In the eye of Vanessa Rau

This week, Vanessa Rau, a specialist in Japan, takes us on a journey to this mysterious archipelago and presents a Kyobon Hadai Buddhist sculpture from a Japanese Buddhist temple in the Edo period.



Arrived in Japan in the 6th century, Buddhism is accompanied by a panel of sculptures representing Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, kings of science ... Carved in wood or stone, cast in bronze or made of porcelain, statues and sculptures embody the event. Divine on Earth. Their sacred dimension surpasses the status of works of art. Incarnation of God, meditative reference, Buddhist statuary in Japan distinguishes several categories that Frank Bernard perfectly describes in his book " The Buddhist pantheon in Japan" :


  1. Buddhas or nyorai: "thus come" or "come in a form" (tathâgata). The most famous being Shakyamuni ( Shaka in Japanese), or Siddharta Gautama, the original Buddha.


  1. Bodhisattvas or bosatsu : “awakening beings” help men to overcome mortal passions and guide them towards Nirvana.


  1. The kings of science or myôô : embody the will to overcome hostile forces.


  1. The devas: "divinities" in Sanskrit, are also found in Hinduism and Jainism. These are divine powers which tend towards enlightenment in order to attain the status of Buddha. Devas are related to an element of nature, such as Vayu for air, or Agni for fire.


Buddhist sculpture Kyobon Hadai

This Kyobon Hadai Buddhist sculpture from the Edo period (18th-19th century) is made of polychrome carved wood with two sulphide eyes. Composed in three parts, namely the base, the body and the halo, it represents the 9th Buddhist saint (Arhat or Arakan in Japanese).

The story goes that ...

Gavampati.僑 梵 波提 尊者 (Kyobon-hadai, Qiaofanboti), disciple of Shakyamuni, was the son of a setthi (merchant) from Varanasi. He became a monk and quickly became an arhat (saint).

While staying in Anjanavana, the Buddha also went there, accompanied by a multitude of monks. During the night, a major flood of the Sarabhu river (one of the five "great rivers" referred to in the sutras) threatened to flood the place where the monks slept; and the Buddha sent Gavampati to stop the flood. By the power of his thought, he pushed back the flood which formed in the distance like a mountain. He is present at the Grand Assembly of Chapter I of the Lotus Sutra.


This very beautiful Japanese Buddhist temple sculpture exudes serenity and hypnotizes you. I find his eyes particularly alive!





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