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Japanese Giltwood Kannon Bodhisattva
P R O V E N A N C E: Former property from the collection of the estate of Mrs. Georgia Cash, New York, USA
Edo period,18th – 19th century
High 75 cm.
Japanese Giltwood Kannon Bodhisattva. Senju Kannon (or Senshu Kannon). Also known as Daihi Kannon 大悲観音, meaning Kannon of Great Compassion. Also Senbi Kannon 千臂観音 (1000 Arms). Impressive Japanese carved giltwood and lacquer thousand-hand Kannon, standing before large flame-shaped mandorla carved with lotus and swirling clouds, wearing head and neck pieces, with multiple arms emanating from sides, resting on double lotus and supported on tiered base, with objects, symbols and weapons in his hands.
FEATURES OF THE 1000-ARMED KANNON IN JAPAN
- Senju Kannon is lord of the Lotus Court (Renge-in 蓮華印 or Rengebu-in 蓮華部院) of the Taizōkai (Womb World or Matrix Mandala), where Senju is sometimes accompanied by 28 attendants called the Nijūhachi Bushū 二十八部衆 (the 28 Legions), an eclectic group of supernatural creatures and Buddhist deities (adopted from the Hindu pantheon) who assist Senju. This can vary, mind you, for sometimes Senju is only attended by the goddess Kudokuten (aka Kichijōten) and the immortal Basusen. The Renge-in (Lotus Court) is also known as the Kannon-in 観音院. Most esoteric forms of Kannon appear here. In sculpture, extant examples of the Nijūhachi Bushū are rare. Notable examples include Sanjūsangendō 三十三間堂 in Kyoto, Jōroku-ji Temple 丈六寺 in Shiga, and Kōfuku-ji Temple 興福寺 in Nara (only eight of the 28 are extant at Kōfuku-ji). The Oku-no-in of Kiyomizudera in Kyoto houses a hidden image of Senju Kannon crowned with 28 heads, one for each of the 28 protection genii (i.e., Nijūhachi Bushū). They are shown to the faithful only once every 33 years. Their next showing will be in 2010. Says the Flammarion Guide: “In the Garbhadhatu Mandala, these 28 heads are described as representing the 28 constellations. When he presides over the 28 Bushū, he has a third eye.”
- Senju Kannon also appears in the Kokūzō-in 虚空蔵院 (Court of Kokūzō Bosatsu) of the Taizōkai Mandala with 27 faces and 42 main arms, while innumerable small arms fan out behind. [Source JAANUS]
- Senju Kannon is the patron of people born in the Zodiac Year of the Rat.
- From the 8th century onward in Japan, Senju Kannon was prayed to for curing sickness, relieving eye problems, and avoiding blindness. The famous Chinese monk Ganjin 鑑真 (688-763), the founder and blind preceptor of the Ritsu 律 sect in Japan, was a great devotee of the 1000-Armed Kannon. Ganjin lost his sight during his troubled voyages from China to Japan — he had been invited to Japan by Emperor Shōmu 聖武 (reigned +724-749) to establish an ordination platform, but suffered five unsuccessful sea voyages to Japan and lost his eye sight in the process. Ganjin enshrined an image of Senju Kannon at his temple, Tōshōdaiji (Toshodaiji) 唐招提寺 in Nara. In the 9th century, the famous court official Sugawara no Michizane 菅原道真 (845-903) “sponsored a ceremonial reading of the Lotus Sutra in memory of his parents, with prayers that Kannon would allow them to be reborn in his Pure Land. Michizane especially venerated Kannon because as a child he had been cured of a serious illness in answer to his parents’ prayers to the bodhisattva.” [Source: A History of Japanese Religion, p. 136, Kazuo Kasahara]
OBJECTS IN HANDS OF SENJU KANNON