Photo source: Todai-ji temple

Shukongo Shin

Todai-ji, Nara, Japan

Shukongo Shin (also spelled as Shikkongo Jin, Skt. Vajrapani), is Vajradhara, the "Thunderbolt Bearer," a form of Indra. He wields a thunderbolt (Japanese kongo, Sanskrit vajra) in his right hand, a weapon against the enemies of Buddhism. In Japan, Shukkongo Shin is related to the paired Nio (Kongo Rikishi) that guard temple gates. Statues of Shukongo Shin in his single form, such as here, are comparatively rare.

The statue is made of painted clay. It is about 5 1/2 feet tall, and dates to 733. In the past, it was treated as a "secret image" (hibutsu) to be shown only on special occasions. It is currently (2001) on view in the Sangatsu-do (Hokke-do) of Todaiji.

The original statue was brightly colored, as seen here on the right from a 2013 digital color restoration. The difference between its current (l.) and its original (r.) appearance is revolutionary; it is like the difference between the vibrant original colors of Greek marbles and their modern, uncolored, state.