Wooden figure of Fudō Myō-ō
Heian period, 12th century AD
'The Immoveable King of Light'
Fudō (Sanskrit: Acala, or Candamaharosana) is one of the Myō-ō (Vidyarajas), 'Kings of Light', personified spells and protectors of the esoteric Shingon sect of Japanese Buddhism. He is a constant enemy of illusion, pointing the way to enlightenment beyond the illusion of life and death. His name, Fudō, means 'Unmoving' and refers to the unchanging reality beneath his fierce exterior.
Fudō's attributes are the sword and the rope. With the sword he cuts through the evils of the world of illusion to show the reality beneath. Fudō is considered to be the patron of swordsmen. The sword in this statue is of particular interest, being in the shape of the sankosho or three-pronged vajra (thunderbolt), a Buddhist ceremonial instrument symbolizing the Buddha, the Lotus, and the kongotai or ultimate reality. With his rope Fudō ties the enemies of enlightenment. He is sometimes shown as the leader of the five 'Kings of Light', or with his attendants Kongara Dōji and Shitaka Dōji.
Early statues show Fudō with two staring eyes and a pair of fearful fangs, as here. The piece is carved in ichiboku zukuri style (sculpted from a single block of wood), the arms made separately.
L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)
W. Zwalf (ed.), Buddhism: art and faith (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)