Pair Japanese Edo Period Carved Wood Komainu, early 19th century
A charmingly grotesque pair of Japanese mingei (folk) carved guardian lions, komainu, Edo Period, early 19th century.
Each carved from ... more A charmingly grotesque pair of Japanese mingei (folk) carved guardian lions, komainu, Edo Period, early 19th century.
Each carved from a single block of hinoki (Japanese cypress) wood. They are portrayed seated on their haunches, hunched, as if ready to pounce. Their oversized heads surrounded by a bushy mane, with bulging eyes, teeth bared in a ferocious grin. One has its mouth open, performing the Buddhist seed syllable "ah" (beginning), the other with its mouth closed, expressing the Buddhist seed syllable "un" (end). Taken together, they represent the cycle of life, and represent balance.
These statues would originally have been gessoed and polychromed. Time has stripped them of most of their decoration, revealing the richly grained wood underneath, with only remnants remaining in the recesses of the haunches.
Of some note is the paper dedicatory consecration still attached to one figure,
Komainu are commonly confused with the related karashishi, and are often referred to in the West as foo lions or foo dogs. less