One of the Four Guardian Kings, mighty protectors of the Buddhist law. Clad in armor, they stand at the four corners of a Buddhist altar, protecting the principal image. Each represents one of the four cardinal directions.
The forceful face, scowling Jikokuten or Zochoten, stamping on a hapless, squirming demon, is the guardian of the east or south. His right hip thrusts to the side to suggest the possibility of forceful movement. He holds his weapon in his raised right hand. The swirling drapery of his sleeves and the thick train hanging down behind are deeply undercut in the bold fashion of Heian style. His exotic Chinese armor is carved with elaborate detail. A distinctive feature is the animal-mask buckle, sinking its teeth into the rolled sash at the waist.
The aggressive stance and grimacing demeanor are standard for these guardians, whose mission is to ward off evil.
For a similar work in the collection of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, see The Art of Japan - Masterpieces in the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco (San Francisco: Asian Art Museum, 1991), p. 31.