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Nio Statues - Temple Guardians

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Sanpshot View of This Deity

Benevolent Kings; Gate Guardians; fierce and threatening poses to ward off demons & keep temple ground free of evil spirits; one with mouth open (AH), one closed (UN)

Niō, Nio (Ninnō, Ninō)
仁王 (or 二王)

Agyō 阿形
Kongō Rikishi 金剛力士
mouth open

Ungyō 吽形
Misshaku Rikishi 密遮力士
mouth shut

Renwang, Renwang, Jen-Wang
仁王

Erwang, Erh-wang
二王

Vajrapani, Vajradhara, Vajrayakṣa, Narendra, Narendra, Narendra-rāja, lit. =
Thunderbolt Holders

Inwang
인왕

Iwang, Yiwang
이왕

Chag na dor je, Channa Dorje, Ghuyapati, Sang wa'i dag po

NIŌ CATALOG

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Origin
India


WHO ARE THE NIŌ
Lit. = Benevolent Kings
Emanations of Vajrapani (Skt.)
Thunderbolt Holders (Skt. = Vajradhara)
Guardians at Temple Gates in Japan

Scholars disagree about
the identities of the Niō pair,
and no single opinion has
gained predominance.

Jp. = Agyō (with open mouth)
Jp. = Ungyō (with closed mouth)

See Background
Notes Below

Jump to Nio Pair, Cypress Wood Nio, The Benevolent Kings, the Gate Guardians at Buddhist Temples
          NIO PAIR = $890

Jump to Nio Pair, Zelkova Wood








Nio Pair = $1,260
Zelkova Wood (Jp. = Keyaki)
Height = 30 cm



See Background
Notes Below

Nio Pair, Zelkova Wood, The Benevolent Kings, the Gate Guardians at Buddhist Temples
NIO PAIR = $960

Jump to Nio Pair, Cinnamon Wood



SOLD OUT


Kusunoki (Japanese Cinnamon)
Height = 81 cm



See Background
Notes Below

Nio Pair, Zelkova Wood, The Benevolent Kings, the Gate Guardians at Buddhist Temples
NIO PAIR = SOLD OUT


Background Notes on the Nio Guardians

Nio Pair, Agyo and Ungyo.

The Nio (Benevolent Kings) are a pair of protectors who stand guard outside the temple gate at most Japanese Buddhist temples, one on either side of the entrance. In Japan, the gate itself is often called the Nio-mon (literally Nio Gate). Their fierce and threatening appearance wards off evil spirits and keeps the temple ground free of demons and thieves. In the earliest accounts from India, the Nio were said to have followed and protected the Historical Buddha when he traveled throughout India. The Nio were later adopted by other Asian nations and Japan into the Buddhist pantheon.

In Japan, each is named after a particular cosmic sound. The openmouthed figure is called "Agyo," who is uttering the sound "ah," meaning birth. His closed-mouth partner is called "Ungyo," who sounds "un" or "om," meaning death. Other explanations for the open/closed mouth include: (1) mouth open to scare off demons, closed to shelter/keep in the good spirits; (2) "Ah" is the first sound in the Japanese alphabet, while "N" (pronounced "un") is the last, so the combination symbolically represents all possible outcomes (from alpha to omega) in the cosmic dance of existence. The first letter in Sanskrit is "Ah" as well, but the last is "Ha." Nonetheless, the first and last sounds produced by the mouth are "Ah" (mouth open) and "M" (mouth closed). The Japanese "n" and the Sanskrit "m" sound exactly the same when hummed with mouth closed. The spiritual Sanskrit term AHAM thus encapsulates the first letter-sound "A," the last letter-sound "HA," and the final sound "M" when the mouth is closed. 

At some Buddhist temples, the Nio guardians are replaced with a pair of mythical and magical Shishi Lion-Dogs -- one with mouth open, the other closed. 

Sanskrit Seed Syllable = Agyo

Sanskrit Seed
for Agyō

Sanskrit Seed Syllable  = Ungyo
ウーン
Sanskrit Seed
for Ungyō

仁王 = Niō (Jp. = Benevolent Kings)
Emanations of Vajrapani Bodhisattva


阿形
Agyō, Agyo, Agyou, Naraen Kongō 那羅延金剛
Also known as Kongō Rikishi 金剛力士.
A manifestation of Vajrapani (Skt.) or Vajradhara (Skt.)
A manifestation of Vairocana (Dainichi Nyorai) in esoteric sects.
Typically shown with mouth open.

吽形
Ungyō, Ungyo, Ungyou, Misshaku Kongō 密遮金剛
Also known as Misshaku Rikishi 密遮力士.
A manifestation of Vajrapani (Skt.) or Vajradhara (Skt.)
Some say a manifestaion of the Hindu God Vishnu.
Typically shown with mouth closed.

Represent Alpha & Omega, Beginning & End, Birth & Death
One with mouth open, the other with mouth closed.

Other Japanese terms for the NIO GUARDIANS include: Kongo, Kongou, Kongō, Rikishi, Kongo Rikishi, Kongō Rikishi, Shitsukongō-shin, Shukongōshin 執金剛神, Niten 二天, and Niōson 仁王尊.

JAPANESE MANTRA FOR AGYO
阿なまさまんだば さらなん とらだりせい まかろしゃな
きゃなやさるばだたあぎゃたねん くろそわか

JAPANESE MANTRA FOR UNGYO
吽なまさまんだば さらなん けいあびもきゃ まかはらせんだきゃなや 
きんじらや さまや まさや まなさんまら そわか

LEARN MORE

  1. NIO Guardians. Our A-to-Z Knowledge Center (outside site)
     
  2. Nio Statues in China from 5th to 10th Centuries (outside side)
     
  3. Above Sanskrit Seed Syllables (#1, outside site)
    Above Sanskrit Seed Syllables (#2, outside site)
     
  4. Vajrapani in Tibetan Art (outside site)
     

Agyo at Sanjusangendo Temple, Kyoto, Japan, 12th Century, Wood

Agyō
Sanjūsangendō, Kyoto
 
Wooden Statue
12th Century, Life-size

Scanned from
Temple Brochure

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