The Journey

Portable Ritual Cabinet (Oi)

  • 62
  • Japan
  • 16th century
  • Wood, gilt bronze, and lacquer
  • H. 27 1/8 x W. 21 1/2 x D. 12 1/4 in. (69 x 54.5 x 31.1 cm)
  • Peabody Essex Museum, Museum Purchase, 2006, E303292

An oi is a portable box that functions somewhat like a backpack for a Japanese mountain ascetic (yamabushi) to carry ritual items and equipment during travel. It can also serve as a temporary altar. Images associated with the Chinese pilgrim Xuanzang bringing back sutras from India to China show similar backpacks. This rectangular oi has two enclosed shelves and four legs. The shape of the top alludes to a mountain. The inside of the hinged doors each display a protector deity, a King of Light, deeply revered in Esoteric Buddhism: Acala (Fudo Myoo in Japanese), on the right; and Raga (Aizen Myoo) on the left. Each outer door is fitted with a gilded bronze panel incised with an image of a five-story pagoda.

PHOTO CREDIT: Peabody Essex Museum

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