National TreasureBamboo cabinet

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  • 竹厨子
  • 1 piece
  • Wooden shelf board
  • Base 40.0x75.1, total H55.1
  • Nara period/8th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • N-87

This bamboo repository for sutra scrolls is one of the Treasures of Hôryû-ji Temple. The Abbot Gyôshin (active c. 738), who built the Tô-in Monastery at Hôryû-ji Temple, is believed to have offered this repository, along with a variety of articles once belonging to Prince Shôtoku (574-622), to Hôryû-ji.

The repository has two doors that open outwards, and two shelves inside. The top board and base are attached to posts made from zelkova (J. tsuki) at the four corners. Tightly nestled, narrow strips of mottled bamboo form the cabinet walls, while decorative flower-shaped iron nails hold the horizontal poles in place. The roof slopes in at all four sides, in the "gathered-ridge" style, with a flat expanse at the top. Iron fixings have been attached at the four corners and in other necessary places. The reed-like bamboo, uniform in thickness, is thought to be a variety of dwarf bamboo that grows naturally in southern parts of China. However, Japanese bamboo has been used to repair parts of the cabinet, such as the roof and the posts.

A "repository" (J. zushi) usually refers to a container for enshrining Buddhist statues, paintings, relics, sutras, and suchlike, in contrast to the miniature altars called "palace halls" (J. kûden) for enshrining images. In the Nara period (710-794), however, large box-like containers called zushi were used primarily for storing sutras.