Chinzo (頂相)

Chinzo, also called chinso or choso, is a portrait or a sculpture of a priest of the Zen sect (a sect of Buddhism). In the Zen sect, the teacher priest would give his own portrait to his pupil monk as part of the inka (certification of spiritual achievement), and so, as the Zen sect became popular, many chinzo were depicted. A descendant disciple of a high priest (the founder of a Zen temple) would have a sculptural chinzo made in the memory of the priest. Thus the chinzo was as precious as the honzon (principal image of Buddha) for the temple, so it was placed in the temple's main hall, or a special enshrinement hall called kaizando was constructed for it. Whether it was a portrait or a sculpture, the chinzo was, for Zen monks, a substitute for the earthly body of the priest, and the chinzo's characteristic is its precise, lifelike depiction. The sculpture's figure, modeled after the portrait, is the sitting style with the bottom of the priest's robe hanging down, and the established way of expression was the combination of the simple depiction of the clothed body and the graphic depiction of the face. Excellent works of chinzo were born particularly from the Kamakura period to the period of the Northern and Southern Courts, and many of them are now designated as the national treasure or the important cultural property.

[Original Japanese]