Agents of the Buddha:
17th-century Japanese sculptures of Fugen and Monju

11 November 2010 – 9 January 2011

Exhibition closed

Room 3

The Asahi Shimbun Displays
Objects in focus

Supported by

Immerse yourself in this display of two lively Buddhist sculptures, accompanied by the atmospheric sound of chanting monks and the sweet scent of incense.

The display focuses on sculptures of two bodhisattvas – enlightened beings who act on behalf of the Buddha. Fugen is mounted on an elephant and Monju on a lion.

The sculptures are lacquered, gilded and painted, and were created by a sculptor named Kōyū (1630–1689). He was the most highly regarded sculptor of his generation working in Kyoto, the ancient imperial capital of Japan.

Recent discoveries suggest that the sculptures may have been commissioned by the Japanese imperial family for special rituals held in the palace in memory of a deceased emperor.

They represent the finest craftsmanship, the lavishness of imperial patronage, and enduring belief in the Buddhist faith.

The display itself evokes the experience of entering a Japanese Buddhist temple and provides a space for your own contemplation and reflection.

Further information

You can view more beautifully crafted sculptures from Asia in the free exhibition Images and sacred texts: Buddhism across Asia, on display in Room 91 from 14 October 2010 to 3 April 2011.

The bodhisattva Fugen on an elephant

The bodhisattva Fugen on an elephant. One of a pair of lacquered, gilded and painted wood sculptures made by Japanese sculptor Kōyū (1630–1689).