Dainichi Nyorai

Period: Heian period (794–1185)

Date: 12th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Wood with gold leaf and lacquer decoration

Dimensions: H. 36 3/8 in. (92.4 cm); W. 27 1/2 in. (69.9 cm); D. 19 5/8 in. (49.8 cm)
Figure with base: H. 63 3/4 in. (161.9 cm); W. 38 3/4 in. (98.4 cm); D. 39 1/8 in. (99.4 cm)
Total H. 86 in. (218.4 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1926

Accession Number: 26.118


As Supreme Buddha of the Cosmos, from which the entire universe emanates, Dainichi Nyorai (Sanskrit: Mahavairocana Tathagata) is the central object of devotion in the esoteric sects of Buddhism. Here, Dainichi appears in a form known as Ichiji Kinrin, or “One-Syllable Golden Wheel,” one of the Five Supreme Buddha Attendants. Dainichi’s hands form the chiken-in, or “wisdom fist” mudra, with the left index finger surrounded by the fingers of the right hand. This gesture has the power to restrain the passions that hinder enlightenment and expresses the union of the spiritual and material realms of being. The graceful proportions of the sculpture were made possible by the fact that it was carved and assembled in sections (yosegi-zukuri), a technique that began in the late Heian period. In its original gilt form the sculpture embodied the name by which Dainichi is most commonly known in East Asia: Supreme Buddha of the Great Illumination.