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Square wooden shrine with Yakushi Nyorai figure inside, Japan 1801-1900

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Inside this highly decorated Japanese shrine is the Buddhist deity Yakushi Nyorai, the Buddha of healing and medicine. He is seen here holding his right hand in the gesture (known as mundra) for granting wishes. He traditionally held a flask of medicine in his left hand. However, this is missing. Offerings were possibly left in its place because there is a tiny circular wire within which to place them. This shrine may have been placed in a wealthy family home or monastery. It may have been used in ceremonial rituals with offerings to ensure healing and protection.

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Glossary: Buddhism

A belief system or religion originally from India and based on the teachings of Siddharta Guatama, known as ‘The Buddha’, who died about 400 BCE. It requires ethical and unselfish behaviour.

Glossary: shrine

Originally a container, usually made of precious materials, used especially for a relic and often a cult image. Today it has come to mean a holy or sacred place that is visited by believers.