Enku, Figure of Zenzai Doji (Sudhana) Enlarge 1 /6
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On display on Level 1


Japan 1632 – 1695

Figure of Zenzai Doji (Sudhana) late 17th century Place made: Japan
Materials & Technique: sculptures, wood, ink

Primary Insc: An inscription on the back of the sculpture identifies it as Zenzai Doji.
Dimensions: 54.0 h x 15.7 w x 12.0 d cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased 1977
Accession No: NGA 77.111
  • The supplied chain of ownership for this object is being reviewed and further research is underway. The provenance information listed has been substantiated by documentation. Details may be refined and updated as research progresses. (added 2016)
  • recorded at a Kumano shrine, Nyukawa, Gifu, Japan, around 1974 (details to be confirmed)
  • with art dealership Barling of Mount Street Ltd., London, 1977 or before
  • which sold it to the Australian National Gallery, Canberra, 1977

Enku entered a Buddhist monastery as a youth, but during much of his life appears to have followed an ancient tradition of ascetic practice in the mountains. Such men were believed to have developed supernatural power and were often sought out to heal or to avert crises. His religious practice involved creating works of art and he is best known for thousands of sculptures, carved mainly with an axe, which he made as offerings, gifts or charms. Most of his sculptures are still located in Japanese villages and shrines. An inscription on the back of this sculpture identifies it as Zenzai Doji, a youth who travelled the Buddhist world from one teacher to another seeking wisdom.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2011
From: Asian gallery extended display label