firm, unyielding power inhabits this ancient guardian figure. The dark bronze
is carved and cut with hardness and depth in a superb casting rich with clearly
defined symbols and details. As the regalia is not found after the end of the
Ming Dynasty, and the casting is heavy and deep as in earlier periods, the time
frame of this work is decidedly early Ming at the latest.
is expressed in the stolid figure, the face drawn into a threatening grimace with
heavy brows and broad cheeks, the lips pressed together above a pugnacious chin,
right arm pulled back in a tight fist. His flaming crown is fronted by an image
of Amitabha Buddha. He is wearing elaborate armor of the type depicted as early
as Tang dynasty. The armor on his forearms bears four petaled lotuses, which represent
the earth chakra from which his power derives. The armor on his upper body is
comprised of sharp curved plates held by a cord that bears a demon-reflecting
mirror. From the mirror descend ropes and fastenings which tie over a belted animal
skin apron which may represent a makara, a fabulous animal with the tail of a
fish. On his shoulders are monster heads with multiple rows of sharp teeth and
fringed beards. A scarf around the guardian’s neck is tied in a bow in the front.
(The scarf motif as part of warrior dress goes back to ancient China.) The lower
armor has a rocklike density and is graced on either side by cords ornamented
with roundels and fleur de lis styled lotuses. Flowing trousers with studded edges
drape over the patterned boots. The firmly planted stance and rigid posture is
complemented and enlivened by the surface detail surrounded by flying scarves
with spiraling ends and cords.