Antique Japanese Miniature Carved Wood Gilt Lacquer Zushi Shrine w Buddha 1800s
Antique Japanese Monk in Portable Shrine with Buddha, Measures 9 by 4.5" wide. Buddhism found its way to Japan in the sixth century. Many Buddhist temples were established, and the issue of who controlled them became crucial. Medieval Japanese rulers saw Buddhism as a imported religion, while the Buddhist monks who established and lived in the temple believed they were in control. It was an important issue because the temples were often the center of culture and commerce. The Sohei, aka Monk Soldiers or Warrior Monks were monks who donned armor and weapons to protect the temples, and they often fought in inter temple rivalries. They became a powerful class in the the modern period of Japan, after 1600, and were also called Temple Samurai. Sohei Matsuri is the Buddhist Warrior Monks' festival in Japan; it takes place the first weekend in October. Some sources argue that many of the Monk Warriors were not holy men, but hired soldiers whose duty it was to protect their monasteries and temples.
A zushi is a miniature, portable shrine that houses Buddhist images or sacred scrolls. This wonderful example shows an apparent Temple Samurai resting on the soldiers of Buddha. Many zushi were made during the 19th century, and may reflect the Shinto practice of concelaing statues and images because they were so sacred. An interesting piece of doll-related history is that there are Shinto temples in Japan devoted to dolls, where worn-out dolls are taken to be honored and then cremated. While not dolls per se, the figural objects in these shrines represent what author Lea Baten has called the "doll motif" prevalent in Japanese art.
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