The Shaka image of Asukadera,
(止利仏師) was a Japanese sculptor
active in the late 6th and early 7th century. He was from the
(鞍作, "saddle-maker") clan, and his full title
was Shiba no Kuratsukuri-be no Obito Tori Busshi
is a title
meaning "the maker of Buddhist images". By the early 7th century,
Tori Busshi had become the favorite sculptor of Soga no Umako
and Prince Shōtoku
. Such high-ranking
patrons indicate that Tori was highly esteemed as an artist and not
just an anonymous craftsman. Many extant Asuka period
sculptures in gilt bronze
are credited to Tori and his workshop. The
artist's work epitomizes Japanese
during the era, with its solid, geometric figures in
front-oriented, characteristic poses.
Life and works
Shaka Triad in Hōryūji, 623
Tori's grandfather was a Chinese
named Shiba Tatto who immigrated to Japan in 522. Shiba and his
son, Tasuna, were both saddle makers
The position was hereditary, and the ornamentation common for
saddles at the time familiarized them and young Tori with metal casting
working, and wood carving
indicate that in 588, Tasuna may have become a Buddhist monk and
carved a wooden Buddha statue.
Busshi's first known work is a bronze
Shaka image of Asuka-dera, Asuka, Nara Prefecture, which he finished in 606.
The work made a
favorable impression on Empress Suiko, and she granted Tori lands
and rank equivalent to those of someone of the later fifth grade.
Tori also produced an embroidered wall hanging this year.
The Yakushi Nyorai
(Buddha of healing)
is often attributed
to Tori Busshi. The work was done in 607 at the request of Emperor Yōmei
and Prince Shōtoku for the
newly established Wakakusadera. Attribution of the work to Tori
comes from an inscription on the back of the Buddha's halo
. However, this inscription
was probably done later than 607, which leads many scholars to
speculate that the extant work is a copy of an original that may
have been lost in a temple fire in 670. Nevertheless, art
historians such as Seiroku Noma hold that only Tori Busshi had the
skill necessary to do the piece. The work is now in the Hōryū-ji, Ikaruga, Nara
Art historians regularly name the Shaka
of Hōryūji as Tori's masterpiece
. An inscription on the back of the
halo states that Empress Suiko
593-629) and other courtiers commissioned the piece after the
deaths of two notable court ladies in 621 and the sickness of
Shōtoku and his consort the following year. The piece was intended
to either help speed their recovery or ease their rebirth into
. The prince and consort died in
622, and Tori's workshop finished the statue the following
at Hōryūji is also in Tori Busshi's style,
although it is unknown if his studio created the statue.
Tori's works exemplify Japanese Buddhist art during the Asuka period
. His style ultimately derives from
that of the Chinese Wei kingdom
of the late 4th to 6th century. This style was intended for
sculpting rock in caves, and even though Tori and his assistants
sculpted in clay for bronze casting, his pieces reflect the Chinese
front-oriented design and surface flatness. His style was strongly
influenced by Northern Wei Dynasty
statuary . What distinguishes Tori's works is that it
conveys peace and softness despite a rigid adherence to stock poses
and geometrical features.
Tori's Buddha figures sit with an upright posture and crossed legs,
their robes cascading down the body in regular, well defined folds.
The geometric shapes underlying the sculptures appear in their
triangular silhouettes and give them a look of tranquility and
steadiness. Each Buddha's right hand is raised with the palm toward
the viewer in the semui-in
) style, conveying the Buddha's
power to aid others. The left hand rests on the left leg, palm up,
in the seganin
) style; this
indicates the ability to lead the viewer along the path to end all
suffering. Each Buddha's head is elongated, topped with curls of
hair known as shōgō
) that indicate
the Buddha's perfect nature. Their faces are composed of smooth
planes pierced only by slitlike nostrils, eyes, and eyebrows.
The Shaka Triad in particular is an example of a mature Wei style.
The sculpture features a Buddha figure similar to that of the
earlier Shaka statue, seated on a rectangular dais. This Buddha's
robes flow down the front of the platform and betray the
weightiness of the figure. A series of animated elements contrast
the serene and regular Buddha. His head is surrounded by a flaming
halo, in which are seated the Seven Buddhas of the Past
(previous incarnations of Buddhahood preceding Shaka). A jewel of
flames on an inverted lotus blossom, representing the wisdom of the
Buddha, appears above the Shaka's head, and its leafed vine
encircles the Buddha's head.
- Mason, Penelope (2005). History of Japanese Art. 2nd
ed, rev. by Dinwiddie, Donald. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey:
Pearson Education Inc.
- Noma, Seiroku (2003). The Arts of Japan: Ancient and
Medieval. Kodansha International.
- Paine, Robert Treat, and Soper, Alexander (1981). The Art
and Architecture of Japan. 3rd ed. Penguin Books Ltd.
- Sadao, Tsuneko S., and Wada, Stephanie (2003). Discovering
the Arts of Japan: A Historical Overview. New York: Kodansha