One of the Four Heavenly Kings


Not on view

The Four Heavenly Kings (Shitennō) protect the four quarters of the universe in the four cardinal directions, warding off evil and guarding the nation. In Japan they are typically placed around the main altar of a central deity, dressed as military generals, carrying an assortment of weapons and wearing ferocious expressions as they stand triumphantly over the defeated bodies of demons (symbolizing their subjugation of Buddhism’s enemies).

The Burke Collection example is carved from a single block of wood (ichiboku) and wears the Chinese military armor one expects to find in representations of guardian figures from the late Heian period.

One of the Four Heavenly Kings, Painted wood, ichiboku technique, Japan

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.


Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.