Guardians and Defenders of Buddha: Nio Agyo and Nio Ungyo
Niō are two wrath-filled and muscular guardians, standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples all across Asia in the form of frightening wrestler-like statues. According to Japanese tradition, they travelled with the historical Buddha to protect him. Within the pacifistic nature of Buddhism, stories of Niō guardians justified the use of physical force to protect cherished values against evil.
One with mouth open, the other with mouth closed. In Japan, each is named after a particular cosmic sound. The openmouthed figure is called “Agyō,” who is uttering the sound “ah,” meaning birth. His closed-mouth partner is called “Ungyō,” 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.
Nio Agyo – Guardian of Buddha –
10-1/2” x 6-1/4” (26.7 cm x 15.9 cm)
Item # 10018-M