean Peninsula in the 6th century, together with sculptures of Buddhist deities. These sculptures were made primarily for worship. Making a sculpture was also an “act of spiritual merit” that would help one’s prayers to be answered.

In contrast, Shinto is the indigenous religion of Japan. Since ancient times, people believed that Shinto deities dwell in natural features like mountains and rivers, and rarely depicted them as humanlike sculptures. Even when a Shinto shrine had a sculpture for worship, the priests usually kept it hidden from view out of respect.

Some portrait sculptures were also worshipped, as they showed deified monks or samurai. Others were made to remember the dead and pray for their salvation. This gallery features works mainly from the Heian (794–1192) and Kamakura (1192–1333) periods, when many of Japan’s most admired sculptures were created.

Major Work(s) on Exhibit 5 results
Designation Name Amount Creation Excavation Period Acquisition Ownership Comment
Highlight Important Cultural Property Bodhisattva Kamakura period, 13th century C-20
Highlight Important Cultural Property The Wisdom King Aizen By Kōen (born 1207) Kamakura period, 1275 Lent by Jingoji Temple, Kyoto
The Buddha Yakushi Nara period, 8th century C-318
Important Cultural Property The Wisdom King Fudō Heian period, 11th century C-1525
Highlight Important Cultural Property The Buddha Dainichi Heian period, 11th–12th century C-311