Unkei

Wood Sculpture of Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana) KAMAKURA PERIOD (1190S), ATTRIBUTED TO UNKEI (D. 1223)

A Highly Important Wood Sculpture of Dainichi Nyorai (Mahavairocana)
Kamakura period (1190s), attributed to Unkei (d. 1223)
Carved and assembled from cypress wood in warihagi zukuri technique and modeled as Dainichi Nyorai seated in the lotus position with the hands held in the “knowledge fist” gesture, the hair arranged in a tall standing top knot and adorned with a crown; applied with gold lacquer and pigment; the interior of the body containing three dedicatory objects: a wood placard with five-stage pagoda-shaped finial, crystal ball supported by a bronze lotus stand, and a crystal five-stage pagoda. Details via:  christies.com  Photo: tibetchildren

  • Gin:Delivery Carpentry? Never heard of it. Get out.
  • Unkei:How dare you say that!
  • Kaikei:We come from planets far away form here, you know!
  • Shinpachi:Did Sakamoto-san hire you guys?
  • Unkei" Yep! You ask it, we'll build it! I'm Unkei! And that's...
  • Kaikei:Kaikei! We're the delivery carpentry service!
  • Gin:Can I ask for an exchange?

This float is based on the Noh drama “Ashikari” (the Reed cutter). An old man, separated from his wife, is cutting reeds by an inlet in Naniwa (now Osaka). The story expresses the harmony between husband and wife as they are eventually reunited. The original head on the doll was created by the sculptor Ko-un in 1537, whose work follows traditions established by Unkei, a famous Buddhist sculptor. The clothing worn by the doll is inscribed with the year 1589 and is listed as an important cultural property. It is also the oldest of all costumes used on festival floats. Many others priceless textile works still survive with the Ashikari-yama float.