Buddhist altar fittings (仏具)

Buddhist altar fittings are defined as special tools or accessories which are used by clergymen, such as Buddhist monks, on the occasion of Buddhist rituals and they are different from daily necessities. They are also called ritual implements or ritual apparatus.

Origin and History

According to Buddhist precepts, monks were originally prohibited to own money and other articles other than sanne-ippatsu (three robes and one begging bowl), which were deemed as the minimum required clothes and eating utensil. After 100 years had passed after the death of Shaka, however, monks were divided into two groups (fundamental schism), a group which requested permitting the ownership of minimum money and daily necessities that were donated by believers, and a conservative group which stuck to Buddhist precepts, and monks belonging to the former group were allowed to own money and other articles other than sanne-ippatsu.

With Buddhism introduced into the western regions of China as well as China after A.D, Buddhist monks began presiding over rituals such as prayers and funerals among people and tools which were used in such rituals were developed.

With Esoteric Buddhism, which had been prevalent in India, introduced into China and Tibet in the 7th century, special Buddhist altar fittings such as Vajra and mandala came into use.

Further, as Jodo-kyo (Pure Land teachings), which had originated in China, helped the explosive diffusion of Buddhism among ordinary people, and ordinary lay believers began worshipping Buddha directly by themselves rather than through Buddhist monks and as a result, Buddhist altar fittings such as Juzu (beads) and Buddhist pictures were brought into use by lay believers at their home.

Currently, there exist several centers for the production of family Buddhist altars and Buddhist altar fittings, including Kyo-butsugu (Buddhist altar fittings produced in Kyoto) which are designated as national traditional industrial arts.

Those That are Used at Rituals

Principal image of Buddha (Buddhist image, Buddhist picture, mandala)

A family Buddhist alter (zushi (miniature shrine in a temple))

San gusoku (three elements of the alter) (or Itsugusoku (five elements of the alter))


Incense burner

Kogo (incense container)


Rindai (bell stand)

Plectrum (rinbo)

Sutra table

Scriptures and Buddhist religious service compilation

Food Offering Bowl for the home altar

Tables : sutra table, upper table, front table

Rinto (Buddhist hanging lanterns)


Uchishiki (Buddhist altar cloth)


Ihai (Buddhist mortuary tablet)

Homyo jiku (homyo (posthumous Buddhist name) hanging scroll)

Kakocho (family register of deaths)

Holy water rack


Zen-sho (禅ショウ)

Bukki (Buddhist flag)


Bonsho (temple bell)

Mokugyo (fish-shaped wooden temple drum)

Mokusho (a round wooden drum)

Kin (inverted copper or iron bell shaped like a bowl (sounded when reciting sutras))

Inkin (a hand-held bell shaped like a small bowl, mounted on a handle and hit by a metal striker)

Shakujo (metal rings)

Uchiwa-daiko (prayer drum)


Kesa (Buddhist stool) and hangesa (half-sized Buddhist stool) and Ryaku kataginu (Buddhist stall wear around the neck)


Nyoi (metal stick which monks hold while preaching)

Shippei (bamboo stick used to strike mediators into greater wakefulness)

Chukei (ceremonial folding fan)

Birobo (毘炉帽)


Oryoki set (Zen style three bowl cuisine)

Zafu (round cushion used for Zen meditation)

Maniguruma (prayer wheel)

[Original Japanese]