Zao Gongen

Zao Gongen

13th century


Average: 106.7 cm (42 in.)

Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund 1973.105



The Shugendo sect, popular in the mountain regions of Japan, draws on aspects of both Buddhism and Shinto. Zao Gongen, the spirit of Mount Kimpu, is venerated in this sect as a protective deity. According to legend, the founder of Shugendo prayed for a deity that could be the salvation of all sentient beings, and the fierce Zao Gongen rose to the challenge. The fierceness of this figure’s appearance with his wild hair, blue-black complexion, and fangs are emblematic of his power to aid the faithful. In his right hand he holds a vajra (thunderbolt), symbolic of the power of Buddhism.


Fierce Mountain Deity
Buddhism in Japan
How It Was Made
See also
Japanese Art
Japanese Art
Type of artwork: 

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