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Shōtoku Taishi at Age Two

Shōtoku Taishi (574–622) was prince regent when a nation-state was being forged from Japan’s semi-autonomous regions and Buddhism was adopted as the state religion. He is credited as a man of supreme gifts: a preeminent statesman, Buddhist scholar, and advocate of Chinese statecraft and learning. According to legend, at the age of two the preternaturally precocious Shōtoku turned to the east and began to chant the prayer Namu Butsu, or “take refuge in the Buddha.” Sculptures depicting Shōtoku’s youthful recitation were popular in Japan during the Kamakura period (1185–1336). The Eskenazi Museum of Art’s figure, one of only a few in Western collections, is an early and particularly fine example of the type.

Shōtoku Taishi at Age Two
Late 13th–early 14th century
Wood with pigments and lacquer
H. 27 ½ x 10 7/8 in. (69.8 x 27.6 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, William Lowe Bryan Memorial Fund, 59.26