Hanging scroll, color on silk
Painting only: 110 x 75.2 cm (43 5/16 x 29 5/8 in.); Overall: 243 x 95 cm (95 11/16 x 37 3/8 in.)
Worcester R. Warner Collection 1918.544
Heavenly Kings are guardians who watch over the cardinal directions: north, south, west, and east. Sculptures or paintings of these guardian kings are often placed at the entrance or at the four corners of the altar or inner temple.
This king is the guardian of the south (Zengzhang tianwang, also called Virudhaka). His attribute is a sword carried in his right hand to protect the southern continent and the dharma, or Buddhist teaching. Associated with the color blue, his face is depicted in that color. His fearsome bulging eyes, the dark face, and his demonic attendants keep evil away.
This painting was recently restored by conservators of the museum’s Chinese painting conservation studio. They stabilized loose pigment and creases and replaced the silk mount. The Guardian’s legs are missing; the painting was cropped long before it entered the museum’s collection.
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