In Japan, anthropomorphic representations of indigenous Shinto_ gods were unknown before the adoption of Buddhism in the sixth century. Such gods were worshiped at sites associated with their presence: certain mountains, waterfalls, and unusually large rocks. Following the advent of Buddhism with its complex pantheon, Shinto_ists also began to make images. While sculptors fashioned Buddhist images in accordance with Indian and Chinese prototypes, they created Shinto_ images to resemble Japanese aristocrats.
This sculpture is a rare representation of the Shinto_ god Uho_-do_ji, or the "divine rainmaking boy." Uho_-do_ji is also a youthful manifestation of the Shinto_ sun goddess Amterasu-o_mikami. Demonstrating the fusion of Shinto_ and Buddhist beliefs in Japan, he holds a magic orb in his left hand, leans on a jeweled staff, and balances a "treasure tower of wisdom" on his head--all ritual implements associated with Buddhist worship.