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HOME : Chinese Art : Tang Lokapalas : T'ang Gilt Bronze Sculpture of a Lokapala
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T'ang Gilt Bronze Sculpture of a Lokapala - H.674
Origin: China
Circa: 618 AD to 906 AD
Dimensions: 3.125" (7.9cm) high
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Gilt Bronze

Location: United States
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Lokapala, referred to in Chinese as "Heavenly Kings", were guardians of the universe and protectors of Buddhist law. Usually dressed in military attire and with fierce expressions they are portrayed as formidable figures capable of keeping the demons at bay. They became particularly popular during the Tang period when large numbers were made in pottery to serve as tomb guardians. This luxurious, diminutive sculpture was most likely a personal relic that would have originally stood watch over a household shrine or might have accompanied an important T’ang dignitary during his travels. The Lokapala is represented in a traditional T’ang manner, standing atop a subdued demon with one arm bent upwards toward his head. This work is composed of two pieces, the upper portion of the Lokapala, and a base into which it attaches. The base appears to depict a recumbent quadruped, perhaps a mythological creature. The unusual features of this animal suggest that it may be an oxen, or perhaps a lion. Clearly, this creature reinforces the power of the Lokapala, who stand proudly over the conquered demon as well as this great beast. This splendid treasure was clearly too sumptuous to have been anything but the private possession of an important, and wealthy, member of the T’ang hierarchy. Yet despite his wealth and status, the original owner of this sculpture still sought the protection of the Lokapala. While today we consider this sculpture a gorgeous work of art, prized for its cultural and historical values, perhaps this Lokapala will continue to protect us from the evil forces that haunt the world. - (H.674)


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