Seated Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana)

  • Late Heian period
  • 12c
  • Single wood with lacquer-applied gilding
  • H-54.5
Catalogue Entry

Late Heian period, 12th century
Single wood with lacquer-applied gilding
Figure height, 54.5cm

There are Dainichi Nyorai images in both the Kongokai mandala (Vajradhatu-mandala) and the Taizokai mandala (Garbhaknosa⇔-mandala), and both are the central deities of their respective mandala. While these deities are called Nyorai (Tathagata) forms, their hair is bound in the chignon form, they have bodily adornment, their upper bodies are clothed in johaku draperies, and their lower bodies are clothed in kun--all bodily forms seen on images of Bosatsu (Bodhisattva). The type of mudra formed by both hands distinguishes the Kongokai form from the Taizokai form. The Dainichi Nyorai image from the Kongokai displays the chiken'in mudra (Vajra-mudra) with both hands forming a fist before the figure's torso, with the right palm grasping the left index finger. The Dainichi Nyorai image from the Taizokai displays the jo'in mudra (Dhyana-mudra) with both hands placed one on top of the other in front of the figure's hips. The Kongokai form shows the wisdom of the bonno'in (Kles⇔a) while the Taizokai shows the charitable virtues of Buddhas and Bosatsu. As this image displays the chiken'in mudra, it can be placed in the Kongokai form.

The present image is extremely rare for this period as it is carved in the ichiboku zukuri form of single-block construction. Namely, the section that forms the central core of the head and body is carved from a single block of wood, while both arms (the elbows and wrists are also dovetailed) and the leg section have been simply dovetailed onto the central core, and there is no interior hollow. While the majority of the arm bracelets, armlets, and chest decoration fittings have been lost, there are still traces of nail holes which would indicate that these decorative elements were made of bronze. The present surface of lacquer-applied gilding appears to be a later addition.

Not only has the old form of single-block construction been used, but the squared face and the hard body and draperies also indicate that this work should not be considered a Kyoto production, but should rather be considered to have been carved in some provincial area. Probably a work of the 12th century during the late Heian period. Both the nimbus and the pedestal are modern additions. SI