En no Gyoja 役行者 Ascetic Bosatsu 19th Century Japanese Carved Butsudan Zushi Shrine
Antique Japanese Lacquered Wood Zushi
En no Gyoja 役行者
Great Bodhisattva Jinben, 神変大菩薩
Edo Period. Circa: Early 19th century
Figure: H 9 in. (23cm), W 3.5 in. (9cm), D 2.25 in. (5.5cm)
Zushi: H. 11 inches (28cm)
Aged minor abrasions, good condition!
Enshrined in a lacquered Zushi, this small and spirited statue is a rare representation of En no Gyoja (En no Ozuno 役小角), the legendary founder of the syncretic religion Shugendo sect in the early 8th century, and later granted the honorary title: Bodhisattva of Divine Change by Emperor Kokaku in the 18th century. En no Gyoja is believed to have incorporated various aspects of Taoism, Shinto, esoteric Buddhism in spiritual practices, and lived an itinerant life in the mountains by manipulating demonic spirits, making them draw water and gather firewood as servants, and bound them by using incantation and wizardry. For all Yamabushi and mountain ascetics, as well as those who practiced spiritual devotion in secular life, En-no-Gyoja is regarded as the patron saint and spiritual ancestor in Japan for over a thousand years.
This sublime sculpture shows him as a bearded ascetic, holding a scepter and sutra scroll in hands, bare feet, wearing a hooded monk robe with a cloak of leaves. The image is realistic and serene, with emphasis on the sage's wizened body. The wood carving was first applied with gesso, meticulously painted in polychrome; which mellowed through ages with added enchantment. The importance and rarity of this Bodhisattva are confirmed by the superb work made with integrity and scrupulous details. The statue is housed in a Zushi and is in very good condition.