Detail View: The AMICA Library: Achala Vidyaraja (Fudo Myo-o)

AMICA Library Year: 
Object Type: 
Creator Nationality: 
Asian; Far East Asian; Japanese
Creator Name-CRT: 
Achala Vidyaraja (Fudo Myo-o)
Full view
Creation Date: 
Heian to Kamakura period, late 12th century
Creation Start Date: 
Creation End Date: 
Materials and Techniques: 
Cypress wood with traces of pigment and cut gold leaf
Creation Place: 
H. 19 1/4 in. (48.9 cm)
AMICA Contributor: 
Asia Society
Owner Location: 
New York, New York, USA
ID Number: 
Credit Line: 
Asia Society: The Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection
The introduction of Buddhism to Japan was one of the most important events in Japanese history and had a lasting effect on the development of its thought, art, and culture. According to Japanese sources, Buddhism was introduced from the Korean kingdom of Paekche in either 538 or 552 as part of a series of diplomatic exchanges that also led to a broader awareness of the beliefs and material culture of China and Korea. The Heian period (794-1185) in Japanese history began when the capital was relocated from Nara to Heian-kyo (present-day Kyoto). It has often been suggested that the capital was moved to help the court diminish the influence of the Buddhist clergy in Nara, who had at times played an important role in secular affairs.

This late 12th-century seated sculpture of Achala Vidyaraja represents one of the many Buddhist deities introduced to Japan during the Heian period as part of the imagery associated with Esoteric Buddhism. Achala, whose name means 'immovable,' is one of a group of five wisdom kings or vidyarajas, each of whom represents the powers of one of the five buddhas who symbolize the five divisions of the Diamond World (Vajradhatu). Achala Vidyaraja, the most important of the five wisdom kings, represents the powers of Vairochana Buddha. This sculpture was once part of a group of five figures, and would have been placed at the center of the other four wisdom kings. The image follows conventions for the representation of Achala recorded in iconographic texts associated with the teachings of the influential monk Kukai or Kobo Daishi (774-835): his body is plump and generally blue or black; he has long matted hair, a ferocious expression, fangs, and bulging eyes--and his left eye is often shown squinting. Achala is seated on a tiered pedestal and once held a sword in his right hand and a lasso in his left. He wears a long, full garment, which is folded over at the waist, and a scarf, which drapes around his left shoulder and over his upper torso.

Stylistically, this sculpture illustrates the transition from the courtly style of 11th-century art to the more dramatic and naturalistic traditions favored by the Kamakura-period (1185-1333) military elite. Achala's broad flat torso, his plump hands and feet, the way in which his scarf is tied--in particular the piece of cloth that covers the left shoulder--and the stylized folds of his lower garment typify the art of the late 11th and early 12th centuries. The slight articulation at his waist, the definition in his cheeks, and the spiky curls in his hair, however, prefigure the more realistic styles of sculptures from the 13th and 14th centuries.

The statue was made of Japanese cypress (hinoki) using the joined woodblock method of construction developed in the 11th century. In this technique, different parts--such as the head, feet, hands, and torso--were carved from separate pieces of wood, the head and torso were hollowed out, and then the pieces were assembled. After joining, the sculptures were often covered with a gessolike material (gofun) and painted and decorated with cut gold and silver leaf (kirikane). Traces of red pigment and gold leaf are found on this sculpture, although both are badly abraded.

Related Document Description: 
Asia Society. Handbook of the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection. New York: Asia Society, [1981], p. 90.
Related Document Description: 
Rosenfield, John M. 'The Perfection of Japanese Sculpture.' Apollo (November 1983), p. 426.
Related Document Description: 
Shimada, Shujiro, ed. Zaigai Nihon no shiho (Japanese Art Treasures Abroad). Tokyo: Mainichi Shinbun, 1980, vol. 8, fig. 10.
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