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Antique Chinese Bronze Buddha
Lokapala Temple Guardian

Early Ming, Circa: 14th century
H 11.5" (29cm.), W 4" (10cm.), D 3" (7.5cm.)

Condition: losses w. restoration

An 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.

Ferocity 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.

Ming Bronze Lokapala

Private Collection

The Guardian Kings of the Four Directions are usually found as statues or as paintings on the walls outside the main halls of most temples in Tibet and China. Each stands upon a base of mountains symbolizing the fourth terrace of Mount Meru, the center of the universe, on which they live. The guardians were originally nagas and garudas who discovered the saving power of Buddha and became his protectors in their subsequent incarnations.

Ming Bronze LokapalaMing Bronze Lokapala
Ming Bronze LokapalaMing Bronze Lokapala
Ming Bronze LokapalaMing Bronze Lokapala
Last BuddhaFuture Buddha

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