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Niō Guardians

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Niō Guardians

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Pair of Niō, guardians of Buddhist temples, finely carved in wood and lacquered in polychrome bare-chested with prominent musculature and veins in relief.

The Niō (Jp. = benevolent kings) are a pair of protectors-Agyō and Ungyō-who stand guard outside the gate of Japanese Buddhist temples, one on either side of the entrance. In Japan, the gate itself is often called Niō-mon 仁王門 (literally Niō Gate).

Agyō, right, holds a Vajra, a legendary and ritual weapon that symbolizes the properties of a diamond (indestructibility) and lightning (irresistible force). Ungyō holds his left hand with a closed fist.

Agyō 阿形
Open mouth pronouncing “AH” – to scare demons away.

Ungyō 吽形
Closed mouth pronouncing “UN” – to shelter/maintain good mood.

Niō’s fierce and menacing appearance is said to ward off evil spirits and keep the temple grounds free of demons and thieves. In some accounts, the Niō were said to have followed and protected the historical Buddha when he traveled throughout India. They have since been adopted by the Japanese into the Japanese Buddhist Pantheon.

In Shintō shrines, Niō guardians are replaced by a pair of koma-inu (Shishi dog-lions) or two foxes. These mythical and magical guardians of the shrine are commonly (but not always) depicted with similar iconography: one mouth open, one closed.
Origin: Japan
Period: Meiji late 19th cent.
Dimensions: 40 x 17 x 12 cm.
State of preservation: Very good
+ Certificate of authenticity with technical expertise of the asset

+ Possibility to view the work at our office in Milan or throughout Italy wherever you are

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