- Kami-statues. Shinzo (divine images) can also mean paintings of kami (see Shinto kaiga). Statues of kami developed as a result of Buddhist influences—there is no evidence of kami being represented in statues before the introduction of Buddhist iconography from China. The earliest examples are late ninth century statues from the Heian period preserved in the shrine of Hachiman connected with the Yakushi temple at Nara. These show Hachiman as a Buddhist priest, the empress Jingo as a kami and another female kami Nakatsuhime. Other famous examples from the ninth century are the male and female kami statues preserved in the Matsuno shrine in Kyoto. There was however no development of an independent tradition of 'Shinto' sculpture; statues were principally a means of expressing the identity of Buddhas and kami (see Shinbutsu shugo) and the noteworthy artistic developments took place within ryobu shinto. Such statues became a popular form of shintai. A few of these Buddhist/Shinto statues escaped burning in the shinbutsu bunri of 1868—72 and remain as shintai in shrines, the justification being that they were always 'Shinto' images. Some statues have been commissioned since the Meiji restoration to act as shintai or to adorn shrines.
A Popular Dictionary of Shinto. Brian Bocking.