Zushi are generally small, portable shrines forming part of a temple. They usually have  2 doors which can be opened to reveal the deity contained within. This is usually a favoured deity of the owner. Some of the smaller ones, as shown here, have a small ring attached to the top to allow them to be carried on a cord around the neck by a pilgrim. Many of the deities are miniature masterpieces of sculpture in wood and lacquer but they can range in quality from works of art, down to crude cast metal representations.

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detail
Object: Portable Zushi of Bishamon Tenno
Description:  The deity represents the guardian deity Bishamon Tenno or Vaisavana. He is chief of the guardian kings of the four cardinal points and one of the 28 messengers of Senju Kannon
The right arm and trident are modern restorations but the rest of the figure is finely carved original.
Comments: This shrine is black lacquered wood (although this has worn thin so as to appear brown) with gold leaf interior. Deity carved wood, either boxwood or hinoki (Japanese magnolia).
Maker: Unknown
Age: 1800's
Size: 8.0 cm high
 
 

detail
Object: Portable Zushi of Unidentified Deity
Description: The deity has not been identified by me but, as it is seated on a lotus throne and holds a jewel in its left hand, it probably represents one of the Buddhas. Part of its right hand is missing and there is indication that there was an object being held.
Comments: This shrine is black lacquered wood with gold leaf interior. Deity carved wood, either boxwood or hinoki (Japanese magnolia).
Maker: Unknown
Age: 1800's
Size: 6.6 cm high
 
 

detail
Object: Portable Zushi probably of Koshi (Confucius)
Description: This zushi is of high quality with a family mon (Japanese crest) in gold lacquer on the outside of the doors. Inside the doors there is a design of bamboo and pines in gold lacquer. The tiny deity itself is finely carved and detailed in gold lacquer on his robes. He is holding a spray of flowers made of metal. There is a curtain above the opening of the shrine which is common in Japanese depiction in art of nobilty.
Comments: This shrine is black lacquered wood with gold leaf interior. Deity carved wood, either boxwood or hinoki (Japanese magnolia).
Maker: Unknown
Age: 1800's
Size: 5.5 cm high
 
 

detail
Object: Zushi depicting the Buddhist Saint Kobo Daishi
Description: This is a modern zushi which was bought in a temple on the holy mountain Koya-San in Japan. The zushi seems to be made of wood with simulated gold lacquer inside and black lacquer outside. The regularity of the shape and finish suggest it is machine made. The deity and its accesories are made of painted cast metal.  Despite it being modern, the monks were reluctant to sell the zushi to a westerner as it represents the Holy Saint and is held in great reverence.
Comments: The shrine was manufactured for adherents of this Saint to place in their family temple.
Maker: Unknown
Age: 1990's
Size: 10.0 cm high
 
 

detail
Object: Zushi with Yakushi Nyorai (Bhaisajyaguru)
Description: This is a composite zushi with the deity replaced. Both were probably made in the early 1900's. The zushi is constructed in lacquered wood with gold foil lacquer inside. The figure is made from black lacquered cast metal, probably lead. The definition of the casting is not strong but the proportions of the figure and aureole are good. The deity is probably Yakushi Nyorai, with hands in the Abhaya/Varada mudra and a Kumo-kohai aureole behind it. Yakushi Nyorai represents the healer of souls and is particularly popular in Japan.
Comments: Purchased in Japan
Maker: Unknown
Age: 1970's
Size: 13.5 cm high
 
 

detail
Object: Zushi of Dai Nichi Nyorai
Description: This zushi contains a fairly crude figure of Dai Nichi Nyorai recognised by the hands in Chiken-in mudra stressing the importance of Knowledge in the spiritual world. This Buddha represents light and truth also personifies wisdom and purity.
Comments: This shrine is black lacquered wood with gold leaf interior. Deity carved wood, either boxwood or hinoki (Japanese magnolia). The figure is in need of restoration.
Maker: Unknown
Age: 1800's
Size: 8.8 cm high
 

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