A Monumental, Multi-Metal, Mythological, Meiji-era Masterpiece

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A Monumental, Multi-Metal, Mythological, Meiji-era Masterpiece


Our showcased “Item of the Month” for January  is this monumental (92cm across) late 19th Century Japanese Iron and Multi-metallic plate depicting a Nio, (Temple Guardian.)



Nio are big, muscular creatures seen all over East Asia standing guard at the entrances to Temples and Shrines.

A Nio is a manifestation of the oldest and most effective Bodhisattva Vajrapani who was the guideline and protector of Gautama Buddha, founder of Buddhism identified now days throughout the entire world as “Buddha.” The beneath graphic shows a wood-carved Okimono depicting a pair of Temple Guardians.



Even with the pacifist custom of Buddhism, Nio are justified in their use of physical pressure to protect the values and integrity of Buddhist beliefs.

The Nio depicted in this get the job done is Misshaku Kongō. Of the classic pair he is often identified on the ideal hand side. His mouth is open up producing the ‘ah’ seem which symbolises the starting and birth of all living items. He is a symbol of overt ability, violence and security and in his left hand he wields a Vajra, (a symbolic Buddhistic weapon.)

What is quite apt in this depiction of Misshaku Kongō, (the bringer of daily life) is that he seems in this article with a family members of Sparrows nesting in his mouth. The fledglings in the nest with their mouths open as they eagerly get meals from their mom.



A further Sparrow sits higher than the head of the Temple Guardian although an additional appears to be coming in to land on the Celestial Scarf that blows all-around his shoulders.

Not a wonderful deal is acknowledged about the artists, (Isshinsai and Tojin) whose signatures are present on the left hand facet of the dish despite the fact that we do know that they labored together with Unno Shomin.

Unno Shomin is 1 of the most celebrated Meiji-period (1868-1912) steel artists. Born in Mito (Ibaraki Prefecture), he studied from the age of 9 under the guidance of foremost makers of sword fittings. Shomin received several prizes at the 1st and 2nd Domestic Industrial Exhibitions and would go on to be honoured as a Teishitsu Gigein (Imperial Artist). The fact that Isshinsai and Tojin ended up recognised to have collaborated with Shomin suggests that this is an essential perform as the high-quality and scale of the do the job also exhibits.




The simple fact that there are birds living in this Nio indicates that it is a depiction of a statue of a Nio as opposed to a mythological real dwelling Temple Guardian. The below Oshie tapestry, (from our assortment of Japanese artwork) also depicts a big scale statue of Misshaku Kongō currently being manufactured by community craftsmen and females.



Further more symbolism is existing as a pair of Doves rest earlier mentioned his ideal shoulder on the celestial scarf. Universally, Doves are observed as a symbol of peace and prosperity which is in stark contrast to the ferocity and violence exhibited on the face of the Nio. The birds all experience harmless and protected as opposed to remaining intimated or terrified off by the Nio.




This piece is a excellent instance of Meiji-era, Japanese learn craftsmanship, creativeness and humour. The dichotomy concerning the sheer fury and uncooked energy of the Temple Guardian in contrast with the innocence and fragility of the sparrows who have taken up refuge in his mouth.


The down below Okimono pair of wooden-carved Nio are pretty distinct in their overall look (and scale) but all over again there is authentic humour in the expressions of these mythological creatures. Click on the graphic to acquire a closer search.


A fascinating, Japanese wood-carved Okimono pair of Temple Guardians (Nio) from Kevin Page


The dimension of this do the job of art can be appreciated by the underneath photograph which demonstrates a significant coffee mug to display scale.




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