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Shishi and Komainu (Guardian Lions)

Japan%2C%20probably%20Kyoto%3B%20or%20Japan%2C%20probably%20Shiga%20prefecture%2C%20%3Cb%3E%3Ci%3E%20Shishi%20and%20Komainu%20%28Guardian%20Lions%29%3C%2Fi%3E%3C%2Fb%3E%2C%2011th%2F12th%20century%2C%20wood%2C%20Museum%20Purchase%3A%20Funds%20provided%20by%20Mr.%20and%20Mrs.%20Hugh%20McCall%20by%20exchange%2C%20public%20domain%2C%202011.73A%2CB
Japan, probably Kyoto; or Japan, probably Shiga prefecture, Shishi and Komainu (Guardian Lions), 11th/12th century, wood, Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McCall by exchange, public domain, 2011.73A,B

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Details
Title

Shishi and Komainu (Guardian Lions)

Artist

Japan, Kyoto (Japanese)

Japan, Shiga prefecture (Japanese)

Date

11th/12th century

Medium

wood

Dimensions (H x W x D)

A: 25 in x 10 1/2 in x 24 1/2 in; B: 26 1/2 in x 10 in x 19 1/2 in

Collection Area

Asian Art

Category

Sculpture

Object Type

sculpture

Culture

Japanese

Credit Line

Museum Purchase: Funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Hugh McCall by exchange

Accession Number

2011.73A,B

Copyright

public domain

Terms

lion

sculpture

wood

Location

Belluschi Building

Ayer Wing

1st Floor

Goodman Gallery

Description

These guardian lions would originally have flanked the entrance to the sacred chamber in a Buddhist temple or a Shinto shrine in Japan. Although heavily worn by age, they are still hauntingly fierce and well suited to their task of warding off evil spirits. The guardian on the right is called a shishi (lion) and that on the left, distinguished by a single horn (now lost), is known as a komainu (Korean lion-dog). The shishi has an open mouth, symbolically intoning the syllable a, while the komainu has a closed mouth, indicating the syllable un. These sounds, also the first and last letters of the Sanskrit alphabet—the ancient Indian language that came to Japan with Buddhism—metaphorically encompass the entire cosmos.

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