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Buddha Head - National Treasure from Kohfuku
Buddha Head, Asuka period, 7th century (Kohfukuji, Nara, National Treasure).

TOKYO, JAPAN.-The Tokyo National Museum presents Buddha Head - National Treasure from Kohfukuji, on view through October 16, 2005. A special feature of the Buddha Head of Kohfukuji. The Buddha Head often appears in textbooks to represent the Hakuho period sculptures. In Japanese history, the Hakuho period (late Asuka period) was when the first history books and the poetry anthology "Manyoshu" were born, and when the classical culture was at its height. As also seen in the wall paintings of the Takamatsuzuka Tumulus, this period is known for the vivid artistic expressions. With the calmness of its gaze and the youthful contours of its face, the Buddha Head from Kohfukuji brings us the image of a young nobleman from long ago.

On October 30, 1937, the head of a Buddhist statue was found from inside the pedestal of the statue of Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru), the principle image at the East Main Hall of Kohfukuji that was under repair. It was the head of the statue which was the principle image of the hall during the Kamakura period, when Kohfukuji was revitalized. It was formerly the principle image of the lecture hall of Yamada-dera temple in Asuka.

Yamada-dera was founded by Soganokura no Yamada no Ishikawamaro, a figure who took an active part in the Taika Reform in 645. Later he committed suicide, being accused of plotting a rebellion. The statue was made to pray for his soul.

Record tells that the casting of the gilt bronze statue began in 678, and the ceremony of its completion was held in 685. The statue was said to have been burnt down together with the East Main Hall in 1400, but the head had miraculously survived.

Its noble feature with the eyes that appear to gaze far beyond reminds that of a youth. This statue truly represents Hakuho art, by which the fine arts of Japan reached a new stage with influence from the early Tang art from China.

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