Healing Buddha with Lotus

c. 1150
Wood, Japanese cypress (Hinoki)
48 3/4 × 16 × 16 in. (123.83 × 40.64 × 40.64 cm) Buddha: 39 1/2 × 12 × 11 in. (100.33 × 30.48 × 27.94 cm) Lotus: 4 × 14 × 14 in. (10.16 × 35.56 × 35.56 cm) Base: 7 1/2 × 16 × 16 in. (19.05 × 40.64 × 40.64 cm)
Arts of Asia
Arts of Asia - Japan, Level 3
Dallas Museum of Art, gift of The Eugene McDermott Foundation
Image courtesy Dallas Museum of Art

General Description

This stately image of the Buddha, Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru in Sanskrit), who is identified by the small medicine jar he holds in his left hand, projects a sense of calm reserve and gentle approachability. In Japan, the worship of Yakushi began to flourish as early as the 7th century. However, it was during the Heian period, when the promise of comfort and healing represented by this deity was linked with folk religions, that the production of images thrived.

This sculpture was originally painted, and possibly gilded, but the surface has worn away, exposing the beautiful bare wood. Certain of the sculpture's features, the carved eyes, the rounded shoulders and the pattern of folds of the garment, are reminiscent of styles that were dominant in sculptures made early in the Heian period. For example, the way the robe is gathered in a cluster over the stomach and falls in folds between the legs, leaving a smooth expanse of cloth covering the broad thighs, is a distinctive feature of sculptures made during the Jogan era in the 9th century. However, unlike the massive body forms and deep carving of folds characteristic of 9th century sculptures, in this work the body is rather narrow and flat, and the depth of the folds in the garment is quite shallow, features that are typical of works made at the end of the Heian period.

9th century Buddhist sculptures were usually made of blocks of solid wood, but the sculptures were heavy, the works were largely limited to the size of the trunk, and the work often split as the trunk dried. In the 11th century, Japanese sculptors developed a technique of forming sculptures by joining blocks of wood called "yosegi zukuri" that are carved on the surface but hollowed out underneath. The resulting sculpture is thus a wood shell 1-2 inches thick, but the technique allows for greater preservation, lightness, and flexibility of form. That this Yakushi Buddha is made in the joined block technique is further evidence that it dates to the Heian period.

Excerpt from

  • DMA unpublished material, n.d.