Figure of Yanluo, King of Hell - ROM2005_1592_22


Figure of Yanluo, King of Hell

Medium:Moulded earthenware with glaze
Geography: Reportedly from Changzhi, Shanxi province, China
Date: 1523 AD
Period: Ming Dynasty, Jiajing Period
83.5 x 78 cm
Object number: 923.6.3
Credit Line: The George Crofts Collection
On view
Gallery Location:Gallery of Chinese Architecture
DescriptionA concept of hell somewhat like the Catholic purgatory existed in India, and is thought to have come to China with Buddhist missionaries and traders beginning in Eastern Han times. Based on the late Tang Sutra of the Ten Kings, a Daoist hell cult was codified in the ninth and tenth centuries AD. Later developments represented a fusion of Buddhist and Daoist beliefs, as did the sect of Chan (Zen) Buddhism, though on a considerably higher plane. Hell was taken up in religion and art of both Buddhists, who conceived of eighteen hells, and Daoists, who had ten. The rulers of the hells were the generals of Yama, or Yanluo Wang in Chinese, a reincarnation of a king of ancient Vaishali in India. Yama commanded an army of demons, often animal-headed, and his realm is represented in painted and sculpted scenes from the legendary work of the great eighth-century Tang painter Wu Daozi to the Tiger Balm Gardens of present day Hong Kong. Visual depictions of hell were generally more for instruction than for the delight of the literati. Some Chinese paintings of demons, Japanese painted hell scrolls, and sculptures like this Yanluo Wang do achieve the status of art, however, so vivid is their depiction of the intricacies and eccentrics of damnation. This figure's muscular arms and legs form a powerful diagonal. With square face, no neck, bony and hard-nippled chest, and clenched fists, Yanluo Wang is the essence of wrath. His hair rises with anger and his face drips green sweat.
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