A Buddhist shrine, made for a temple, containing the 8-armed, weapon-bearing goddess Benten; her head adorned with a gilt bronze crown in the shape of a Shinto gate, decorated with birds, sun and moon, and beads. On the top of her head sits the snake-bodied water deity Ugajin. Behind her head a circular mandorla with three flaming jewels. Benten sits on a double lotus throne, placed on top of a rock formation.
The figure and the lotus dais are made in wood with gilding over red lacquer, with details in gold and black. Eyes are in reverse-painted glass or crystal. The crown, the mandorla, and most of the weapons in gilt metal. The rock formation in polychromed wood over gesso inlaid with semi-precious stones and/or glass. Japan, Edo period, circa 1800.
Shrine measurements: H 20.5 x W 14 x D 11.5 inches
Zushi: one hinge missing the vertical pin, otherwise very good condition. Statue: Damage to one hand and to the foot, some cracks and lacquer chips commensurate to age and use. All in all excellent, original condition.
Benten in the 8-armed appearance (happi Benzaiten) is a defender of Buddhism and protector of the nation. This is her appearance as described in the Sutra of Golden Light. According to the sutra, she is supposed to hold in her hands bow and arrow, sword and ax, spear and pestle, and iron wheel (rin) and rope. In statues, the objects vary and over time, objects related to wealth and well-being came to replace the original ones, such as the wish-granting jewel and the key to the storehouse.
Benzaiten with Ugajin on top of her head is Uga Benzaiten, goddess of wealth and good fortune, mostly connected to Shintoism.
In this zushi, Benten holds sword and wish-granting jewel, arrows and (missing) bow, key and lotus, and pestle and halberd. Her function has started to shift with the needs and the taste of the times, incorporating the two prominent religions in Japan.