Buddhism reached most countries via trade, diplomatic or religious missions and Japan was no different. In the 6th century, the ruler of Paekche sent sacred texts and images to Emporer Kinmei as part of a diplomatic mission and this material played a central role in the propagation of Buddhism in Japan. The religion was embraced but as it was in other countries, adapted to reflect the local culture.

A Japanese carved wood figure of an Arhat, early Edo Period, 17th-18th century.

This collection features a fine selection of Japanese sculpture including a carved wood figure of Arhat, which in Sanskrit means ‘one who is worthy’, one who has achieved Enlightenment. This elderly rakan, seated in meditation, has long flowing robes neatly tied at the front, the right hand in Semui-in mudra and the wrinkled face locked in concentration.

Also featured within this section is a polychrome wood figure of Ananda, a first cousin of Guatama Buddha and one of his ten disciples, and another of Bishamonten, one of the four heavenly kings, a god of war or warriors and a punisher of those who do evil.