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August 15, 2010

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Lokapala warrior who tramples on ghosts

LOKAPALA, or heavenly guardian, is a common image in Chinese Buddhist sculpture.

According to legend, Lokapala is the guardian of four directions, east, west, north and south, and is often depicted as large and fierce warrior statue at the entrance to temple complexes. These statues are usually painted in vivid colors, wear armor and display ferocious expressions. Lokapala is usually placed on a base representing Mt Meru, a sacred mountain at the center of the universe in Hinduism. From that vantage point they listen and watch for evil spirits throughout the world they protect.

They provide a somber and dramatic atmosphere for pilgrims worshipping Buddha.

The art of creating Lokapala statues reached its peak in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). The images of Lokapala can be classified into three types: a single Lokapala, Lokapala trampling one ghost, and Lokapala trampling two ghosts.

The Shanghai Museum exhibits a stone statue of a formidable Lokapala trampling two ghosts made in the Tang Dynasty.

The powerful pot-bellied guardian wears a helmet and suit of elaborate patterned armor. His face is square, his deepset eyes are glaring. His build is brawny and formidable.

His awesome presence commands respect, and he sits on a base of two groveling and struggling ghosts.

The Lokapala represents power over evil. This statue is an outstanding piece of Chinese Buddhist art and a vivid representation of the valor of Tang Dynasty warriors.


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