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Tohatsu Bishamon: Three Japanese Statues

in the United States and an Outline

of the Rise of This Cult in East Asia

The Tobatsu Bishamon-ren<l is a distinctive form of VaiSrav~a, the Guardian of the

North in Buddhist cosmology. The worship of this deity was inuoduced into Japan in the
Earlr Heian period. From the 9th cent. A.D. through the Kamal.:ura period his images
were made in abundance tb."''ughout the country. The earliest of them were distinguished
from more usual n.-prescntations of the King of the North by their e."<tremely rigid and
frontal pose, elaborate Cenrral Asian armour, and standing on P!thivi, the goddess of the
The name c Tobatsu" appears only in Japanese sources, not in Chinese or any other
l:mguagc. It is a phonetic uanscriprion of a foreign name whose precise meaning is obscure. Speculation on this problem can be found as early as the Kamakura period icono.
graphia~l treatises. These texts generally agree that the word refers either to a specific
country or to a type of armour (' ). Modem scholars have sought to intcrpret the appdJa.
cion along these two lines.
R. A. Stein has presented the most p!auiible explanation of Tobatsu as a geogra

phical referent. According to him, the term is equivnlent to the Turkish Tubba t which
designated Tuckestan and more specifically tb: kingdom of Khotan ("). As we shall see
later, this theory is particula.rly attractive in the light of the importance of the 'fobatsu
Bishamon-tcn at Khotan ilSclf.
Japanese scholars, on the other hand, have seen in Tobatsu a reference ro Tibet.
They base their suppositions upon an alterna:t reading of rhe ruune giv~ in the Kyiiin
bukkalw-sbol> and the Sanmondushakr> where Tu. ban, the Japanese term for Tibet, is
given together with the more usual Tobat>u ('). The main diflicultics with this ex
planation are that 1) the J apanese already had a commonly accepted way to wri te the Tu-

(*I I should like to


Shink2ku <o> (11171180 A.D.).

(') R. A. S'I'EIN, Rteb<rcb~s sur

my opprecia-

tion of the k<nd assistance of Professors J. Rosa>!idd, M. Nag:nomi a.:Jd


Higluowcr of tIan-.ud

I< &m/ au Tibd,


Npopi~ ~~

1959, p. 28J .
(') lKAWA, op. cit., .p. 13. The Sanmondosh4
ki con be found in the GwuhiirlliiU, -ol. 15 and
is o: unknown dllte aod authorship. The K yiiin
bukkaku-shO belongs eo the close of the 14th can.
A.D. and is includOd in the G:mshOr-J.if:i, -ol. 16.
Both uc: u id 10 have been based upon t<mple
=ds of tho 9tb cmt. A.D.

Uni\'el'Si ty.
(') K. IK~WA, Chiten ni S=en.rcta BishamoJ>.
ten CbOzi>.Tob:itsu Bisbamon ni tsultc no IcbikansaJSU ,., BK, 229, July 1963, p. 13. Tbe
e3rliest written evidence for tbe name in
jspon is in the &nomPW, a oompila:ion of iconoJ!mphlcal studies mad<: by the $hir.gon m=k


ban " of Tibet which is diJierem from the characters here employed, and 2) as we shall sec
below, the deity has no connection with that country. Stein has better understood this
alternate reading as indkative of a general confusion between the correct Tubhat=Cenrral
Asia or Khotan and the designation for Tibet in the T'ang dynasty ( ').
Following the second hypothesis, that Tobatsu is the name of a gannent, Matsumoto
Bun2aburo has maintained that it denotes the long-skirted coat the god often wears. He
has derived his theory from a Ch'ing dynasty travel diary in which the long overcoat of the
Tibet2ns is designated by a word of the S9me pmnunci2rion urrinen in difiecl.'nt characters.
He h:ls traced the word back to the Han dynasty text on language, the Shtlo Wen, and
further connected it ~ritb tbe Central Tibetan tenn dug-po (coat, garment, dress). Matsumoto has also attempted to account for the absence of the name Tobatsu in Chinese
texts by as.~uming that the word belonged ro a dialect th:lr did not gain currency in litcrati
circles until after the texts treating this deity had already been completed ('). This theory
is interesting in itself; however, considering the fact that the Kamakura works cited above
do seem to favor the frn;t hn>othesis, and that the phonetic relationship between dug-po
(roar) and Tobarsu is not ar all convincing, I would rend ro support Stein's proposal.
The exotic Toba:su or Khotanese Bishamon-ten seems to have been an important
object of devotion not only in medieval Japan hut in China and Central Asia as weU. In
an eiiort to tmderstand the origins and the narure of his worship, this paper will introduce
three Heian period srarues of Tobatsu Bishamon now in the United States an<! proceed to
a more general discussion of the reasons for his widespread popularity. It will propose the
hypothesis that the cult of Tobatsu Bishamon c:m be rough!}' divided inro two major
phases: 1) a Central Asian phase in which tht god seems to ha\e been associated with a
cult of deffied kings, and 2) a Chinese and Japanese phase in which he seems to have been
worshipped along with native folk spirits for protection and prosperity. Finally, it will
suggest that a prototype C11n be found for tbe Tobatsu Bishamon-ten in Kush:ln petiod representations of the composite deity, Pbaro-Pancika-Kuvcra-Vaisravai}Jl.

l. Three Japa11eu Statues of Tobatsu Bisbttmo11

The Tobarsu in the Seattle Museum (fig. I ) is 4 7 lh inches in height and is made of

wood which shows traces of gesso and polychromy. The figure wears armour in the sryle
of T'ang dynasty guardian deities, and rests on rhe hands of a small female who seems to
emerge from the e=h. He holds a st upa in his left band and probably originally held a
lance in his right. His four-sided aown is decorated with a heraldic bird on its central


() STEJN, op. tit., p. 283 and note 124, p. 313.

() B. MATsu~Km>, u Tobatsu Bishamonko .



Osaka, 19+4, pp. 306 ff.

This piece is similar to a number of starucs of Tobatsu Bishamon which ate said to
have come from Hyogo and Tottori prefecrures in Central Japan, and which can be rougbly
dated to the l Oth or 11th cent. A.D.; for example, figs. 2 sod 3 from Tasshin-ji in
Hy<>go (). All of these images should be seen in relation to the oldest J apanese rcpresenlalions of Tobatsu Bishamon which seem to have been based upon the celebrated statue at
loji (lig. 4), indisputably a work of Chinese origin of the late 9th or eat!y lOth cent.
A.D. ('). A brief examination of the TOji Tobatsu and the closely related pieces at Seiryoji
(fig. 5) and Kuramadent (fig. 6) provides us. moreover, wirh a neat illustration of the striking anistic transformation of this dcity from a forbiding exotic figure into a softer, more
Japanese image, less r igidly frontal in stance and less complicated by elaborate surface
The Toji Tobatsu is 70 1-2 inches high and is made of Otinese cherry wood. Accord
ing to native tradition, which conflicts with the now certain foreign origin of the statue,
it was made at the time of the Emperor Sujaku in the second yeat of 1he era Tengyo {938
A.D.) during the Tengy<> rebellion, an insurrection of the Taira and Minamoto clans. The
statue was placed upon the Rasbomon, the south gale of the capital. On the ninth day of
tbe seventh month of the first year of the Emperor Enyu when the gate: was destroyed in
a typhoon, i t was moved to the jikido at Toji. During the reign of the Emperor NinkO
0817-1846) rhe statue was again moved to the Bishamoo-do (").

The Toji Tobatsu is characterized by its marked fronrality, slender torso and a disLinct tribhanga posture which seems to emphasize the narrovmess of the waist and almost
disproportionate length of the limbs. 1be scaled aonour, with its characteristic rin.g pattern
on the sleeves, is depicted with utmost detail, producing a complex vC.-ual interplay of geometric shapes. The chest ornaments, possibly representations of the sun and moon, be:u
some resemblances to the breast pendants of the Persian monarchs depicted on Sasaniao
siker vessels; and tbe body proportions and style of dress with their Linear emphasis relate
this image to the figures appearing in the 6th and 7th cent. AD. paintings in the Central
Asian oases of Qumtura and Qyzyl ("). P!1hivi, in T'ang dynasty dress, is flanked by two
yalqa.s who are identilied according to the texts as ll:iranba and Biranba<9 (''').
The Sei.ryOji Tobatsu is slightly later in date and though an obvious cop> of the Toji
statue exhibits several significant cbanges in tbe treatment of the body and rhe armour. The
sculptor has eliminated the elaborate renderin& of rhe scales on the skirt and breast, leaving only the chest ornaments and chains, and the lion mask at the waist. The torso seems

me pricsr GOoo (1306-1362 A.D.J in the TobOki <l.

f) R. GfU&$1\f_A.N', Pcni(n Arl,. Nc:..'"'A York.
1%2, pls. 245. 246. 249, 250; A. GRli..,WEDEL.
Biltlar~tlas z11r Kumt umi Kulturgeubichu Miml
M ens, Berlin. 1925, fw. 86, 102.
("') According to the Vajrabodhi (Koog<)c!Ji)
mnsluioo of the HU17111-lwlaya-giki C>, Taisbii
Dahiikyo ( hcraftt:r ahbrcviotc:<i T ~ishO), 21,

op. cif., p. 22. This artic!e p;o\jdc:; of the m.1ioz example$ of
Tob.1tsu Bishrunon in Jpan. Figs. 2, 3, 7. arc
rq~roduccd from this SOUttt.
( ) IKAWA,

.t COCD?Otct

(') lls6bi Sbimbun, ed., Toji, Tokyo. 1958,

p. 23.

(") N. YA:.tAMOTO, Toji<nrya}:ushi, Kyo,

1916, p. 87. The accoun: of the Toii s:atuc on the
RasbOmon is fu-St given, mJI "-ithout doubt, by

p. 2}5o.


fuller, a feeling conveyed perhaps by the reduction of the triple break of the body, and by
the new $IDOOth $Ucface of the armour which seems to ease the transition from the indented waist to the hips by allowing the eye to pass uninterruptedly from one area to the next.
[lrthivi and the two 7~as have been simpliJied by the reduction of the decorative mass
of vegetation in front of the goddess, again petmitting the viewer to grasp at once the essential elements of the sculpture.
The Kuramadera Tob:ttsu shows even further reduction of extraneous detail, thereby
minimizing the foreign appearance of the deity, who now conforms mote to native aesthetic
demands. The chains connecting the breast pllites have been diminated , and a decorarhe
floral pattern runs along the borders of the armour. The torso is shorter and squatter in
comparison to the :tbove statues, and much of the austere majesty of the gcd seems to have
been lost by this alter-.nion in body proportions. The facial features show more Cleaggerated
modelling and less reliance oo sharp d iagonal contrasts to convey the forbidding aspects of
the deity. The figure of P~rhivi, too, has lost its exotic flavour and is more in keeping with
the ideal of fctninine beauty of the aristocratic Fujiwara court. Although no specific information is avail:~ble on the circumstances sunounding this patticul:tr statue, it might be
mentioned in dosing that the temple io which it is found has a long history of connection
with the worship of Vaisraval)a. Kuramadera, a mountain-top monastery a few miles due
north of the capital, was supposedly established in 797 AD. in compliance with t.he wishes
of Fujiwara lsebito"'l, a court noble who was then associated \Vith the building of Toji.
According 10 legend, lsebi1o had prayed 10 Avalokite5vara io a dream and had seen instead
Vaisrav>t.;ta, who led him to the sire v. here he later ordered Kuramadera to be -built (").
Returning to the Seattle piece, it is apparent that the strooge Central Asian looking
Tobatsu statues of the Early H cian period have has been turned into more completely Japanese figures by the very process outlined above. The slender waist and elongated torso have
been entirely forgotten, and an.gular rigidity i~ exchanged for circular contours. The smooth
curves of the body are skillfull}' echoed in the long sleeves which gradually lead the eye
around the fo.rm. In this uay are reduced both the abruptness of the extensions of the
anns and the triangularity of dle costume-features which bad given the e:trlier woks much
of their formidab!c ch:tracter.
Pr1hivi has assumed the appearance of a native Shinto goddess, abandoning the last
trace of her foreign origin by discarding the T'ang high coiffure. The modelling of her face,
io its fulJness and emphasis on convex surfaces, has toned down the sh:trper conca,icies
of the previous works. She bears the ch:traeteri~tically soft ambiguity and blandness of
represe.'ltations of native goddesses, seen, for example, in the statues at the ;\tatsu-no-5
shrine in Kyoto and the Kumono-hayatama shrine in Wakayama prefecture ( " ).


ro Jasao Chokoku .., G~nsholw 1-.'ibon no

Bijulw, 5, TO.Ityo, 1967, 'PP- 202-203, figs. 138,
1-lO, 142.

{ ' 1 ) A. Yunx.\, c Toh:m Kli=su , Bukkja

Biiulsu, 15, 1930, p. 63.

(l 1) For i!lust:at:OO~ s.e~ B. KuuTA, ~kkyO


The rough carving of the Seaule piece betrays iiS provincial ongm and relates it to
l':orks like the t wo Tobatsu ram Hy()go prefecture pictured in figs. 2 and 3 . It too is
prob:!bly a product of the late lOth cent. A.D. and the central region of Japan.

The Tobatsu in the collection of Howard Hollis (lig. 7) similarly belongs to the grout>
of Tobatsu from Central Japan ("). It is 49 \4 inches in height and is constructed of a
single piece of wood which retains traces of gesso and polychromy. The left band and right
31 1ll arc said to be later additions c>
. The figure wears armour similar to that of the
Seattle Tobatsu, although iiS body proportions are slightly different. The HoUis statue is
slender and seems less fixed and rigid. This impression is to be attributed perhaps to the
marked slant of the head, the tall crown, and the absence of the long sleeves, which in the
Seanle piece served to cany tbe eye downward to the base of the statue, confining it to a
more limited space. The crown bC3rs five Buddha figures on the front panel, and a smaii
boy holding a censer on the leh. Ikawa has suggested that the child may be Zennishil'l, the
son of Bishamon according to the Ilumu-kad!tyagiki ('). The statue probably dates from
the mid 11th cent. A.D.
The statue of Tobatsu (h. 34 \-7 inches) from the coiJection of Chdstian Humann now
in the Dcn\'er Museum (fig. 8) is similar to both tho:: above in its simplification of much of
the dtt.~il of the earlier H eian "''orks. The short squat figure is, however, still cruder in
execution. The curves of the body are only bardy articulated from the stump of wood,
and the cos:tume is indicated by flat surface relief. The naive modelling technique is re
mote from the masterful auention to detail seen in tbe more sophisticated Toji, Seiryoji,
and Kuramadera Tobatsu, and brings this work close indeed to the numerous anonymoU$
representations o folk deities found all O\'er Japan.

In summary, these three statues of TobaiSU BisbaOJOn all belong to the late lOth or
I 1th cent. A.D., and are most likely provincial works from Central Japan. They represent
a reinterpretation of the exotic Tobatsu in conformity with native Japanese tastes, and share
the same crude folk elements seen not only in the simplified execution of the main figure,
bot also in the transformation of P!tbivi from an elegant T'ang princess into a modest
Shinto goddess.

2. The Worship of Tobatsu BishllliWn iu ]apa1r

The earliest inlage
g.raphiC::~l text known as

of Tobatsu Bisharnon in Japan is said w re a drawing in the icono

the Daigojizuwsbii<ll (fig. 9). It bears a date of Ki>nin twelfth year

(821 A.D. ) and the name of Kuru's disciple Chisen. The sketch is probably a Kamakura

(") li:AWA, op. cit., p. 23. The .piro: is also

c!is.."'!ss<X! by ]. RosENFtELD, fdf'<DSse Arts of lht
Htian Pniod, New Yodt, 1967, pp. 107-!08.
{'') }1:.\WA, op. cit., p. 20.

(")Ibid., p. !9. The text is U!ought to be

op<:riod fabricati~a. Of aU <the siilras
cen:,.;ng around Tob:l:su Bishamon. th:s is 1hc
only one th:tt ""'"lions him by nmc (Tai;hO, 21,
pp. 235a, 236., 2-l.Sb).


period copy of a 9th ecru. original, which had perhaps been transmitted to Japan from Chi10
ll;) by Kiikai and bis immediate followers ( } . Like !he Toji Tobatsu, this figure is clad in
the long-skirted Central Asian armour. Care has been lavished upon depicting the scaled
;kin and breast and tbe circular patterns of the sleeves. The two crossed swords at the
,.aist are skillfull}' decorated, as is th~ crown which shclws a bird on th~ central panel and
wings omstrecched above i L The zrcs coming from the shoulders form a broken
nimbus encircling the bead. Without going into funber detail, it might be of interest to
mention that parallels to this type of armour can be found at Qyzyl and Oumt'llni; parallds
to the crossed swords occur at the same sites, in Sassanian Iran, and in Gandharan art in a
figure probably representing Skanda from Kafir Ko~. now in t11e Brirish Museum (fig. 10) (").
Unfonunately, other images of Tobat.SU Blshamon associated u>ith Saicbo and Kiikai in tbe
e:uly H eian period have all disappeared. The Bessonltlkl.:i contains a drawing of the Tobatsu
in the Monju-do at which bears an inscription stating that a similar statue could be
found at the of the same temple("). According to the Sanmolf(/osha-1..-i and the KyiiinbukkakJHhO, the Monju-<lo image was made by Said>O himself( .. ).
There are two srames of Tobarsu Bishamon in the and the ShilmO.i1: at Koyasan e;; however, they are several hundred years later than KUkai and indicate only that the
ll.'Orship of this deity enjoyed some popularity at that centre of esoteric Buddhism. It might be
of interest to pause in our discussion and briefly consider the relationship between the Tobatsu
Bishamon-ten and esoteric Buddhist practices. We r.ave already noted the presence of the
Chinese :arue of Tobatsu at TOj ~ one of the most important centres of Japanese esoteric
Buddhism. We shall later point out that Amoghavajra, one of the founders of l\likkyo in
China is s:;id to have translated [JlQSt of the texts treating of Tobatsu Bisbamon, and tbat
he also plays a major role in the An-hsi legend of the god. Despi te all of this, it is surprising to find that the worship of Tobatsu seems to have flourished more as a folk cult in
Japan and not as a pan of the high tvlikkyo rituaL The god does not appear in any of the
main nuzntf4las of either the Shingon or Tendai sects. H owever, Matsumoto Eiichi does
illustrate two images of Tobatsu from a min:>r mi11J4ala, the Horokaku .Ma11dara1' l, now
preserved in the Kanchi-in and the HobOdai-iJ: C ' ). The Horokaku Mam/ara is based upon
1he Buddhist siitra entitled Dai-ho-kobaku-roka.lm-leyol') (Toirhii 1005), which was first translated by Amoghavajra and brought to Japan by Kukai and his followers. The text seems
to ba\e been most popular in the middle of the 11th cent. AD. The rites of the Horok4ku
Mandara described therein centre around the figure of the histori<al Buddha and are designed to procure for the worshipper ahsolu rion from sin and release for his already de-

( 1 .;.)




<" l Ikssonzakki, 5-i. no. 28i ; Taisb6 Zn;:o, 3.
( .. ) l uwa, op. cit.. p. 12.
("") 1'. MATSUSIRT.\ , Koyasm no,
I{QyaS'In, 1964, pis. 70, 71, te." pp. \} I.

Tobota<..1 Bij;iu:..-non no


JC.igen -., B"kkyo Bij:dsu, 15. 19.>0, !> -16.

(") G&ii:-<WEDEL,

op. cit., fig. 102; GmRStl.\~"-"

op. cit. ;>Is. 24~. 246, 249, 250. The n:p:-esemarion

of Skand~ is ~cd br A. FouOii::R, L't1rt
zdco-bosddl;ique du Cgndlkin, 11. Paris, 1918,
p. 123. 1bc pbotog;,~ph is r<produd from f._js
fig. 3i3, wbetc the god is mcontttly ideotifi~

r'l E. ~fATSt.r~roro, Todoga r.o KenJ:yu.

lokro, t9H, PP 439 f.


ceased loved ones C' ). In the two examples of this maJ.Itfala given by Matsumoto, To
lxusu is distinguished &om the more usual form o! VaiSrav:ll).:t only by his Centr:U Asian
annour, rigid frootal pose and polygonal crown. The fig-.ue of P!thivi has been replaced
by a lla1 geometric platfo.m~. It is possible that further research into the Mikkyo texts,
particularly those associated with th e name of Amogbavajra, might bring to light other con::rete evidence for the particip:ltioo of Tobauu Bisha.mon in the ceremonies of esoteric
During the very same years as the Horo/zakr1 Matzdara seems to have enjoyed great
favor, the worship of Tobatsu Bisbamon also appears to have reached its peak. Most o
the sixty or more statues of this god now ko:>wn in Japan belong to the l Oth or the 11th
cent. A.D. Written records of the same dares and of the following centuries likewise indicate
a continuing interest in the Tobatsu Bishamontcn.
The 14th cent. 1' provides imponmt information as to the purposes and narore
of the cult of this deity in Japan. Quoting &om the records of the Buddhist master"J,
it relates t hat an image of Tobatsu was placed on the Rarhemon in imitation of a practice
begun by th<= T'ang Emperor Hsiian-tsung. D uring a barbarian invasion of Anhsi(l, the Qli.
nc:sc protectorate cemring around Kuca, the Emperor in Ch'angan had enlisted the aid of
the famed teacher of esoteric Buddhism, A.moghavajro. When Amoghavajra prayed to
Bishamon, a divine army .appeared in faroff An-hsi, routing the enemy. Bisbamon himself
stood resplendent upon the gates of the city (:..).
This legend was uansmitred to Japan in the fonn of a Buddhist sulra entitled the
Hoppo-bishamatztenno.rui-gtmpo-ho-sbint,on<l (Taisbo 1248) which was supposedly translated from the Sanskrit by Amoghavajra. The te>.' t states that in 742 A.D. five hordes o(
barbarians attacked Ao-hsi, and Amoghavajra sought the aid of the monk 1-bsing Ch'an
shih1'. 1-hsing recited a dhara~1i to B.ishamon; during the twentrseventh recitation, an
arnx."C! figure, Tu Chien<), one of the sons of B.ishamcn, appeared to the monks with an
army of several hundred soldiers. A repon followed from Anbsi stating that on the vc:r y
same day that Tu Chien had appeared in the c:;pital, a miracle had transpired at the Central
Asian outpost. A pack of rats had devoured the arms of the enemy; the earth had trem
bled violently, and the blazing form of VaiSrava~a had appeared on the city gates. In corn
rnemoration of this event, the emperor ordered starocs o this god to be erected on all town
waUs (~'}. The siitra condudt=s v.oith a \'ariety of mudrii and dhizrat,Ji to be used io prayers
effective against one's enemies. 1be same acrount of this An-hs.i attack can also be found
in the biography o Amoghavajra in the Sung Kao seng cbuan, where he alone Jl<!rforms
the ceremonies to Bish:unon-ten (").
There are man1 inconsistencies in the different versions of rhis legend. On the basjs
of the foUowiog observations, 1\btsumoto Bumaburo has concluded that the Hoppobisha

("') S. M.-.svMuM, "Ho!XX!ai-in oi

Horohkurnn<!."" Kokka. 300. 1890, p. 311.
("') TQbOki, ZoJ:u~oku C:msb0r11i-jti, 12, Shii

.lqiibu, p. 21.

("') Tais/;0. 21 , p. 22Sb.

("') TaishQ, JO, p. 7 14.


mou-ti!IIIJO-zui-gunpo-00-shingon, its major source, must be a late T'ang or early Nortb~ro

Suog fabrication (""}: 1) the text is not included in !he Chen yiianshib chiao tr:f.l which was
completed in 800 AD., twemy-six years after Amogbavajra's dead!; 2) Amogbavajra was
absent from the capital just when he was supposed to have been rescuing An-hsi; 3) I -hs1og
died lifteen years before t'he invasion is said to have taken p lace; 4 } the aulhoritative biography of Amoghavajra, the Pu-K'uugsaJtlsang Hsingchuang of Chao Ch'ien<l makes no
mention of this incident; 5) the legend is an obvious synthesis of oilier tales cw:rcnt in Central Asia and O.ioa. For example, the 5tory of r3ts devouring rhe arnL< of the enemy
belongs to the tale of Khotan related by Hsuan-tsang. The pilgrim heard that once the rat
king had answered the Khotanese ruler's plea by knding such 3 troup of rodents to chew
up the weapons of the auackers (" ).

Despite its lack of historicity, tbis An-bsi legend is significant for us as it clearly indicates the SOUice for !he stationing of the Toji Tohatsu on the R.ashiJ!I10II in rhe Heian
capital and the importance of this god as a protector against the threat of military violence.
f t is wonhwhile to stop a moment and explore the politkal and religious conditions which
might nave furthered the popularity of such a guardian figure in l Oth and 11th cent. Japan.
We rwwe seen that the Toji Tobatsu first appears in historical records in connection
with the Tengyo rebellion. TIJe years immediately following this date, if one may judge
hom the number of extant statueS of Tobatsu to this period, marked the height
of his popularity. These were also years of con;tant unrest and insecurity; the Honch0-sciki(1)
wbich deals wilh this period provides copious referertces to the difficulties of the times and
the measures adopted to protect the people from them {"' ). It might be of interest to note
here 3 few of the points raised by this record. I n the firSt year of Tengyo an earthquake
'1:curred which lasted four months aod culminated in a tidal wave of massive destrUc
tiveness. In order to save the counrry, the court ordered that the Ninno-kyo be recited in
all temples. In the third year of this era, when the Taira and Minamoto clans rose up, the
aid of the Shinto deity Hachiman was sought by !he court. The rebellion continued several
yea rs and was followed by widespread famine in the provinces, rampant thievery, and more

earthquakes ("').
These unfailing hardships seem not only 10 have encouraged the worship of the wellknown Buddhist and Shinto protective dcitie;. bur also to have led to a new interest in
heretofore unsought avenues of salvation. The s:~me Honcbo-seiki mentions that in the first
year of T cngyo images of male and female deiries, known as Funado-no Kamzil, or gods of
:be crossroads, were placed on all intersecting patbs in the capital in order to protect the
people from invasion. Jn the fifth year of thi; era, the spirit of Sugdwara no 1\>lichi.zane, a
lristOiical figu~ later canonized as a deit:y of kuers, is said to have revealed its divine



op. dl., pp. 28.], 288 f.

{") M. SKtliATA. CMui SbOmitt SbinkO

Kc,Jqa, Tokyo, 19&6. P? .105 109.
{"'") Ibid.. pp. 10.5106.


Ta-T'ang Hsi-yudJi, K)oiXO Tcil<oku

Daig;~kll, 13unladaigaku SOsho, 12, !'? 2 f.



intentions ('). At t.h e same time, the new Shimo deity Shidarall demanded frenzied devotion from the adherents to his cult, and the worshippers of Dai.koku ten and Ebisu rapidly
grew in number (").
The history of sculpture, especially in remote pans o japan, amply documents the
religious climate of these centuries. Among the numerous images of Shinto or ShintO.Bud
dhist deitil-s which belong to this period might be mention<XI the 11 rh cent. statue of Zao.
gongenl l, a Shinto manifestation of Sakyamuni, from the Sanbursu-ji in Tottori prefecture,
the crude :monymous wood represenrotion o a Shinto god from the K<Ulnon-ji in Aichi
prcfecrure, and the image of N ijoll from Fukuyama (..,}. It might be surmised that just such
a religious at mosphere also gave great impetus to the cult of the curious Tobatsu Bishamon
ten, whose merits were further sanctified by the texts relating his glorious military vie
For further aspects o.f the worship of this dc.iry, it is necessary to tum briefly to a
discussion of some of the other Buddhist sutras which offer detailed accounts of the efficacy
of devotion to tbis special fonn of VaiSravat;ta on P~tbi,l. T he Bussetm-bisbamon-tennii
!ro ( Taisbo 1245), rranslated by Fa-t'ien in the Sung dynasty, is lllllinly concerned with the
warlike attributes of the god. It speaks at length of the value of the special dhiitll!Ji.S in
such endeavours as splitting the beads of one's enemies ( .. ). The Maka-vaishr~ramanaya
daiba-shuresha-darani-giki!rl (TaisbO 1246) maintains that he who calls upon Vairaval)a will
be able to thereby procure all means of wealth end achieve fulfillment of any desire. MantrtZJ
arc given for every conccivable purpose - from gaining the respect of one's superiors, to
c.btaining rain, summoning and banishing evil spirits, and repairing marital difficulties ("'}.

The Hoppo-bisbanum-tamon-hi5zii-tenni5-shimmyo-darani-betsu-gyO-giki<l (Taisho 1250),

which purports to be: a translation from the Sanskrit by Amoghavajra, promises protection
for both clerical and lay devotees, and destruction of all enemies of the Law (u). The name
of the text makes dear that Bishamon is here also regarded as a deity of wealth . The
Bishamo1lletz-gyi5 (TaisbO 1244), again attributed to Amoghavajra, is simply a shortened
redaction of the Konki5my0-kyo, ShitmnO-boni- J, to which we shall now turn.
The Ko11komyi5./..>y0 or Srwan;aprahhasa Siitra was probably composed during the' early
years of the G upta dynasry in India. It was first translated into Chinese in the Nonbern
Li ang Dynasty (412-421 A.D.) by Dharmarak?a and again in 552 A.D. by Paramartha. A
third translation by Ya$ogupta appeared some ten years later, and in 597 A.D . a group of

1:Qtc here dt:t t ahholl8h uunc o the tat.s in tl:li$

discw.sion mentions Tobatsu by name. that they
are DODethcless devoted to this deity can be s::
from their de=i{>(ioos of the god u res:bg on

(-"') Ibid., ;.. l06.

(") Ibid., pp. 84-111; S. lAG.A, T. AIW\tATSU,

T. 0MU'J.O, Nibon 1JIJ.k k;0.1bi, Kyoro, o.d., 2.
p. 3n.

{") Stkai Bijutsu Zensbii, 5, TOkyo. 1962, fig.

6'.1; T . Ko:<o, Nippcn no Cbiikofw, 3, Tok)-G,
1964, fi8s. H, 15, .31.
{") T ais:OO, 21, p. 218. It might be best to

{" ) Taisi>O, 21 , .pp. 220a, 234o.
("') T aisbO, 21 , pp. 2}0a, 232c.


monks made a new text by supplementing Dharmarak~'s translation with that of Paramartha. In 703 A.D. 1-ching retranslared the text from the original Sanskrit (").
The first wriuen evidence for !he SuuOJ{:aprabbtisa Siitra in Japan is an entry in the
Nibon-shOki dated 676 A.D. From this time onward its circulation throughout the country
is repeatedly noted in the historical chro.-ticles (").
The text opens u-irb a philosophical discussion on rhe nature of the ultimate reality
and an exposition of the truths of Buddhism. At the end of this dissertation,
the c:mphouis ohifts from mctaphpical questions to more mundane concerns, an cnumet3-

tioo of the merits of reciting this siitra - fir;dy, the armies of the king who adheres to
this text will be strong, and the rulcr himself will be free from enemies; his country will be
exempt from epidemics, and his life will be long and prosperous; secondly, the princes,
princesses and imperial concubines will live together in harmony and be without slander and
quarrels; third!}', the priests and the common tx-ople alike will uphold the Buddhist lAw
illld sow their .fields of merit; lastly, all v,.;ll be protected by the four Lokaptilas led by
\' aistall3.l)A, and all will strive thus unhindered towards enlightenment (''). Similar statemenrs appear in later chapters, the Mukm-kondo-Xt11Jge-bon, Sbitenni5-kansatsu-ninden-bon,
and the Sbitennogokolat-bonl-">. Vai&rovaQa is the main spokesman in all of these cbapters,
where he vows to defeat all annies which threaten the worshipful king, and conversely to
forsake the neglectful monarch and thus bring upon him and his subjectS all maru1er of
calamities (..}. The results of reciting the dbaral}l to VaiSrav3.9a given here inclu de finding
buried treasure, understanding the speech of animals, and gaining one's wisbes c).
It is obvious from this review of selccte:l te.xts related to TobatSU Bishamoo that his
worship w:IS focused upon procuring for the devotee pure!}' mundane benefits - chiefly
security from enemy auacks and wealth. The Suvar1faprabhas!1 Siitra has added still another
new and important dimen;ion to his cult - the dose association of Vaisrava~a witb the
Unfortunately, ".rritten records tell us next to nothing of devotion to T obatsu Bishamon
by the Japanese imperial court and military clans, although the chronicles are full of references to ceremonies involving the Sucan_UJprabhiisll Siitra and to reverence paid the four
LoktTpalas. Outside of the Toji, Seiryoji and Kuramadera statues with their traditional
connection to the official circles, there is no other positi ve evidence that this exotic form
of the Guardian of the North was gi\en spe:ial consideration by the imperial group.
Another important side of the worship of Tobatsu in Japan which this text illuminates
is the connection of this deity with Sri (KichijO-ten) and Sarasvat1 (Benzai-ten). In the

(,.) lnuodllCiion to tbc Kor.Mmfok;:o in the:

KCJktryQ.(,u DtZizO."'>'O, 13, pp. S . The tat has
bc<n tt:mslatcd into Ger1:12n by J. Noau, Smmr
IJ"Prt:bba:sa Ssitr4 ( Das GoJdglnz SuJnz), 2 vols.,
Leiden, 1958.
{") J. IMASlnRO, c Nibon ni okc:ru ShitenOO.

zo no Kigen , Bukk)o Grijutsu, 59, De<:. 1965,

p. 65.

{") Konkorr.yi'>-1<}"0, Bunbnsu Sanshir.bo11,

pp. 34 ff.
(U) Ibid., p. 113.
(.. ) Ibid., p. 122.


Shitenno-gokoku-bo11 the de\<Otee desirous of seeing VaiSra..-:1\U is instructed to paint first an

im~ge of Siikyamuni with Sd at his left and V aisravaJ]a at his right (" ). The iconographical
srud.ies of the Kamakura period indicate that Sri was regarded as the wife of Bishamon-ten;
the Bisha;nolz-giki of Amogha,ajra often named in these works represents her as his main
follower ().. It is necessary to note that the chapter in the 5urxm_:aprahh4sa Siitrtt under
discussion speaks only of Vaisrav~a and not of his special form as Tob:llsu Bishamon;
however, the dose association of VaiSravaJJa with Prtbivi which is found in this ten sug
gests the Tobatsu Bishamon-ten. and both the Khotanese emphasis upon Sri as the wife of
the god and the Central Asian paintings which picture Tobatsu with the goddess justify our
mention of the couple here. The presently known examples of VaHrava!)a and Sri from
Japan do seem, nonetheless, to prefer the mare usual form of the god. The two are also
sometimes figured with Zennishi, who seems to have been regarded as their child. One of
the most famous representations of this divine family is that on the Kuramadcra shrine, the
Sri of which bears a elate of 1127 A.D. (..). A second depiction of the group is to be found
at Shirasaka in Rikuzcn (the modem Miyagi prefecture}, and has been attributed to SaichO ("}. 1he devotioo to this ensemble of parems and child seems to be of a different
character than the worship of the fearsome Tobatsu as a guardian of the state, and probably
bdongs to a more popular conccption of religion tinged with elements of Folk beliefs. This
brings us to one of the most significant features of the worship of this strange deity in
medieval Japan.

It was noted earlier that a

mark~d transformation occurred between

the first rcpresen

rations of Tolmsu Bisbamoo in the Early Heian period and the Fujiwara period depictions
of the god which tended to minimize his exotic aspects and to a rapprochement with image~
of native folk deities. This process was so striking in the case of Pfthivi, that one writer
has gone so far as to identify the fc:male .figure on the Seattle Tohatsu (fig. I } as Jingij
Kogo<xl, the consort of the Emperor Chiiai (traditional dates 192-200 A.D.) C'}. There is
definite evidence that attempts were made tO assimilate Bishamoo into the native pantheon,
and at least one text reveals that Tobatsu Bishamon was not exempt from the 3Jllalgamation
of Buddhist and Shinto gods so common from the 12th cent. onwards. In some areas
VaiSrav~a seems to have been teg;1rded as a form of Hachiman ( 10 ) . The ShintO-shii of
Seikaku<..l ( 1167-1235 A.D.) notes that he was also consiclered as the original form of Chichibu-daibosatsu (Chicbibu-hiko-no-mikoto)<l, the local deity of Mus:~shi ("). This l11St fact
is particularly relevant to our study as the Shint0-$hti quotes mainly from the tex'tS specifically devoted to Tobatsu Bishamon. Lastly, VaiSrav:~.Qa was also induded in the
the seven gods of prosperity, whose worship was spread all over Japan C'}.


('') fbid.. p. 122.

(-'j Taisi:O. 21, p. 22&.
(..) YunKA, op. cif., pp. 56-66.
( " ) T. YAMADA, Rikuzen Sh:rastka no Bi
sh:omontcn , K70Jo Krnkyu, ) , no. J. P 160.

(" ) R.E.

l'cu~ ]::p,;r.ts~

Art in


}.fustum, ~ttk;

1960, r:nuy 34. 1 h3ve not

been :lb!e to loc:ue the source for this ickntific::otioJl.
( ..) YAMADA, op. tit., p. 161.
(~) MIIS4Sbi R.okrsbO Daimyojinji (SbiJrt(>.sbii,
23). p. 98.
Ko;i-r:ti~n. Sbingibu, p. 88.




In summary, this account of the worship of Tobarsu Bisbamon in Jnpan has te\ealed
the following: 1) Tobatsu Bishamon wns worshipped according to the textS os a god of prosperity and protection; 2) outside of the few K >'l3to statues there is no evidence of oHicinl
patronage of his cult, rather his images tend tO resemble those of the local Shinto gods.
This observation has led ns ro su~ mat his major devotees were probably the common
people, among whom the dcity must have lo>t his exotic flavour as be merged with the
members of the local pantheon. 3) Lasdy, the socio-religious atmosphere in which the culr
of Tobatsu flourished v;as marked by rapid political upheavals and natural disasters, and
by a fe~;erish interest in a wide \'<lriety of practices designed to obtain mundane benefits and

3. Tobatsu Bishamon in China

It is possible that the earliest represenrations of Tobatsu in China are the 5th cent.
1\.D. guardian figures at Yiin-kang, Cave 8 (fig. 11 ). They are two of a set of four such and
wear win~--d caps. Both hold lances in one hand; in the other are elongated objects which
might be rcganbl as vajras or as money purses. These figures seem to stand at a higher
level than the other rwo. This suggests that perhaps there is something under their (eet;
however, the stone is too abraded to conclude that the sculptures rest on the bust of a
woman. Both Soper and Omura Seigai have, nonetheless, proposed the identification of
these Yiin-kang figures with Vais:ravaJ:ta (..J.
From these ambiguous tharapilas to the first positively identifiable Tobarsu Bishamon
starues is a gap of several hundred years. The earliest, fig. 12, is from Szechwan, Chiung
Hsia, Lung-bsing-ssu1" 1 ("'). It is published as an early T'ang work, but it is possibly even
earlier. lbe slender fonn, triangulu contours of the skirt, and the delineation of the circular patterns on the arms and leg gear all clearly relate tbis figure to the more sophisticated
Toji Tobatsu; however, the benevolent facial expression and the relaxed pose are unique.
The treatment of the tiny form of flrthivi betwec:n the legs of this s;arue is similar to tbe
handling of the earth goddess in the Rawak Stupa figure (fig. 13) and the Taxila Vi~QU
(fig. 14) which will be discussed below. Despite the obvious concern of the scul ptor of this
piece vtith the elaborate details of ornamentation, the overall execution remains somewhat
crude. The l:uge head seems to upset the balance of rhe whole, and the parts of the hod)'
arc not at all organically conceived.

The Tobatsu from the Lung-hung-cssu, alsu in Szechwan, is far more relined than the
previous example and probably dates around the middle or late 9th cent. A.D. (fig . 15) (").
(..) A. SoPER, Utt!ti3)' Evidtm:t /OT EPI)'
Buddbitt Art in Chir:ll, 1\.scona, t959, p. 23-1: S.
0MvRA, Sbin.: BiitrtuNbi, Tokyo, 1915. ? 184.
("") K. SASAXI, .-Tobarsc BishomQn-:zii ai

Le Smoume Bouddbique du Long Hong Sscu

3 Ki~ Ting. RAil, V, 1928, pp. 3.5-JS, whe'e
it is incorrectly idc:ntHit<l as Avlokitdv:lr.
Uafoztun3tdy no further infDI1Mtioo srout this
temple could be four.<!. Ftg. 15 is t3ken from this

tnJilc: no lchthnsatsu , Biptsushi, JS, \ol. 10,

2, Nov. 1960, p. 58.
(") Tbe statue: is introdu'CC ia J. L .\RTJCUE.



The ftgure slallds on Pfthivi who is flankerl by Niranba and Biranba. He wears the long
skincd Central Asian armour which, in its les~ angular and smoother contours, shows some
concessions to the more usual T'ang dynasty costume of guardian deities. Two arcs rise
from either shoulder and encircle the head in a wide sweep. The crown is the familiar
four-panelled one encountered in the TOji Tobatsu. The proportions of the figure, its dress,
and the extreme S\tbtlety of execution all clearly foreshadow the superb artistry of the
statu es o this god in th;: Kyuto temples.
Another Tobatsu from S7.echwan is pictured in fig. 16 ("). It is found in the Lohant'ung, aad probably dates from the lOth or 11th cent. A.D. The ngure wears the birdcrown and typkal long-skined armour, a.nd is supported b}' the goddess of the earrb. The
torso seems rigid and taut;: both arms rest flat against the chest, thereby helping to increase
the tension of the form, and contain rhe vital energy within the triangular contour of the
statue. The diagonals of the skirt, sword and ;leeves all tend upward to the puffed and
angry face and the e.~panderl chest, bringing to a focal point the violent force embod.ied
within. The artributes the god holds are not entirely clear from the single photograph
available. The right hand might be holding a cilttoma!Ji, and the left hand, a gourd. The
figure is cruder than the Lung-hungSSU Tob3tsu and seems to be more provincial in
The last Tob:ltsu known from Szechwao is in the Ta-tsu<>caves (fig. 1i ) and is as late
as the 13th or 14th cent. A.D. (""). The carving is extremely rough, and the huge torso
and tin} head are ill-ronceived. The armour is the long-skined Central Asian variety so
often seen before, and the bird-crown and shoulder Jlames similarly conform to the standard
representations of this dcity.
The only other Tobatsu known in China comes from the southern province of Yiinnan.
Here Tobatsu is one of the four lokapofas and adorns the base of a sliipa roughly dated
110}-1252 A.D. (""). Like aU the examples discussed above, he rests on Prthivi, in this
case accompanied by the two Jak!11$, and wears the polygonal b.ird<rawn.
Tf:e actual character of the worship of Tobatsu Bishamon in China is even more obscure than in Japan. The problem is further complicated by the fact that the name " Tobatsu has yet to be discovered in any Chinese document; we will try to limit ourselves,
as bc:st is possible, to those texts which for various reasons seem to be devoted to the new
form of Vaisraval).a on Pr thivi.
There is an entry in the Sung dynasty T'u-lma Chien-wbt-chibC"'-l which states that the
T'ang personage Che Tao-dt'ien<'"l transmitted a unique form of VaiSrav~a from Khotan to
China ("'); however, his possible representations at Yiin-kang, and certainly the Luogh~ing-ssu figure would indicate that Tobatsu was known much bdore this dare. Moreover,

( 31) Sast..'O, op. cit., p. 58; We~<-wu, 1956, 12,

p. 19.
(') PubEsbe<l i a WWA, op. cit., and c Te
tsu shih-kc , Wbz-Wtl, 1958, 12.

(") L. FP.'OT, V. GOl..ot1Bz:, c Le F"" Tseu

T'a de Y = , BEFEO, Xh'V, 1925, Pi' 435-148.
(<>) MnsuMOTO, op. cit., p. 450.


the localization of the majority of the known images in S:zecbwan suggests tbac this western
province may have bcc:n a centre of the cult of Tobatsu; the wall paintings at Cheng-tu
are also said to show numerous representations of VaisravaJ):a (").
The An-hsi legend indicates that at least by the middle of the T'ang dynasty the wor
ship of VaisraVaJ):a standing on city gates v.:as \\idespread, and the Japanese sources further
hint that it was indeed Tobatsu Bishamon who served this function. Omura Scigai has noted
rhat following the supposed rescue of An-hsi, the Emperor ordered that all temples construct a sep1r2te hall devoted to the worship of V!li.Sr.IYllDll. Thi$ pr11ctice <>pp<!'lrs in
records of the Fhe Dynasties as weU ("). An entry in the Hsingt'ang-ssu P'isha-men
t'ian-wang-cbi preserved in the T'tthua-cbilil similarly attests to the popularity of Bishamon
in the T'ang dynasty and to the belief in his abilities to save his devotees from c-.Uamities C').
All of the siitras discussed in the section on Japan, wi th the ob\'ious exception of the
Suvar!'aprabbasa Siitra, were probabl> compo;ed in China and may be taken to closely
reflect the aspirations of the adherents of the cult of Tobatsu Bishamon. They also indicate
the popular nature of his worship. In iliis connection, it is worthwhile to consider the
relationship between the Tobatsu Bishamon in China and the local village deities, who were
similarly thought ro guard villages from their 1anta.,oe points on the gates, and to grant
their devotees -ucalth and success.
The belief in China in spirits inhabiling the walls of the city and watching over its
inhabitants is very ancient. The Tsa Chuan contains a reference to prayers offered to the
gods at the town walls. Later records frequently attribute astonishing military success to
their good will ('). The T'ang dynasty seems to have been the period of their greatest
popularity, and there is :u least one written doc~t which hints at an e"change of ideas
between the d...-vocccs of rhe ci ty-waU spirits and the worshippers of the An-hsi Tobatsu
Bishamonten. I n the biography of Chung J!l recorded in the Snng-sbih is a short tale of
Su ChienC'l, a general killed at the battle of [-jou. I n order to avenge his own death, Su
returns to the bau1e6eld and leading his troops from the north, announces himself to the
terrified onlookers as Su, the deity of the village walls. The people then erect a shrine to
him, in a final attempt to placate his wmtb ('"}. The description of Su Chien appearing from
the north with his entourage is an exact parallel to the story of Tu Chien and his soldiers
proceeding from the northern quarter in the An-hsi leg;:nd.


seems likely, then, that just as in Japan the worship of Tob:usu Bishamon was part

of a more general interest in deities of protection and w~-alth, so in China did Tobatsu
fmd kindred spirits with whom he could be associated and finally amalgamated. The con
tact of t.he Ounese Tobatsu and k'O!l divioitic:> u{ the village gates may hzve led to the

() Ibid., p. -175.
(") T. N"sA. c Sltioa ni okeru Tosbi no
Sbug<Hhin , Shir.a Gaku, i. nos. 3-4, P? 69 ff.
( ..) Ibid., p. St.

!'") T. NAKAGAW,\ , Bunbsbi yori mitaru Shi

Sbu , TokyO Tdsbirsu HaJ:ub:.rsNI:<t>: Koen-slni,
l, 1926,:p. 25.
(") 0MURA, op. dt., p. 450.


formulation of the An-hsi lcg.end, which, we have seen, was much re5pcctcd in Japan as
well. The similarities of their functions might ha\<e hastened the fusion of the cui ts of the
new god and the ancient folk deities; at any rate, such a process assuredly guaranteed the
exotic deity enduring popularity among the common people.

4. Tohatsu Bishamon


Central Asia

The history of Tobatsu Bisbamon in Central Asia is extremely complex. It is perhaps

best to begin with a discussion of his representations at T un-huang and Wan Fo Hsia, aod
then cons.ider the Kbotanese cult of Vaisrn-r.;ga which dillers in some respects from his
worship in China and Japan and yet, seems closer to the original conception of the deiry.
The painting of Tobatsu at Wan Fo Hsia appears in the antechamber on the north wall,
\\'est of the entrance to the main chapel, 211d dates from the mid 9th cent. A.D. (fig.
18)(..). The figure is d ad in the long Central Asian armour and stands apparently not on
Prthhfi, but on a prostrate demon flanked by Niranba and Birnnba. He holds a stupa in
his left hand 2nd a trident bearing Bags in his right. The nimbus is the usual double arc
coming from the shoulders. The figure is attended by a small boy who holds a cinliimt:'}i
and a mongoose, the usual attribute of Kuvera in India and T ibet. The significance of the
young attendant has been discussed by Matsucnoto Eii.chi. The St~varT_!aprabbiisa Siilra and
t.h c Hopjhishamon-tmnO-zui-gunpo-hO-shingon both refer to Bishamon's manifesting himself
as a child (.,). In the former text, the child god holds a cinliima'}i and a sack of gold. The
mongoose, often interpreted as a living purse, could well be considered as a substitute for
the sack, and the child would then be Bishamon himself. Matsumoto gives a second possibility, that he is Zennishi, the son of the deity. The third alternative he suggests associates the group with Khot~esc legends of the childless king who was granted offspring in
snswer to p rayers addressed to Bishamon (see below). The first proposal seems the most
likdy in the light of another representation of Tobatsu Bishamon and the child from Tunhuaog which will be treated below.
Opposite the Wan Fo Hsia Tobatsu is a painting of a goddess who is ideoiliied by
inscription as Sarasvati. The illustration of VaiSravaga and a female partner so common in
Japan, can thus be associated with the cult of Tobatsu Bishamon in Ccoual Asia and can
be seen to have had a long history behi.'ld it.
Matsumoto has noted ten major examples of Tobatsu Bishamon from Tun-huang (.. ).
The fust of iliesc, fig. 19, is found twice in cave 14 to the left of the main image. Both
figures stand on Prthivi, who is enshrouded in leafy vegetation, and bold lances in their
right hands and stupas in their lefr. They have long swords which bang diagonally from

L. WAA.t'fE&, BuddbiJt Wail Paintu:gr, A

oj tbe Ninth Ct11tury Gro/lo a/ Wan Fo
Hria, Cambridge. M3$s., 1938, p!. Xll.


("') MATSUMOTO, op. cil. ? 460; Konl<lmryOJ:yo, cir. ;>. I2J; TllishD, 21. p. 230.
) M.nsu~roro. op. dl., pp. 412-418.



the waist and crisscross with shorter blades suspended horizomally from the belt. Flames
rising from the shoulders encircle the head. These figures have been dated to the period of
the Five Dynasties(.. ).
Fig. 20, a painting on silk now in the British Museum, shows a crudely drawn Tohatsu on P~vi, with all the attributes repeatedly noted as characteristic of this deity.
Fig. 21, in the same museum, is one of the rare precisely dated images o the god. It is a
wood-block which exists in several difie.reru impressions and bears a date of 947 A.D. (.. ).
1he occomprulyillg inscription gives the o91Tie of the donor ~long with his official tirles and
tells us further that the image was made in the hope of securing peace and prosperity for
the Chinese Empire. Tobatsu stands in the centre of the picture. He is dressed in the longskirted armour which shows the sun and moon as chest ornaments, a feature noted in the
Kyoto Tohatsu (figs. 4-6) as well. He is attended by the same young boy encountered at
Wan Fo Hsia, who here weus an animal pelt, and by another curious demon also dressed
in a tiger skin and holding a naked child. Matsumoto has identified this second figure as
Shakuniba<..J, who appears in the Bishamon-temr~yo ('A). 1be female at the left is probably So.
Fig. 22, a Five Dynasties silk painting of Tobatru, now in the Musee Guimet, provides
a close parnllcl to the Tobatsu in the Daigoji-nnoshii {fig. 9}. The drawing is somewhat
immature, but the figure is entirely faithful to the iconographic type which had obviously
gained currency in the Tun-huang region.
Pig. 23, now in a private collection in Japan, shows a seated Tobatsu inside a circle.

The flames at the shoulders have been further surrounded by a full halo; and in front of
the figure, is a table with offering$. Two devotees in Chinese costume stand at the sides
in worshipful attitudes.

In addition to lhes<: paintings discussed by Marsumoto, there are several others also
from Tun-huang which are dealt with in an article by ~1arcelle Lalou ("'). Fig. 24 belongs
to the group of images of the god and child attendant. Here rhe boy, wearing :m animal
skin, holds a full sack and a jewel and probably is the child Bishamon of the Suvar~Japra
bbilla Sutra. Sri stands to the left of the main figure. The lower images of PFthivi and the
two yttk!as have been eliminated, bur the presence o the other standard attributes o Tohatsu is sufficient to confirm the identification.
Fig. 25 is unique in the presence o the small figure of ~eSa at the lower left of:
the painting. Lalou has made a study of the confusion between Vaisra"R and ~ea in
the Tibetan te.ns {..). 1be Japanese text, the ~\!akA-vaisburamanaya-daiba-shur~sba.Jarani
giki has the interesting statement that VaiSrav~a may stand either on Prduvi or on Ga-

de b Fo::tUoo, AAs, IX, 19~6, pp. 97-110.

(.,.) Io., ibid., A. FocCHER in his Introduction
to A. GuTY, Ganna, Oxford, 1930, pp. xxii-xxiii
Ius also 001ro the close relationmip ~em
Gll.l)da and VaisrmQ

(") Ibid., p. 418.

( ..) Ibid., p. 420.
(.,) Ibid., p. 420.
(.,) M. LA.LOU, Mythologic I ndlenne et
Pcinturcs de Houte Asie. I: Le Dieu Bouddblque


c:tcia (..). It is clear r:bat Prthivi was dlC original support of the god, but the further mention of r:be e.lephant-headed deity and this painting add new dimensions to the cult of Tobatsu Bishamon in its esoteric practice.
Moving westwatd from Tunhuang, we come to Khotan, whim was a major centre of
the worship of Vaisrava,r:~a and where many have placed the origin of the Tobatsu Bish
runon-ten. The main evidence for his cult in this oasis is literary; however, the Rawak
Sriipa statue (fig. 13), dating probably from the Jrd or 4th cent. A.D., has been identified
as Tobatsu by tl>.e annour, tbe rigid s~nce, and the presence of the sroill fel1lllle figure ~t
the feet of the god. This is possibly the earliest reptesentation of Tobatsu Bishamon yet
The written legends of the founding of Kbotan establish at once the intimate connection of that state with the Buddhist Guardian of the North. They are preserved in Chinese
and Tibetan t~<s, which difier slightly. Both agree that the 6rst king o! Khotao was born
in answer ro prayers to Vaisravarya sometime during the reign of the Emperor Asoka; that
he grew up in China, and that he only later joumeyed to Khotan and began his rule cJ.
The detailed account of the first king given in the Tibeta.n Prophecy of the Li Country,
composed sometime before the 9th or lOth cent. A.D., begins with a visit of Asoka and his
consort to Khotan, where the consort sees Vaifrava~ and his divine retinue flying through
the sky, and mi=lously, she becomes pregnant. A:Soka abandons the child born to her,
for fear he may some day usurp the throne. A bn.'llst appears from the earth to nurse the
foundling, who is then transported to China iu answer to the supplications of Ch'in Sbih
Huang-ti With his wife, Sri, the hero proceeds at last to Khotan, where he becomes
king (").
1n the OUnese accounts no mention is made of Sri, and the appearance of the breast

of the earth is linked with another tale of the offspring of the king of Kbotan. According
to Hsiian-tsang, a child is born from the head of a starue of VaiSravac:ta, in answer to the
prayers of the first Khotanese king and is nursed by a breast of the earth at the feet of the
image (").
The significance of these Legends for us lies not in their minor differences but in their
unanimous attribution of the line of Khotane;e kings to the bounty of Vaisrav3.1p. The
same deity is also said to have fixed the boundaries of Khotan. I n Tibetan accounts he is
assisted by Sariputra, and in the OUncsc texrs he acts alone (").

In addition to this relationship to the found)jng of Khotan, Vaisravac:ta also seems to

have been regarded as one of its tmclary diviniries.

() TsishO, 21, p. 235.

1"urknt({J1, Loodon. 1935, p. 1i.

( " ) THOMAS, op. dt., p. 99.

(' )

A. RO.wsAT, /Ustoire de Ill vifle Je

Kbo:at: tirl~ du Ar.r.c!es de 14 CbiM et tr11.duiu
Ju Cbinois. Paris; 1820, p. }8; F. W. THC}MAS,





In the Tibetan sources, he is joined

(") Tv-T'ang Hsiyu-chi, cif., I, pp. 25-27.

(") Ri.">tus.n, op. tit., p. )8; Tno~!AS, op.
t;it., p. 35.



Fig. I - Tobmu Bishomontcn. Central Japan. Late

I01h ccn1. A. D. Seal/le Atl Museum.

Fig. 2 - Tobauu Di!hamon-cen. From

Tasshln-jl, Hyogo 'P"fcccure. IOthllth
cent. A. D. (from IKAWA, Chilcn... ,

Fig, 3 Tobacsu Bishamontcn. From

Ta" hinji, Hyogo prefecture. IOthllth
' enc. A. D. (from lKAWA, Chiten...



Fis. 4 Tobauu Bishamonten at Toji. Chinese.

une 9th-early lOth cent. A. D.

F.,. ' Tobmu Bishamontcn

cent. A. 0 .


SciryO-ji. lOth

Fig. 6 Tobatsu Bishamontcn





:. ' ?

) ilI-i:... J

Fig. 7 Tobauu Dishomon t~n.

C<!nuol Jmp3n.
Mid II th cent. A. D. Collection of Howard Hollit
(from lKAWA, Chiten ... . dt.).

Fig. 8 Tobnuu Dishnmonten. Central

Jopan. IIth crnt. A. D. Dmvtr Art
Murcum, Cot. no. 0836 <from the Colltc
lion of Chri11ian Humann).



Fig. 9 Tobauu Bishomonten in Daigojitu:ilJhii

manuscript. Kamokura period ropy (drAwing) alter
n 9th cent. A. D. original.

Fig. 10 . Skond . From Kofir Ko1.

Gondhiiro art. Britilh Mur~um, London.

Fig. 11 . Gu.,dian






cent. A. D.

Fig. 12 . Tobatsu Bishamon-~tn. Fro.:

Lung-hing-ssu, S>echwan. Early T'ang o.


Fig. B - Guardian figut.s. Rawak Stupa.


Ftg. 16 Tobatsu Bishomontcn.

Lohan-t'ung, Szecbwan. lOth-IIth
nt. A. D.) (from SASAKI, c T<>
hatsu... , cit.).

Fig. 17 Tobatsu Bihamon-ren. Tatsu, Suchwan. 1Jthl4th rent. A. D.

(from .lKAWA, c Tatsu ... , cit.).

Fig. 20 - T ohatsu Bislwnon-ten.

Painting on sillc, rom Tun
hWL">g. Brililh Mu~m, l.tJndon.

Fig. 21 - Tobuu Bi$b.1.mont<n. Woodblock dated 947 A. D., from T un-huang.

BritiJh l.fuJtum, London.

Fig. 24 T<>batsu BiWmon-ten. From Tun.huang.

Guim~t. Puis.


Fig. 2' T<>batsu



From TutlGuimn, Ptuis.

Fig. 26 - Offtri.o& or four bowls.





I:llwil of
Glli Co/kcliOil,

Fig. 27 Pinc:ika and Hiriti. From Shih-jiki J;lheri. Gandhau arr.

WclloLT, Gatulbu~n~

Fig. 28 Pharo and Ardox!o. From Sahri Bahlol

).(,,,. . ..... 1\1,.




Puhtt:Dtrr M ..uum, No. 1416 (from


fig. 29 Pharo


a late min o



30 Pbaro and ArdoxSo.

Temple, Avamipura.

From Avantisvim"

6th-7th ccnL A. D. ( frott

ASIAR. 191J-14, pi. XXVIII).

Fig. 31 .

Fig. 32 S=WI silver vcsscl. Hetnti!agt Museum,

Lening,aJ ( from L'OUNCE, Studis.. , cif.).


From NepaL 6th-7th cent. A. D.

by Sri and Bhfunidevi, the goddess of the earth (''). These texts also n.ame numerous
temples either dodicatcd to this god or under his special protection (" ).
Ir is clear from this discussion that rhe worship of VaiSrav~a in Khman was more than
a simple folk cult devoted ro a guardian of military valor and wealth. VaiSravaJ}a created
Khoran and insured as well the continuance of irs line of kings. These moru=hs seemed
to have actually regarded themselves as his divine offspring. Wrilten evidence reveals that
they assumed the title Jeuaputra, V.'hich was r~scrved for a particular class of deities, and
which is gl-;o the mme by which VaittaVllJ?.ll is known in some o the Buddhist texts (").
Their usage of this title, current among the Kushan kings after Kao~ka, and the panicular
relationship of rhe Khota.nese kings to the Northern King of Buddhism, is one of the most
important clues we possess in undetsiJillding rhe origins of the Tobatsu Bishamon and the
mystezy of his unique fonn. We shall return to this question after a brief consideration of
other legends which CliJl be related to Tobar;u and which were collected by Hsiian-tsang
iu India.

5. VaiirtW11!14 in the K11shan Realm

It is no longer proper to speak specifically of Tobatsu Bishamon as opposed to Bishamon; however, Hsiian-tS3f18 in his travels from Olina to India noteS two images of the
divine King in parts of the countty which on:e belonged to the Kusban realm and which
are pertinent to our study. At the Navasat!Jghiiriima in Balkb was a statue of V aisrava~a.
1ne story was told that when the Hsiung-nu chief Ych-hu had attempted to steal the
aeasures of the temple, VaiSravaJ?.a appeared to him in a dream and pierced him with a
sword, thus putting an end to the barbarian's wicked schemes (").
At KapiSa the pilgrim found a statue of a divine king beneath whose feet the hostages
of King Kani~ka were said to have buried some money to be used for future repairs oo the
temple. Whm a thief had appeared to steal this money, a bird on the: crown of this
guardian figure llapped its wings so ......Udly that the earth began to tremble and the rogue lay
prostrate on the ground. Upon rising, he was converted to :Buddhism ("). It is gener.illy
accepted by the Japanese scholars quoted in this paper that the divine king of KiipiSa is
none other than Tobatsu Bishamon; the bird on the croa."Jl is, as we have seen above, one
of his most characteristic attributes. There is no definite proof of this identification;
howe-.-er, the legend remains highly significant in this study for its mention of a guardian
of wealth with a winged cap, a figure whom we shall connect wi th the prototype for the
Tobatsu Bisbamon-ten which exists in Kushan period reliefs.

Tuo~tAs, op. cit., p. 59.

C") Ibid., pp. 96, 110. 118, 121, 127.
(") S. Ltv1, 0.:..-aputr:l " JA, I, Janv;er
Man 1924, p. ll ; F. W. THOMAS, D~uopulr4 :.,

B. C. Law Co111memou.riott

{" )


ll, Pooruo,

1946, p. 310.
('t) Ta-T'ang Hri)'u-<bi, dt., I, p. 28.
(" ) Ibid., I, p. 37.


6. The Origins of tbe Tobatsu Bishamon and !he Significance of His Symbols
Before commencing this discussion it might be best to review some of the main charac.
teristics of Tobatsu Bishamon as evidenced by the written sources and his visual represenIJOtions. Tobatsu is depicted in the siilras and the legends at once as a generous giver of
wealth and long life, and as a fierce destroyer of enemies of both the Buddhist State and
the Buddhb< Law. In Kbotan be seems to have also been regarded as the tutelary divinity
of the loot( dynasty - a feature entirely in accordance wi th the Va isravaua of the Suoar
!Jilprabhasa Siilra. In art Tobarsu \V3S invariably depicted as a figure wearing armour held
up by the goJdess of the earth and crowned with a polygonal crown bearing a bird. His
nimbus was formed from two arcs arising at the shoulders. I n addition, some Tibetan
tc.-<ts mention that discs of the sun and moon were to be displayed beneath the god (").
All of these features seem at ftrSt a far cry from the p lacid representations of Vaisra
vaJ;taKu..,era in pre.Guptan Gandbiran art, v:bere the G uardian of the Nonb was generally
not even distinguished from the other three Lokaptilas. Fig. 26, a 3rd cent. A.D. relid
in the Gai collection, represents a significant departure from this norm ("'). Here Vaisra
\'SJ;ta is clearly differentiated from the othet three kings offering their beuing bowls to the
Buddha. Moreover, he bears a striking resemblance to a deity of prosperity and military
Yalor who was frequently depicted in Kushan art, sometimes alo ne and sometimes with his
consort. Fouchcr has idemified the couple as Paiicika and Hariti ( 8 ' ) , and it is to this
tutelary pair and a related duo associated with the Iranian deities Pharo and Ardox5o
that we must now turn, for it is here that the development of the Tobatsu Bishamon probably began.

Fig. 27, a relief from Shahiiki I;>herl, shows the seated P:iiicika and Hiriti ('). Ac
cording to the Buddhist texts, Paiicika was the senapati or general of the army of Vaisra\' 31)3, and Hiriti was originally a goddess of smallpox but later became a source of fenili
ty ( 83 ). In this relief, Pancik.:t sits resting his left foot on his lance, and Ha.r iti, holding a
purse in one band, is surrounded by children.
In 6g. 28, from Sahri Bablol (..), the male ""ears dte typical northern costume and
holds a staff and a purse. The female carries a cornucopia. The parallel between this male
deity and the VaiSra...-arp of fig. 26 is striking indeed; both share the same dtess and coif
fure. The attributes of this god, the stall wit h a round knob, the winged cap, and the purse
are found associated with a deity PharrojPharo on the coins of Ka~ka and his successors.
:Pharo is often represented there as an armed warrior wearing a helmet with a bird on it;

(,.) Uahor4jtt-Vciirav3na.sadbtu:t: Tar.lra,


(*") The r~lief is diSC1.1ssed by H. I NGHOL7.

Candhirm: Art in Pakirlan, Ne.. York, 19S7,
9 147.
(") Rosao1FrLD, Dyllaslic Arts..., cit., PI' 245 f.
( .. ) Ibid., pp. 147-148.

ud, LXXll, qcotcd by LI.LOU, op. cit., p. lOS.

( 10) J. M. RosL'<FlUD, The Dy11as1N: Am of
tbe Klnbat1.1, Betkele)~Los Angeles, 1967, fi&. 83.

op. dl., pp. 106 f.


his attributes include a purse, shield, lance, and bowl of fire (fig. 29) ("). He represents
!he I ranian farr or xvar;nah, the c kingly glory"( ..). This xuar,mab was regarded not only
a~ the embodiment of the p owers of kingship, but also as a tutelary diviniry of the reigning
monarch and !he legitimizing factor in his rule. In Iranian literary sources, i t is most com
monly represented as a bird. From !he Pahlavi Kamamak i Artaxier i PiJpakim, we learn
rhat when Ardav'in putsued ArdaSir he was warned that until the eagle flying above reachc:d
the flccing Ardaiir be might still be overtaken, but that once the eagle settled on Arda!ir
all would be lost, for the bird was none other than the embodiment of lhe majesty of the
Persian monarchs (' ). Elsewbcrc, in the same account, we hear !hat the xutJr;mab in the
ft'Oll of a red hawk saved the king from death at the hands of his wife (").
The goddess with the horn of plent}' appears on the coins of Kan~ka Ill and his sue
cessors. She is identified by inscription as Ardox5o or ASi Vailuhi, the Avestan goddess o

fortune (").
W/e have, then, two comparable representations; one purely I ndian, and the other more
specifically I ranian in both costume and content. The first relief requires further comment.
The ideological content o H:iriti as a goddess of fertilit}' and plenty is self-explanatory;
however, nowhcte in the tex<s is Paiicika mentioned as a giver of wealth. That he is here
so inte.oded is indicated not only by his preser.ce with Hariti, but also by other reliefs in
which he is depicted holding the money purse and stepping on a pot of gold (""). It appears
that this figure combines the military atuibutes of the uniJpali Pancika with the benevoitnce of his master, Ku~-era-VaiSraval)a, the god of we:Uth. This Pancika-KuveraVaisra
Va{la is e.xuemely close in conception to the god Pharo, who was likewise regarded as a
protector of wealth and a giver of armed strength.
1be acrual identification of Piiiicika and Hariti with Pharo and Ardox5o was first cstab.
lished by Bachhofcr in the article cited above {"). It is substantiated by such reliefs as that
illustrated in fig. 26 where KuveraVaisrav3l)a wears Pharo's wingc:d helmet .omd northern
dress, and by fig. 30, a 6th to 7th cent. A.D. Kashmiri relief in which !he Scythian-looking
Pharo-Kuvcra-VaiSrav:J sits upon a pot of plenty and ArdoxSo-Sri holds an object duu is
somewhere inbetween a lotus and a cornucopia ('2 ) .
Thus, it can be seen that an independent votive tradition was developing wi thin the
Kushan realm for the representation of a male deity of fertility and plenty. This god,
Pharo-PancikaKuvera-VaiSa-aval)a was sometimes depicted in Indian dress, in northern
couture, or in armour. It is dc:ar that we have here a possible prototype for the Tobatsu

(..) L. BACHROFElt, c PaiiciJr.a.fUr!ti und

Pbaro.Ardoxsho OZ, 1937, p. 8.
( ') A. STEJ!<, c Zoroamin Deities on Indo.
Scy:lmn Coins , l mli4n Anliqua11, XVII, April
1888, p. 94.
( "') The KJrr.amt: i ArtaJ:mhir i PJpo
k4n, ed. and u . D. P. SA.'1"~"' Bombty, 1896,

p. 11.

(") Ibid., p. 40.

(..) STEIN, op. dt., ? 97.
( ..) foUCHER, op. cit., pis. 365, 379.
c) See ~00\-e, note 8~ .
(:> ASIAR, 191}.14, -pt. .xxvnr, p. 54.


Bishamon-ten as a lokapiila dressed in the long Ceotl'al Asian armour, wearing a bird-crown,
and carrying a lance. 1be religious signilicance of this deity as a giver of wealth and fertility is in complete accord with the legends of Vaisraval)a and the statue of the divine
king related by Hsiian-tsang and with the descriptions of the purposes of the worship of
Tobatsu Bishamon in the Japanese and Chinese texts. It is our contention that the final
connection of the prototype Pharo-Paiicika-Kuvcra-Vni5rav81)A with the fully developed iconographical form of Tobatsu Bisbamon-ten can be explained by the Khotaoese legen.
dary material, which is unique in the lore of the Tobatsu Bishamon-ten, and by the first
element of this composite deity, Pharo or the kingly glory . As we shall show below,
much of the symbolism of Tobatsu Bishamon can be understood in terms of a cult of deified
In this connection, we shall first consider the rigid frontal pose and the overall triangular outline of the images of Tobatsu Bishamon. The Kushao statues of '1Can4ka provide
interesting parallds. The stiff stance, the A-shaped skirt with its decorati\e borders, the
distinctive leg gear and the position of the sword and details of the belt all resemble corresponding features in tbe Tobarsu illustl'ated above. These elements are shared by other
royal portraits, for example, the sculptures at Surv Ketal, and the portraits of the other
Kushan kings on their coins, and by the painting of Siirya over the vault of the niche of
the 120-feet Buddha at Biimiyan, where the regal type is incorporated into a new divine
One of the major iconographical features of T obltsu repeatedly noted above is his
resting on Prthivi. This is clearly an extension of a concept deeply rooted in Indian religious
symbolism. It is found in Gandhiiran Buddhist art in reliefs of the Mahiibhinqkramana
and the assault of Mara ("'). Depictions of the earth goddess wimessing the Enlightenment
of the Buddha also occur in later Indian Buddhist art and are frequent in Chinese cave sculpture, where Prthivi simila:rly holds up the feet of Maitreya (.. ).
The most striking parallels to Tobarsu on Prthivi belong, however, not to Buddhist
sculpture but to Hindu an and are found in representations of the god V~J;~u. Fig. 14 from
Taxila has a small bust of Pfthivi between his legs and is reminiscent of the Lung-hsing-ssu
and Rawak Tobatsu (figs. 12, 13) ("'). Fig. 31 from Nepal, and dated in the 6th or ith cent.
A.D., reproduces exactly the configuration of Pfthivi and the two )'llk!at which support
the Tobatsu Bishamon-ren in the Tun-huang, Chinese and Japanese images(..).
Coomaraswamy provides one possible explanation for the relationship of all these figures to the goddess of the earth: he notes that in the Satapatha BriihmlltJa the king is called



n. pi. 21s.

Bmlclhirt Art in lntliiZ,

.,d., 1965, pp. 98-101 ,




(.. ) ]. N. llM"UJEA, The D!dopmtnt of

Hintftl lcorsogrllpbJ, 2od e<l., C.lcutu, 19.56, pi.
XXI. The pbotognpb reprodue<:d ber~ is taken
from thls work..

figs. .50. 5 1.
(') Ctlra/ogue of Buddhist Sculpture in tbe
P"tM .Museum, Pat:~a, 19S7, fig. 11; 0. SmiN,
Chinese Sculp:uu from !be Fifth to rbe f ottTtrenth
Ct,IJ<Tie>, Loodon, 192.5, l, p!s. 138, 139, 145;

(..) The phOtograph is token from M. SL~GH.

HimtZI4y:zc Art, Loodon, 1968, p. 175.


Bbiipali, or husband of the earth (''). His coronation ceremony is therdorc interpreted

as a symbolic marriage of the sky:;::kiog with the earth:;::queen, whose presence at the rite
was thus deemed absolutely necessary.
This interpretation would also accord nicely with the section of the Suv11r1Japrabhiisa
Siilra which is often taken to be the source of the TobatsuPrthivi connection. In the
chapter of this text devoted to the earth goddess, she vows to protect the reciter of the
sutra, and concealing her form, to lift up his feet (" }. The intimate association of the
Suvan;raprobbiis11 Siitra with the roylll cult h!1S been repeatedly not.,d ab:we; the merits of

rhis text consist in making c kingly ,. the king who supports it by causing his realm to
prosper and his subjects to show him respect. The vow of Pflhivi merely extends the boun
ties of the Suvf11?taprabhiisa SuJra to all, by raising spirirually and materially anyone who
follows its tenets. The presence of Prthivi beneath VaiSraval}a can be understood as the
visual rcprcsenration of this ideal of the further exaltation of the god as faithful devotee
and protector of rhe Buddhist Law.

Many of the other iconographical elements of Tobatsu Bishamon can be expl3ined as

symbols of royalty. TI;:: sun and moon displayed on the chest of the god and mentioned in
the Tibetan texts are common signs of the divine Icing. The Roman emperors and the
Iranian monarchs were often featured with the celestial discs ("), and the reliquary of
Kani~ka shows the Kushan king flanked by personifications of the heavenly bodies.
The particular nimbus of Tohatsu, sometimes portrayed as Jlames rising from the
shoulders and sometimes as smooth arcs, is also a royal attribute. In regard to the former,
HsiiantSallg preserves a legend of Kani~ka, according to which the king subdued an evil
naga by releasing 6re from his shoulders ('.. ). Vima and Huvi~ka are also represented on
their coins with flames shooting from theu shoulders. It is otherwise possible to regard
rhe smooth arcs in some of the Tobatsu images as the crescents of the moon which were
so frequently depicted behind the shoulders of the Sasanian kings oo thcir silver vessels
{fig . 32) ('" }; howC\er, the more frequent representation of the nimbus as flames favors
the first suggestion.
The presence of the bird on the crown is ooe of the most important links between
Tobatsu and the old Kushan period prototype, who wore the wing.,! cap. It seems possible
to assert that the bird is a sign of Pbaro, the kingly glory, who in the Pablavi text cited
above most often rook that form. There is a Sogdian Manichacan text from Central Asia
which is of interest here, and which at the same time illuminates HsUantsaog's legend of
Kapisa. The te...:t tells of a universal monarch, Kysr (Caesar) who was threatened by a thief.

{") A.


("')H. R. L'OaANGE, Stuclit:1 on tbt [conQl.rapby

of Connk Kinvbip in tb~ Anci~t Wotld, Oslo,
J9j3, p. 36.
( "0 ) TaT'Qng
Hsi-yu<bi, cit. (see above,

.-Spiritual Authority


Tempor:~l Po,.er i:l Indian Theory of

Govcmmcnt , /llOS, 1942, pp. 11 ff.; $atapatbt:
Brtihmar.11 9.4.20, ciu:d io the abov<:.
(tl) KonkomyO.kyo, cit. (J above, p. 158 and
no:e 36), -p. 162.

note 27), 1, p. 42.

('"') L'ORA.'i<i, op. tit., p. 38.


The scoundrel attempted to disguise himself in the form of Phaio, the tutelary divinity of king ('"). Unforuma.tely, the tale is incomplete; however, association of the king,, and the thief has curious n:scmblana:s to the Kapi5a episode of the divine guardian
king, who bore a bird on his crown precisely to ward off pilferers ( ,..). The story is, more
over, an important indication of an awareness of the role of Pbaro as tutelary god of the
king in Central Asia of the 9th or lOth cent. A.D.

1be association of the winged diadem and royalty is auesred by representations of the
Sasanian monarchs in art and by Chinese literary sources which indiClte r.bat the kings of
Khotan wore birdoowns ('H). R. A. Stein ha; noted as well the similariry of the Tobatsu
diadem to that of the Central Asian worlc:konquerors, Pebar and Gesar ('0 ' ) . Gesar is the
hero of the Tibetan epic, and Pehar was the tutelary divinity of the Bha!a Hor or the
Uigburs. According to legend, be fled from Vai.Srav~ in the form of a bird but was shot
down by the King of the North and brought to Tibet ('"').
It is not possible to discuss the interconnection of the legends of Tobatsu Bisbamon
and these Central Asian chaiacters; all of this material has been brilliantly treated by Stein
in his work on the Tibetan epic. It strengthens our hypor.besis that the symbolism of Tobatsu Bishamon is intimatdy linked to that of the world.ronqucror or divine king.

In conclusion, there are two Japanese sources whit'h provide additional support for om
theory. The ftrst is a legend preserved in the K11ku:t:msh0<"">, a collection of iconogr<~phical
drawings made by Buddhist monk Kakuzen ( 1143-1213 A.D.). A story is 10ld of a
monk in search of a magical jewel in the east of India and of the woman he encounters.
She tdls him of a wonderful bird that is capable of leading him to the ueasure. The
woman turns out to be AvalokiteSI.'lU11, and tht: bird is Vaisravar,ta (""). The signili=
of this legend is twofold; it associates Vaisrava!).ll with knowledge of hidden treasure, the
exclusive right of the cakTI:Wilrlin, and, in its mention of the god assuming the form of a
bird, it preserves memory of the of the Indian deity of wealth and valor
\\ith the Iranian emblem of kingly power.

1De second work is a now lost siilr11, the Daiban.Onyoi-tobatsu-zo-o-kyo<"''. It is quoted

in the Asabasho<09> of the Tendai monk Shochot> done between the years 12511266 AD.,
the Kyiiinbukkakusho, and the Zuzjj.shr.<~> of Konen<"'' (1120-1203 AD.). It states that
Tobatsu is a manifestation of the king Nyoi-zii.o, whose realm was in the north of India by
the sands of the Ganges ( 001 ). The text thus preserves some traces o the Indian origins of
this deity, and his profound connections with the lore of kings.

R. A. SmN, Mi-iillg et Si.lfu,

Grogxo.pbie H;s:o::ique rr l.Cg<ndc:s Anccsrralcs ,.,
BEFEO, XLIV, 1951, p. 151.
(' .. ) Kahn.tnJhO, T aishO Zta.O, 5, p. 534.
(J Tauho Zuzo, <;;, pp. 418c-419:t.

("'') STEIN, op. cit., .p. 280.

(,.) Ibid., p. 289.
( "") J..D.ytmg-bi~./an-chi, dted by MATSUMOTO,
op. cit., p. 437. For the Ss.anian works ee
Gmltsw.~&-.:, op. ci1., pis. 23.5, 242, 252.

( 1. .)

(,..) SnL-.:, op. cit., P? 344-}46_


7. Summt11y

In summary, it has been shown that much of tbe iconogr:~phy of Tobatsu Bishamon
can be explained in tcrms of royal symbols, and it has funhcr been indicated that at least
in Khotan the god actuaUy seems to have been regarded as the source of the state's monarchs and the power behind their rule. We have sought to connect this uniquely Khotanese
VaiS!'avaJ;Ja v:ith the Iranian XVIIT~nllb or Pharo, the embodiment of the kingly glory,.
which merged with the Indian god of wealth P:iiicika-Kuvera-VsiSravs.l)a sometime in the
Kushan period.. This new composite deity seems to have enjoyed gteat favor within the
Kushan realm as a god of wealth and fertility; however, there is no definite evidence that
h~ was there as.;ociated with a cult of divinized royalty. The importance of Vai.Srav3.1)3. in
Khotan, his connection with their kings, the Central Asian dress of the Tobatsu Bishamon
ten and the very meaning of the name c Tobatsu suggest indeed that Khotan may have
been the place of origin of the fully <beloped iconographical form of Tobatsu Bishamon.
FmaUy, we have seen the completion ol the maturation of the Tobatsu Bishamonten
in his reversion to his original character as a guardian of wealth and fertility, mingled with
a wide variety of folk deities in Otina and japan. Traces of his conception as the syn
thesis of the l ranian XIJ(IT;JntZb and the Indian P:iiicika-Kuvera-VaiSrav~ are preserved,
however, in the lore of the An-hsi Tobatsu and the legends of the Kakrnen-sho and the




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