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  • Active: 1189-1223
  • Japanese: 快慶 (Kaikei)

Kaikei was a busshi (sculptor of Buddhist sculpture) of the Kei school; along with his contemporary Unkei, he is credited with creating many of the most famous and treasured Buddhist sculptures of Nara and Kyoto.

A 56-inch tall statue of Miroku in gilded wood, dated to late 1189 and in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston since 1920, has long been considered the oldest known extant work by the sculptor.[1] In late 2013, scholars announced that they now suspect a stone carving at Jishô-in in Nara prefecture, dated to early 1189, to also be a work of Kaikei's; if this identification is correct, it would make this work in Nara the oldest extant known work by the artist, supplanting that held by the MFA.[2]

Kaikei's other most famous works include:

  • The pair of Niô guardian statues in the Nandaimon of Tôdai-ji, constructed in collaboration with Unkei and with the aid of 18 other Kei school sculptors & assistants. Completed over the course of only 72 days in 1203, from multiple blocks (yosegi-zukuri), they are the tallest freestanding wooden sculptures in Japan.[3]
  • A wooden sculpture of Hachiman in the guise of a Buddhist monk, also held at Tôdai-ji. This seated sculpture, in particularly realistic style and usually good condition with its painting intact, is 34 1/2 inches tall, and dates to 1201.[4]


  1. "Miroku, the Bodhisattva of the Future," Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
  2. Matsuyama Naoki, "Researchers confirm work by Kamakura Period sculptor Kaikei; could be oldest," Asahi Shimbun, 2 Sept 2013.
  3. Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art. Second Edition. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2005. pp187-188.
  4. Mason. pp191-192.