Fudō Myōō is worshipped as a wrathful avatar of Dainichi, the buddha at the center of the Buddhist cosmos. A tenacious protector of Buddhist teachings, Fudō is armed with a lasso and sword to subdue negative forces. In keeping with scriptural descriptions, this example, created in the workshop of the leading sculptor Kaikei, portrays a full-bodied, menacing figure biting his lower lip, with his hair bound and falling over his left shoulder.
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快慶作 不動明王坐像 (Fudō Myōō zazō)
Title:Fudō Myōō, the Immovable Wisdom King (Achala Vidyaraja)
Artist:Kaikei (Japanese, active 1183–1223)
Period:Kamakura period (1185–1333)
Date:early 13th century
Medium:Japanese cypress with lacquer, color, gold, cut gold leaf (kirikane), and inlaid crystal eyes
Dimensions:H. 21 in. (53.3 cm); W. 16 3/4 in. (42.5 cm); D. 15 in. (38.1 cm)
Credit Line:Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015
Accession Number:2015.300.252a, b
This ferocious-looking deity, Fudō Myōō, is known in India as Achala or Achalanatha. He is one of the many manifestations of Shiva, the Hindu god of destruction and reincarnation. Both his Sanskrit and Japanese names mean "the unshakable or immovable one," and true to his name, he came to be considered the indomitable and militant protector of Buddha's Law. Originally a pagan deity, Fudō converted to Buddhism and was assigned a lowly position as a servant and messenger of Buddha. Gradually he achieved higher status. In Esoteric Buddhism he became the emissary of the supreme god Dainichi (Skt: Vairochana), and still later he was promoted to the rank of Guardian, subjugator of Buddha's enemies. Finally he became a manifestation of Dainichi's own power and virtues. In this capacity, he is depicted in Mikkyō temples as the central figure in the group of the Five Guardian Kings (J: Go Dai Myōō; Skt: Vidyaraja). That he originated in India is universally acknowledged, although no representation of Achala has been found in the arts of Hindu India. Nor are there many extant examples from Central Asia or pre-Tang China. The scriptural sources citing him are Tang (618–907) or later translations. His iconography is outlined in the Dainichi Sutra, the basic sutra for Esoteric Buddhism, which was translated into Chinese in the year 725. According to the descriptions in these sutras, the body of Achala is stocky and black or dark blue, symbolic of his role as subjugator of Buddha's adversaries. He has a terrible face: his eyes bulge in anger, and the left eye is either closed or smaller than the right; protruding fangs bite his lower lip. These features are in sharp contrast to the aristocratic appearance of bodhisattvas, and they reflect his original, lowly status as well as his late acceptance into the Buddhist pantheon. Fudō's tenacious commitment to the protection of Buddha's Law is symbolized by the adamantine rock formation on which he is usually shown either seated or standing. In his left hand he holds a lasso for pulling reluctant beings toward the path of salvation, and in his right is a sword for demolishing evil forces. His long hair is gathered at the left side of his face in several knots—as many knots as there are incarnations through which he will serve as the faithful servant of his master. On his head he often bears a small, six-petaled flower or a lotus blossom, signifying his determination to uphold Buddha's Law. Terrible gods are often depicted in violent movement, but Fudō is usually motionless, in keeping with the belief that the mightiest power is best expressed in such a state. After the prescribed rituals for Fudō worship were introduced by Kūkai (774–835) in the early ninth century, Fudō became one of the most popular and enduring Mikkyō deities in Japan. Although there are variations—he may appear in a group representation with his child attendants, Kongara and Seitaka, or he may be shown with multiple arms—the basic iconography set forth in the sutras continued to be observed. This representation of Fudō adheres stylistically to the iconography established in the Early Heian period. In most Japanese examples he is shown with large, bulging eyes; here the effect is achieved with crystal inlays. The statue is carved from several pieces of Japanese cypress (hinoki), assembled in the yosegi zukuri (multiple block) technique; the interior is hollow. The surface was first covered with coarse linen, over which a heavy coating of black lacquer was applied. The dhoti was originally decorated with colors and gold strips in the kirikane technique, though most of this is now flaked off. The metal jewelry may be original, but the attributes that the deity holds are later replacements, as is the right hand. The rock-shaped pedestal on which he was seated is lost. The Burke Fudō is nearly identical to a statue signed by Kaikei and dated 1203. It is housed at Sanbōin, a subtemple of Daigoji, Kyoto. While both works are remarkably similar in iconographic details and size—the Sanbōin version is 59.4 centimeters (23 1/8 in.) high—there are subtle stylistic differences. The Burke Fudō has a stronger sense of three dimensionality, with a more exaggerated modeling of the fleshy face, a more forward thrust of the arms, and greater complexity in the deeply cut drapery folds. Above all, while the Sanbōin version appears soft and supple, the Burke version is noticeably harder in its modeling; the former has the unformed softness of a child, while the latter has a more mature look. Although unconfirmed, the Burke Fudō is thought to have been in the collection of Shōren'in, Kyoto. Kaikei had close ties with this temple and with its aristocratic abbot, Shinshō, through whose efforts he obtained commissions at other temples. Kaikei worked at Shōren'in at various times; his services there in 1210 and 1216 are recorded in the Mon'yōki, the official record of the temple. There is, however, no reference in the record to a statue of Fudō. Kaikei, an unusually prolific artist, had a large group of able assistants. It is possible that the Burke Fudō was made by one of these disciples, perhaps Shinkai, who assisted Kaikei in producing the Burke Jizō Bosatsu (cat. no. 21) and the Fudō at Sanbōin. [Miyeko Murase 2000, Bridge of Dreams]  On this deity, see Sawa Ryūken 1960, pp. 40–46; for Japanese representations, see Nakano Genzō 1986.  For example, the Amoghapashakalparajasutra (J: Fukūkensaku shinpen shingongyō), which was translated into Chinese in 709 by an Indian named Bodhiruchi. See Daizōkyō 1914–32, vol. 20, no. 1092.  For the Dai birushana jōbutsu shinpen kajikyō, or Dainichikyō, see ibid., vol. 18, no. 848.  Kyoto National Museum 1981.  The beaded pendants are believed to be later.  Mizuno Keizaburō, Kudō Yoshiaki, and Miyake Hisao 1991, fig. 28.  In their unpublished report, the group of sculpture specialists working under the auspices of the Tokyo National Research Institute of Cultural Properties attribute the Burke version to a follower of Kaikei.  Mōri Hisashi 1961, pp. 55-57.  Daizōkyō zuzō 1932–34, vols. 11, 12.  Mōri Hisashi 1969, p. 28.
[ Howard C. Hollis, Inc. , New York, 1972; sold to Burke November 1972]; Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation , New York (until 2015; donated to MMA)
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Japanese Art: Selections from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," November 7, 1975–January 4, 1976.
Seattle Art Museum. "Japanese Art: Selections from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," March 10–May 1, 1977.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. "Japanese Art: Selections from the Mary and Jackson Burke Collection," June 1–July 17, 1977.
Tokyo National Museum. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," May 21, 1985–June 30, 1985.
Nagoya City Art Museum. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," August 17, 1985–September 23, 1985.
Atami. MOA Museum of Art. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," September 29, 1985–October 27, 1985.
Hamamatsu City Museum of Art. "Nihon bijutsu meihin ten: nyūyōku bāku korekushon," November 12, 1985–December 1, 1985.
New York. Asia Society. "Art of Japan: Selections from the Burke Collection, pts. I and II," October 2, 1986–February 22, 1987.
Katonah Museum of Art. "Object as Insight: Japanese Buddhist Art and Ritual," January 14, 1996–March 17, 1996.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Object as Insight: Japanese Buddhist Art and Ritual," April 19, 1996–June 30, 1996.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Masterpieces of Japanese Art from The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 30–June 25, 2000.
Museum of Fine Arts, Gifu. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," July 5, 2005–August 19, 2005.
Hiroshima Prefectural Art Museum. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 4, 2005–December 11, 2005.
Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," January 24, 2006–March 5, 2006.
Miho Museum. "Enduring Legacy of Japanese Art: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," March 15, 2006–June 11, 2006.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebrating the Arts of Japan: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection," October 20, 2015–May 14, 2017.
New York. Asia Society Museum. "Kamakura: Realism and Spirituality in the Sculpture of Japan," February 9, 2016–May 8, 2016.
Nara National Museum. "Great Sculptor of Buddhist Images: Kaikei," April 8, 2017–June 4, 2017.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Japan: A History of Style," March 8, 2021–April 24, 2022.
Tsuji Nobuo 辻惟雄, Mary Griggs Burke, Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha 日本経済新聞社, and Gifu-ken Bijutsukan 岐阜県美術館. Nyūyōku Bāku korekushon-ten: Nihon no bi sanzennen no kagayaki ニューヨーク・バーク・コレクション展 : 日本の美三千年の輝き(Enduring legacy of Japanese art: The Mary Griggs Burke collection). Exh. cat. [Tokyo]: Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha, 2005, p. 70, cat. no. 14.
Leidy, Denise Patry. The Art of Buddhism: an Introduction to its History and Meaning. Boston: Shambala Publications, 2008, pp. 214, 215, fig. 10.8.
Murase, Miyeko, Il Kim, Shi-yee Liu, Gratia W. Nakahashi, Stephanie Wada, Soyoung Lee, and David Ake Sensabaugh. Art Through a Lifetime: The Mary Griggs Burke Collection. Vol. 2, Japanese Objects, Korean Art, Chinese Art. [New York]: Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, , p. 8, cat. no. 553.
Nara Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan 奈良国立博物館. Kaikei: Nihonjin o miryōshita hotoke no katachi: tokubetsuten 快慶 : 日本人を魅了した仏のかたち : 特別展 (The buddhist master sculptor Kaikei: timeless beauty from the Kamakura period: special exhibition). Exh. cat. [Nara]: Nara Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan, , p. 122, cat. no. 67.
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