Monju Bosatsu


Mumei (unsigned): Zushi

Artist: unknown

Size 1 (shrine): height 24 cm, length 15,3 cm, width 10,6 cm

Size 2 (figure of Monju-bosatsu): height 19,2 cm

Period: Mid Edo (18th c.)

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Here we have an excellent miniature portable shrine Zushi (厨⼦) with engraved gilt-metal fittings and containing a removable figure depticting Monju-bosatsu (⽂殊菩薩).

Monju-bosatsu is a Bodhisattva (Bosatsu, 菩薩) and is also called Manjusri or Monju-shiri Bosatsu (文殊師利菩薩). This Bosatsu is a follower of Shaka-nyorai (釈迦如来) like Fugen-bosatsu (普賢菩薩). He is thought to derive from a legendary figure born in India after the death of Shaka who had a profound knowledge of Mahayana Buddhism and who thus came to represent the wisdom of the Buddha. He is ordinarily shown with a sword Chieken (智慧剣) in the right hand and a sutra (経巻) in either scroll or box in the left, and is mounted on the back of a lion. The whole figure rests on a blanket of clouds, which are engraved on the upper surface of the pedestal frame.

The five topknots on the head of Monju-bosatsu and its boy-like appearance correspond to the description of “child-like appearance” written in sutras and show that the wisdom is as pure as that of a child.

He is often depicted in the Monju Gosonzō (文殊五尊像 , Monju Quintet), composed of Monju and four attendants (四眷属), in brief Zenzai Dōji (善財童子), King Uden-ō (優填王), Saishō Rōjin (最勝老人) and Butsudahari (仏陀波利). After the Kamakura period (13th c.) belief in Tokai Monju (渡海⽂殊), who was said to have led the king Uden-ō (優填王) and other followers across the sea, also grew popular.