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Asian art

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Guardian figure



Unknown Artist


This commanding gilt bronze figure is Wei To, a military Bodhisattva who protects the Buddhist religion and whose image is usually placed in the first hall of a Buddhist monastery. Dressed as a Chinese warrior in the elaborate armour worn by military heroes, and originally holding a sceptre-shaped assault weapon (now missing), this figure reportedly came from the Palace of Ten Thousand Years outside Beijing. The lion's headcap emphasises the uncontrollable ferocity of Wei To. The lion is not native to China, but appears in Buddhism as the defender of law and protector of sacred buildings. The Tang dynasty (618-906) is usually credited as the golden age of Chinese Buddhist sculpture because of the decline of Buddhism after the great persecution of 845 and the accompanying destruction of many images. However, Buddhist figures continued to be made, and Ming figures are distinguished by the technical skill of their casting in which every detail is sharp and vigorous.

'Asian Art', AGNSW Collections, 1994, pg. 204.


Other Title

Guardian figure of Wei To

Place where the work was made




Media category


Materials used

bronze coated with gold


140.0 x 60.5 x 50.0 cm

Signature & date

Not signed. Not dated.


Gift of Captain Francis Hixson 1905


Not on display

Accession number



Where the work was made

Referenced in 6 publications


Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of New South Wales picturebook, Sydney, 1972, 137 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies, AGNSW Collections, 'Asian Art - India, South-East Asia, China, Tibet, Korea, Japan', pg. 173-228, Sydney, 1994, 204 (colour illus.).

Jackie Menzies (Editor), The Asian Collections Art Gallery of New South Wales, China 'Buddhist Art', Sydney, 2003, 99 (colour illus.).

Jill Sykes, Look, 'Setting music in context', pg. 16-17, Sydney, Feb 2006, 16 (colour illus.).

W.G.P.Liu, Art Gallery of New South Wales Quarterly, 'A Chinese temple guardian', pg. 7-8, Sydney, Oct 1959, 7, 8 (illus.).

LIU Yang, Orientations, 'The Discovery of Mass: A Footnote to the Stylistic and Iconographic Innovation in Chinese Buddhist Sculpture', pg. 88-95, Hong Kong, Sep 2000, 95 (colour illus.). fig.7