Stone Dosojin comprising two human figures standing side by side in a semi-embrace, the figure on the left holding a flask in the shape of a hyotan (a gourd symbolizing good fortune) and the figure on the right holding a shallow drinking bowl, sculpted in relief from a liver-hued igneous stone, probably andesite. Clearly dated to the 10th year of the Horeki Era (1760), mid-Edo Period. Very minor old loss. Traces of polychrome.
Height: 64.5 cm
Width: 39 cm
Depth: 25.5 cm.
Dosojin is the Japanese Shinto manifestation of an originally Chinese Taoist deity believed to guard the border between this world and hell. Charged with obstructing the passage of evil spirits and gods of disease into human communities, Dosojin stones were traditionally placed on roadsides and mountain passes as well as at crossroads and village boundaries.
Early Dosojin examples typically feature either two Jizo Bosatsu figures--Dosojin's honjibutsu, or Buddhist counterpart, being Jizo Bosatsu--or, less often, two Amida Buddha figures standing or seated side by side. By the mid-Edo Period ca. 1725, Dosojin is most commonly depicted in the form of two figures, traditionally construed as a male/female couple, standing or seated side by side and typically displaying some form of physical affection. The piece on offer herein is a perfectly representative example of this more recent Dosojin style.
Talismanic as opposed to memorial in function, Dosojin stones have long been highly sought-out by collectors in Japan and as a result no longer become available in the open market in Japan. The present piece, originally located in Gunma Prefecture, was sourced from an outstanding private collection in Tokyo.