nenjibutsu 念持仏
KEY WORD : art history / general terms
Also jibutsu 持仏 and uchibotoke 内仏. A Buddhist image which is kept at close proximity for personal daily worship. Nenjibutsu are usually small and kept in a *zushi 厨子 or shrine box and are generally located in homes for private worship as opposed to temples or halls. Examples that belonged to high priests and noblemen were often made of precious materials such as gilt bronze kondoubutsu 金銅仏 and sandalwood *danzou 檀像. Yamabushi 山伏 (mountain ascetics) carried nenjibutsu in portable boxes *oi 笈 on their backs. In the Kamakura period some warriors were known to have kept very small images in their helmets for protection. When a special hall is dedicated to the worship of a nenjibutsu, it is called a *jibutsudou 持仏堂. *Butsudan 仏壇, or the family altars for a nenjibutsu kept in Japanese homes today, were developed in the Edo period. Nenjibutsu are generally small, but the image of *Shukongoushin 執金剛神 in the Sangatsudou 三月堂 (also known as *Hokkedou 法華堂) at Toudaiji 東大寺 in Nara is 179.3cm in height and is said to have been the nenjibutsu of High priest Rouben 良弁 (689-773). The image inside the small shrine dedicated by Lady Tachibana, Tachibana fujin-no-zushi 橘夫人の厨子 now housed in the Treasure House, Daihouzouden 大宝蔵殿 at Houryuuji 法隆寺, Nara, is an Amida triad *Amida sanzon 阿弥陀三尊, thought to be a nenjibutsu. The Shingon 真言 priest *Kuukai 空海 (774-835) allegedly brought back from China a makurahonzon 枕本尊 (pillow principal image), so called because this image is hinged and can be folded into the shape of a pillow, and always kept it with him as his nenjibutsu. This image is 23.1 cm in length and presently kept at Kongoubuji 金剛峰寺 on Mt. Kouya 高野. The term makurahonzon can be used for other images made in this form, but the one at Mt. Kouya is so famous that the term usually refers to this specific example.


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