skip to Main Content

AGE: – Possibly Yuan
CONSTRUCTION: – Wood
DESCRIPTION: – Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala | Warrior Guardians

HEIGHT: – Vary between 50cm and 50cm
WIDTH:– Vary between 35cm and 33cm
WEIGHT: – 11.7kg.
FOR PRICE PLEASE CONTACT – include item number below
#65

Rare set four Wooden Chinese Heavenly Guardian LokapalaThese rare Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala | Warrior Guardians, also referred to as heavenly guardians, heavenly Kings, or protectors of the four directions bear a striking similarity to the terracotta guardian statues outside the entrance to the “Hall of the Devas” at the famous Shuanglin Temple, in Qiaotou Village, South of the ancient city of Pingyao in Shanxi Province in China.

The terracotta guardian worriers in Shuanglin Temple are assumed to date to the Yuan Dynasty, although some online articles refer to them as Tang, apart from their facial expressions their resemblance to many of the Tang and Ming Dynasty Guardians is minimal. Most Tang and Ming warrior guardians are seen wearing full armour, with boots and ornate head adornments.

We are making the assumption that as these smaller wooden statues are so similar to those at Shuanglin Temple and that we have seen no others in this style in China, that it is possible they originated within the vicinity of this temple.

Set of Four Wooden Yuan Dynasty Lokapala

Yuan Dynasty Lokapala 1
Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala | Warrior Guardians
Right Side View Chinese Heavenly Worriers
Side View Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala | Warrior Guardians
Left Side View
Back View Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala | Warrior Guardians
Upper Body View Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala | Warrior Guardians
Base View Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala | Warrior Guardians
Right Front Side View Chinese Lokapala
Number 2 - Chinese Wooden Heavenly Guardians Yuan Dynasty Lokapala
Front View Chinese Wooden Yuan Style Heavenly Guardians
Side View Chinese Yuan Wooden Heavenly Guardian Warriors
Left Side View Yuan Style Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala | Warrior Guardians
Right Side View Wooden Chinese Lokapala
Right Front Side View Chinese Lokapala
Back View Chinese Yuan Dynasty Wooden Lokapala Heavenly Guardians
Back View Chinese Heavenly Protectors
Upper Body View Chinese Yuan Style Wooden Guardians
Close Up View Base Wooden Lokapala
Base View Wooden Chinese Lokapala
Number 3 - Yuan Dynasty Wooden Heavenly Guardian Lokapala
Lokapala 3 - Side View Wooden Heavenly Guardians
Lokapala 3 - Right Side Front View Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala
Left Side Back View
Front View Chinese Wooden Yuan Dynasty Heavenly Guardian Lokapala
Upper Body View Yuan Style Wooden Heavenly Guardian
Back View Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala
Back View Chinese Yuan Dynasty
Close View Base Lokapala
Base View Chinese Lokapala
Lokapala 4 - Chinese Yuan Dynasty Wooden Lokapala Heavenly Guardians
Lokapala 4 - Chinese Wooden Yuan Style Guardians
Front Right Side View Yuan Dynasty Lokapala Heavenly Guardians
Back View Lokapala 4 - Yuan Dynasty Wooden Heavenly Guardians
Lokapala 4 -Upper Body View Chinese Wooden Yuan Dynasty Lokapala
Base View Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala Heavenly Guardians

The Lokapala at Shuanglin Temple are 3 metres tall, made from terracotta, eyes embedded with glazed beads, giving them a particularly ferocious expression, whereas these statues almost identical in appearance, with similar facial expressions, dress style, head adornments, arm gestures, bare feet and large oval shaped urna in the centre of the forehead are wooden and made on a much smaller scale.

Remnants of poly chrome colour still remain; the feet which are removable appear to have been replaced at some point in time, although not recently, the ribbon hanging over the arm is broken in two of the statues, the headdress on Lokapala four has a piece missing, the right hand on Lokapala one and headdress appear to have been replaced, more than likely at the same time as the feet as they appear to be similar wood.

We thought these guardian warriors were worthy of professional restoration to prevent further degradation which has enhanced some of the colours that weren’t evident before restoration. Square shaped holes on the base would indicate that they were held by metal or wooden pins that secured the statue to the altar they once stood on. These pieces could also have been saved from a fire event as the base shows some blackened spots.

We have also observed that all of these four wooden guardians have a rounded ball in one hand, corresponding to those seen in Shuanglin Temple with a long scepter attached to the ball, indicating to us that the scepters these wooden statues once held have been damaged and that the ball shape seen in the palm of the hands has been smoothed, (see picture of the ball shape on top of the vajra style sceptre in the palm of the Shuanglin statues in link below).

Chinese Lokapalas | Protectors North, East, South, West Directions

Although there are no recorded historical documents relating to the exact age of Shuanglin temple, an inscription on the oldest stone stele at the temple referred to as the “Aunts Tablet” was erected during the Song Dynasty in 1011, in the fourth year of Zhongda Xiangfu. The writings on the stele mention that the temple was rebuilt and renovated in the second year of Wuping in 571 AD, during the Northern Qi Dynasty, thus, indicating that the temple was older than this, possibly existing during the Northern Wei Dynasty between 386-534 AD when it was known as Zhongdu temple.

The renaming of Shuanglin Temple from its original name Zhongdu to Shuanglin Temple is said to commemorate Shakyamuni’s entry into nirvana between the two Sala trees. The temple was again rebuilt and renovated during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Most of the 2,052 statues within the temple are dated to the Ming, Qing and Yuan Dynasty.

Lokapala Warrior Guardian
Chinese Yuan Dynasty Lokapala | Warrior Guardians
Part Of Scepter In Palm Of Hand
Shuanglin Temple Lokapalas

THE FOUR LOKAPALA – WARRIOR GUARDIANS

Lokapala or Guardian protectors of the earths directions were the first Indian gods accepted by the Buddhists four main schools of Buddhism, Mahayana, Vajrayana (esoteric and Tantric Buddhism), Theravada and Zen. Each with their own particular adaptation of the Lokapala Warrior Guardians.

In the Buddhist tradition these four Lokapala’s are referred to as Vaisravana, guardian of the North, Dhritarastra, guardian of the East, Virudhaka, guardian of the South and Virapaksa, guardian of the West direction.

In Nancy S. Steinhardt’s wonderful dissertation on these deities, she mentions two distinctive styles of iconography depicting the Lokapala’s or four guardians, those that have a King like appearance found in India, and those with a warrior like appearance commonly seen in East and Central Asian countries such as China, Korea, Japan and Tibet.

Yuan Dynasty

During the Yuan dynasty Kublai Khan established his Mongol Empire in China (1215-1368), becoming the first emperor of the Yuan Dynasty to embrace Buddhism over Taoism.

Khan Möngke the eldest brother of Kublia Khan was the fifth Khan of the Mongol Empire reigning from 1260-1294 AD. During Mongke’s reign he repeatedly demanded of his brother Kublai to quell the Taoists denigration of Buddhist temples and ordered him to end the clerical strife between the Taoists and Buddhists in his territory. Kublai called a conference of Daoist and Buddhist leaders in early 1258, at the conference, the Taoist claiming to be the main belief system was officially refuted, whereupon Kublai forcibly converted 237 Taoist temples to Buddhism and destroyed all copies of the Taoist texts.

HOW DID THESE CHINESE LOKAPALA ARRIVE IN LUANG PRABANG???

We acquired this set of Lokapala in Louang Prabang many years ago, we have assumed that they are of Chinese origin and they have intrigued us and sparked our curiosity regards their existence in this small Northern Lao town.

Were they made there or brought there from China?

OUR THEORIES (our assumptions and theories, which are just that)

It is possible that during the cultural revolution when young Red Guards invaded homes and shattered family altars that showed a strong Confucius following, these Lokapala were saved and taken from Shuanglin Temple by a local person whilst fleeing persecution, ending up in Luang Prabang.

During the Cultural revolution temples, mosques and churches that were used for religious gatherings were closed and put to secular use, Shuanglin temple did not escape this fate. Many cultural artifacts, libraries, cemeteries and artworks during this period were destroyed, some saved by local villagers.

Even those temples that had been left open for sightseeing purposes, such as the great Buddhist Lama and Taoist temples of Peking, were barred from worship and their statues, altars and other furnishings were removed.

OR

  • That they were booty and brought there when a massive number of troops from the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), set up a vast road construction project in northern Laos.

OR

  • Saved by a local person after or during a fire event at the temple and later migrated to Laos, settling in Luang Prabang long before the cultural revolution. Luang Prabang has a long history of Chinese immigration dating back many centuries.

OR

  • That they are close copies of the four lokapala at Shuanglin Temple made during the Ming Dynasty, although the resemblance to those guardians or lokapala crafted during the Ming and Qing dynasty is minimal. Most Ming Lokapala guardians are seen wearing full armour, with boots and ornate head adornments.

We also find it strange that in this age of information, there is very little data accessible on these three metre tall Lokapala Terracotta guardians outside the Deva Hall at Shuanglin temple, other than sketchy information, some saying that they are Tang and others say Yuan dynasty, could they have been made between these two periods, or during the Mongol occupation and the beginnings of the Yuan Dynasty? We also wonder why we have been unable to find other Chinese guardians in this particular style from China.

Today the large Lokapala Guardians at Shuanglin temple stand fully enclosed behind bars, and although impressive, barely get a mention with respect to their history.

Rare set four Wooden Chinese Heavenly Guardian Lokapala
Back To Top