Monday, February 2, 2009
Nio, sometimes called kongorikishi, are pairs of statues found guarding many temples. Often found in the entrance gates to temples (niomon), nio were originally Hindu deities that have been incorporated into buddhism and function as protectors.
The pair at Tada-Ji, a temple just outside Hamada, are particularly fine examples, with each statue being carved out of a single kusunoki (Cinnamon tree).
As with the komainu (pairs of guardian lions/dogs that guard shrines and temples) one of the 2 statues has its mouth closed, and the other its mouth open. This represents the sounds "ah" and "n", the beginning and the end, the alpha and omega.