1007. A Japanese 'Juichimen Kannon' in a 'Zushi'

A Japanese Carved and Gilded Wooden 'Juichimen Kannon' in a Travelling Shrine 'Zushi', the exterior in black lacquer with bronze mounts decorated with scrolling tendrils, opening to gilt lacquer interior with a separately carved wooden Bodhisattva seated on a gilt lotus pedestal, wearing a crown, garlands and necklace of metal, the mandorla decorated with flying clouds and scrolling 'karakusa', 19th century, height of the shrine c. 98 cm; wear, loss of colour, details and material

The 'Juichimen Kannon' is depicted with eleven heads atop its crown. This iconography was introduced to Japan from China in the 7th century. The most plausible explanation is that the lower ten heads represent the Ten Stages of the Bodhisattva Path (steps required to attain enlightenment). The 11th head, located at the very center in the highest position, represents the 11th stage, Buddhahood, the final and ultimate result for those following the Bodhisattva Path. The 'Kannon' holds a water jar containing 'Josui', a miraculous elixir that relieves the thirst of devotees.