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Sculptures > Brass > Tribal > Samurai
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Brass Statue

7.0" X 5.5" X 4.0"
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This statue is that of a Samurai, the warrior class and self-sacrificing knights of Japan. In Japanese history the Samurai have played a variety of roles-commanders in the battlefield, assassins in the night, keepers of peace and that of aristocratic administrators.

Here the Samurai is shown kneeling on his knees. This posture is known as Sonkyo-zo in Japanese. Both of his hands rest on his thighs. He is wearing a kami-shimo consisting of an undershirt, a jacket, sash and trousers.His hair is tightly drawn back into the obligatory queue. The outer garment is incised with various motifs.

As a military elite, the Samurai started off as tribal warriors. They slowly grew to dominate the civil bureaucracy the emperors maintained. Actually the Samurai had settled in the provinces and had developed sound bases of power through agricultural management. Deriving strength from the ties they had formed with the lower strata of society, they eventually toppled the ruling class and established a new feudal society. The medieval age of Japan which begins at this point, spanned about four centuries, including both the Kamakura and Muromachi periods, the former of which lasted approximately a century and half from the forming of the Kamakura shogunate at the end of the twelfth century until its collapse in 1333 A.D.

In the Heian period, the Samurai had to at least nominally appear subordinate to the nobility. Furthermore, warrior leaders had to be of noble descent from either the Taira or the Minamoto families. In the provinces however, this nominal state of affairs was being rapidly eroded by the shifting of actual power to the warriors themselves. It was the period of civil wars of the Hogen (1156 A.D.), Heiji eras (1159 A.D.), which first opened the way for the Samurai to penetrate the Central government.

The Samurai ruled over Japan for nearly seven hundred years, and fought both for control of the country and to keep Japan free from foreign influence. From its inception in the Heian period through to the bloody Onin wars, the history of the Samurai is a history of political and military struggle. In the 16th century Nobunaga and Hideyoshi attempted to unite bands of Samurai and reunify Japan. Then, after the battle of Sekigahara, peace was established and the Samurai slipped into an administrative role. But the later progressive Meiji Restoration movement effectively put an end to the Samurai class. The history of the Samurai, however, remains an integral part of the history of Japan.

This description by Dr. Shailendra Kumar Verma, Ph.D. His doctorate thesis being on the "Emergence and Evolution of the Buddha Image (from its inception to 8th century A.D).


Callahan, C. Tales of Samurai Heroism and Buke Giri Monogatari, Monumenta Nipponica, 1979.

Goedertier, J.A. A Dictionary of Japanese History: New York, 1968.

Hall, J.W. Japan from Prehistory to Modern Times: London, 1970.

Mass, J.P. Warrior Government in Early Medieval Japan: Yale University, 1974.

Moore, R.A. 'Adoption and Samurai,' Mobility in Tokugawa Japan: Journal of Asian Studies, vol.29, 1970.

Turnbull, S.R. The Samurai, A Military History: London, 1977.

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