H. of Maya 16.6 cm, H. of attendants 12.5-13.0 cm
Asuka Period, 7th century, Important Cultural Property.
Horyuji Treasure. Now kept at Tokyo National Museum
Shijuhatai Butsu 四十八体仏. The Forty-Eight Buddhist Images
Below text courtesy Asuka Historical Museum. These are an assemblage of 59 miniature gilt-bronze Buddhist sculptures, produced at various times from the Asuka through the Tempyo (Nara) Periods. They were at one time in the possession of the Houryuuji Temple. Among them are several which had been transferred there from the Tachibanadera in the 11th century. They are presently housed in the Tokyo National Museum. The number "forty-eight," while inaccurate as a name for the present collection, seems to have been chosen as a reflection of the "48 Vows of Amida."
Says the British Museum: The extant images in fact number fifty-three, and are now in the keeping of the Tokyo National Museum. In the 12th century, the total appears to have been 112. After 672 AD, as the China-oriented polices of Emperor Temmu began to influence Japanese Buddhism away from its Korean founders and towards direct contacts with China, images of Kannon were among those most frequently imported from China and imitated from Chinese models. This is borne out by the large proportion of such images included in the Forty-eight Bodhissatvas which were preserved by the Houryuuji Temple. Twenty-two images identifiable as Kannon are included in this famous group. <See "Acquisitions of Works of Art by Museums and Galleries: Supplement" in The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 107, No. 745). Story is titled "The Art of the Past, British Museum, A Nine-faced Bronze Kannon."