Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala Warrior Guardians
AGE: – Possibly Yuan
CONSTRUCTION: – Wood
HEIGHT: – Vary between 50cm and 50cm
WIDTH:– Vary between 35cm and 33cm
WEIGHT: – 11.7kg.
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This is a rare set of Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala Warrior Guardians, also referred to as heavenly guardians, heavenly Kings, or protectors of the four directions bear a striking similarity to the terracotta guardian statues outside the entrance to the “Hall of the Devas” at the famous Shuanglin Temple, in Qiaotou Village, South of the ancient city of Pingyao in Shanxi Province in China.
SIMILAR GUARDIANS AT SHUANGLIN TEMPLE – PINGYAO, CHINA
The terracotta guardian worriers in Shuanglin Temple located about 5kms from Pingyao in China are assumed to date to the Yuan Dynasty, although some online articles refer to them as Tang, apart from their facial expressions their resemblance to many of the Tang and Ming Dynasty Guardians is minimal. Most Tang and Ming warrior guardians are seen wearing full armour, with boots and ornate head adornments.
We are making the assumption that as the smaller wooden statues seen here are similar to those at Shuanglin Temple and that we have seen no others in this style in China, it is possible that they originated within the vicinity of this temple.
The Lokapala at Shuanglin Temple are three metres tall, made from terracotta, with eyes embedded with glazed beads, giving them a particularly ferocious expression, whereas these smaller statues are almost identical in appearance, with similar facial expressions, dress style, head adornments, arm gestures, bare feet and large oval shaped urna in the centre of the forehead are wooden and made on a much smaller scale.
On these smaller wooden Lokapala remnants of colour still remain; the feet which are removable appear to have been replaced at some point in time, although not recently, the ribbon hanging over the arm is broken in two of the statues, the headdress on Lokapala four has a piece missing, the right hand on Lokapala one and headdress appear to have been replaced, more than likely at the same time as the feet as they appear to be similar wood.
We thought these guardian warriors were worthy of professional restoration to prevent further deterioration which has enhanced some of the colours that weren’t evident before restoration. Irregular square-shaped holes on the base would indicate that they were held by metal or wooden pins that secured the statue to the altar they once stood on. These pieces could also have been saved from a fire event as the base shows some blackened spots.
We have also observed that all of these four wooden guardians have a rounded ball in one hand, corresponding to those seen in Shuanglin Temple with a long sceptre attached to the ball, indicating to us that the sceptres these wooden statues once held have been damaged and that the ball shape seen in the palm of the hands of each one has been smoothened, (see a picture of the ball shape on top of the vajra style sceptre in the palm of the Shuanglin statues in the images below).