A white marble lower torso of a lokapala, or guardian, carved in the round. As well as a helmet and shin guards, the figure would have worn leather body armour, consisting of a cuirass, or breastplate, a stomach plate and hip protector secured by a girdle all worn over a tunic. The figure here shows the stomach plate and hip protector, the pleats of the girdle clearly visible, the tunic gathered to the the front of the body and tucked over a belt around the waist. There is a looped cord that hangs down his right hand side which appears from under the pleats of the girdle. The back of the figure shows a continuation of the pleats and the looped cord continues up his back disappearing underneath the armour. He stands with the typical hip thrusting stance of the lokapala, trying to appear as menacing and threatening as possible.
Tang dynasty, 618-907
height 69 cm / 27 ¼ in
‘Lokapala’ literally means ‘world’ (loka) and ‘guardian’ (pala), referring to a distinct set of guardians that originally protected the four cardinal points of the universe depicted in pre Buddhist times. Once adapted into Buddhism, these guardians came to protect the four entrances to temples, altars etc and were involved in important events of Buddha’s life from birth to death. During the Tang period, it became standard in Tang caves that just a pair of lokapalas would flank the Buddhist group of Buddha, two Bodhisattvas and two monks. Lokapalas would typically be represented in full armour, as our example here and many would be depicted standing on demons underfoot.
For another example of a lokapala with similar stance and armour see ‘China 5000 Years: Innovation and Transformation in the Arts’, Guggenheim Museum, selected by Sherman Lee, number 167
Nicholas Grindley, March 2003 / 2