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Standing Brahma and standing Indra

Brahma and Indra, or Bonten and Taishakuten as they are known in Japanese, were Hindu deities brought into Buddhism as attendants of the Buddha or of bodhisattvas. The Asian Art Museum's Bonten and Taishakuten are the only large-scale, matched Japanese hollow dry lacquer sculptures from the Nara period in a U.S. collection. Even in Japan, sculptures like these are extremely rare and most have been designated as National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties. Learn more about the Hindu deity Brahma..

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Video transcript

Brahma and Indra or bone ten anti-shock outen as they are known in Japanese were Hindu deities brought into Buddhism as attendants of the Buddha or of Bodhisattvas these two sculptures were created for kofukuji one of the most important temples in nada where the capital of Japan was located in the 8th century this pair is important for many reasons one being that the sculptures were made using the hollow dry lacquer technique an ancient method that produced lightweight portable statues it was only used in Japan for about 100 years the Asian art museums Banton and Taisha cotton are the only large-scale matched Japanese hollow dry lacquer sculptures in the United States from the Nara period which lasted from 710 to 794 even in Japan sculptures like these are extremely rare and most have been designated as national treasures or important cultural properties the Asian art museum has been able to conduct research into the history of these two figures these statues were among a number of items sold from kofukuji temple in 1906 photographs of the temples contents were taken at that time mark Fenn associate head of conservation and these two figures occur in one of the photographs but they don't have any hands any feet and one of them is missing half of his head when Avery Brundage bought these figures in the early 60s they were complete so the question ever since then has been how much of each of these figures is restoration and how much is original many historians believe that the restored parts were 20th century replacements making the statues less important but research conducted by a team of Japanese scholars and the Asian art museum indicates that many of those parts are original x-rays revealed a wooden framework inside the statues as well as both ancient and modern nails used in the construction and repair of the figures and then there are also places where pieces have been wired on some of the wires clearly our repairs because they occur where there are cracks and so on these wired repairs indicate where original parts of the statues have been reattached for example there's a concentration of wire in Taisha coatings head which is missing completely in the 1906 photograph strongly suggesting that ty Shackleton's head that you see here is original you