ganzou 龕像
KEY WORD : art history / sculptures
Images carved in a niche. In a broad sense the term refers to the Buddhist images of high relief carved into the rock walls of the cave temples in India and China. Although there is another more specific, but less frequently used term for this, koganzou 小龕像, ganzou also refers to the small images that are made of wood. These small images in high relief usually depict a Buddha image surrounded by many figures following the traditional formats of the cave temples. The structure of the wooden niche is portable and could be easily carried by wandering Buddhist priests. There are many images that were imported from China to Japan in this format. The famous makurahonzon 枕本尊 now owned by Kongoubuji 金剛峰寺 on Mt. Kouya 高野 in Wakayama prefecture is an exceptional finely carved sandalwood image from 9c China. It is hinged on two sides and may be folded into a cylindrical pillow-like shape measuring 23.1 cm in height. Most of the wooden ganzou were made following the sandalwood or *danzou 壇像 style where the images were delicately carved from a fragrant wood with little use of pigment. The Fumon-in 普門院 in Wakayama prefecture has a small (18cm) sandalwood ganzou made in China in the 9c. In addition to China and Japan, small ganzou from Korea and Central Asia are also extant. The term *butsugan 仏龕 more specifically refers to the niche itself rather than the images, and this niche can be viewed as a type of *zushi 厨子 or tabernacle used to house sacred objects. There is a specific type of ganzou which is square and folds up into a box shape called *hakobutsu 箱仏. Itsukushima Jinja 厳島神社 in Hiroshima prefecture owns a Chinese example from the 9c which is 22cm in height. It depicts *Shaka 釈迦 with attendant Bodhisattvas and 21 arhats *rakan 羅漢 in fine detail.


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