The Buddha Amida
The buddhist pantheon includes a variety of buddhist deities with different names, appearances, and roles. Buddhas, for instance, are deities who have arrived at truth or achieved enlightenment. This image holds its left hand horizontally in front of its stomach with two fingers bent to form a circle, while its right hand hangs straight at its side. This pose is unusual among Japanese Buddhist statues, but there are a number of similar examples among Chinese Buddhist images, including images of Amida, who comes from the Pure Land to welcome the departed, The buddha Shaka, the founder of Buddhism, and Dainichi, the buddha at the center of the universe. This statue was created in Japan using one of these Chinese images of a Buddha as a model.
This image was once preserved at Sennyūji Temple in Kyoto. This temple was founded in 1218 by a buddhist priest named Shunjō. From 1199 to 1211, Shunjō traveled to Southern Song-dynasty (1127－1279) China, where he studied the latest teachings of many schools of Buddhism, and in particular their precepts that governed the lives of priests. Following his return to Japan, he founded Sennyūji Temple, where he planned to recreate the practices of Chinese temples and monasteries. He also imported Song-dynasty Buddhist statues and a wide variety of other objects, including sutras, paintings, and calligraphic works, from China. His activities spread Song influence throughout Japanese Buddhism and culture, beginning at Sennyūji Temple. This image reflects characteristics of Song-Dynasty Buddhist art, including the shortness of the protrusion on the Buddha’s head, called an ushnisha in Sanskrit; the somewhat angular face; the pointed nails; the posture, with the back rounded and head thrust forward; and the triangular front hem of the robe.
There is something notable about the front side of this image. Generally, Japanese images of buddhas are entirely covered in gold leaf, with fine gold leaf sometimes applied to create patterns. However, this one has been decorated with a technique of sprinkling gold dust over lacquer to create patterns. It is not certain if this lacquer work was applied at the time this image was created or at a later point, but it demonstrates the extraordinary affection felt for this buddha.