Description: Early Tang Dynasty
This Lokapala appears as a powerful military figure with a fanciful several layer armor decorated with a mythical animal imagery as his belt buckle. His helmet, probably made out of leather in real life, frames his expressively frightening face. The carved details of the armor are finely chiseled and show how intricate the real might have been at that time.
Location of Origin: Asia
Dimensions: 80 cm high, 40 cm width, 20 cm depth
Primary Classification: Asian Art : Chinese
Secondary Classification: Ancient Art : Chinese and other Central Asian
Expertise: Lokapala is a common image in Chinese Buddha funerary art.
According to Buddhism's doctrine, Lokapala safeguards the Buddha and its temples.
Generally, there are four Lokapalas fashioned in Chinese temples, guarding East, South, West and North.
Lokapala statues made during the Tang Dynasty can be classified into three types: a single Lokapala, Lokapala trampling one ghost, and Lokapala trampling two ghosts. This Lokapala statue is a warrior image.
The earliest known examples of guardian figures date from around the 5th century, coinciding with an increased acceptance of Buddhism. Easily mixed with the Daoist Heavenly Kings who were also guardians of the four directions, as Guardians, they could call upon the spirits of the next world to help them protect the tomb if necessary. It was usual for pairs of guardian figures to be placed in tombs near their entrance. Two figures were usually in human form while the other pair took the forms of frightening mythical beasts.
They were introduced to China in the mid 7th century by a Cingalese Buddhist monk, Pu Kung. Not unlike the guardian Chimera, these figures soon became popular mortuary guardians in the imperial tombs of the Tang.
They are also known as Heavenly Kings (Tien-wang). This exceptional quality Lokapala, because it is made out of sandstone, makes it a very rare offer. Most of the Lokapalas in museums such as Guimet and San Francisco are in wood and a very limited quantity is known in stone.
Provenance: French private collection, acquired in the 50's.