- Museum number
- Object: Kudara Kannon 百済観音
Standing figure of the bodhisattva Kannon, holding water vase, with metal crown, and mandorla behind. Carved in 'ichiboku-zukuri' method, almost wholly out of single block of camphor wood and hollowed at back; painted, gesso, with bronze ornaments. Replica of 7th-century statue (known as the Kudara Kannon) in Horyu-ji temple, Nara.
- Production date
Height: 2.10 metres (height of figure)
Height: 3.10 metres (total height)
- Curator's comments
Laurence Binyon, Keeper of the Sub-Department of Oriental Prints & Drawings, visited Japan in 1929 and was guided around Nara by the sculptor Niiro Chunosuke. Binyon was deeply impressed by the 7th-century wooden sculpture known as 'Kudara Kannon' in the temple Horyuji, and wished to commission a replica. He was advised that Niiro was the most able to do the work. As it proved difficult to find a camphor tree of suitable size, one was finally provided by the Shimazu former daimyo family. A photograph of the ceremony to ask pardon of the tree (held on 25 Dec 1930), and one of the tree after being felled are held in the Dept of Asia.
3rd November 1972 - Mrs Sunayama, pupil of Niiro, visited the Museum and said that two copies were made at the same time (the other is in Tokyo National Museum), which took two years to produce.
Laurence Binyon, 'Replica of a Statue of Kannon' in British Museum Quarterly, VII (1932-33).
Sato Doshin, 'Niiro Chunosuke: Kudara Kannon', Kokka, no. 1400, June 2012, pp. 41-43.
The celebrated Kudara Kannon (Avalokiteśvara) in Hōryūji temple, Nara, is called after the Korean kingdom of Paekche (Japanese, Kudara) and has the 'archaic' smile and the treatment of drapery of early work made under Korean influence. Carved, like the original, by the ‘ichiboku-zukuri’ method, almost wholly out of a single block of camphor wood and hollowed at the back to prevent splitting, this is one of two copies made by Niiro Chūnosuke.
The custom of replicating objects for religious veneration is very old in Japan. In the Kamakura period (AD 1185-1333) there was a virtual mass-production of certain images. In the Sanjūsangendō hall in Kyoto, for example, one can still see the thousand standing gilt-wood images of the 'Thousand-Armed Kannon' bodhistattva made during the Kamakura period. Exact copies of important statues are being made today with traditional tools and traditional techniques in order to ensure the preservation of the image and for display in the growing numbers of local museums in Japan.
Like the seventh-century original, this wood replica of the Kudara Kannon statue in Hōryūji temple is, apart from the arms and the draperies hanging from the shoulders, carved from a single huge block of camphor wood. The replica was made in the 1930s by the sculptor Niiro Chūnosuke over a period of two years, so faithfully that only by scientific examination could the copy be distinguished from the original.
The sculputre is known as the Kudara Kannon after the ancient Korean kingdom of Paekche (Japanese, Kudara), whence it was once thought to have originated. However, it differs in several respects from other seventh-century figures in the Hōryūji collection which have a clearly Korean inspiration. The body is altogether more adult and graceful, and the half-smile is more gentle than the 'archaic smile' common to most Asuka-period wood and bronze sculptures. The Kudara Kannon is not mentioned in any temple document before the seventeenth century, and its origin is still something of an enigma.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
Initially displayed outside Reading Room; from 1997 on display in Japanese Galleries.
2006 Oct 13-, BM Japanese Galleries, 'Japan from prehistory to the present'
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Commissioned by the British Museum Trustees from Niiro Chunosuke, "the chief Japanese restorer of works of art". Purchased with help from Sir Percival David, the National Art Collections Fund and Mrs. Alex Whyte. [See Trustees Minutes, 12 Mar. 1932]
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Other BM number: OA+.8 (obsolete temporary reg. no.)