Zaō Gongen

Period: Heian period (794–1185)

Date: 11th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Gilt bronze with incised decoration

Dimensions: H. 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm); W. 7 1/8 in. (18.1 cm); D. 3 9/16 in. (9 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: The Harry G. C. Packard Collection of Asian Art, Gift of Harry G. C. Packard, and Purchase, Fletcher, Rogers, Harris Brisbane Dick, and Louis V. Bell Funds, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, and The Annenberg Fund Inc. Gift, 1975

Accession Number: 1975.268.155


Zaō Gongen is a rare example of a purely Japanese deity in the Buddhist pantheon. Many of the religious practices associated with Zaō took place in remote temples deep in the mountains. Through these rites, mountain ascetics (yamabushi), who were practitioners of Shugendō, attempted to appropriate for themselves the sheer physical power of the deities.