Tips for the Appreciation of Buddhist Statuary (5)

by Yoshihisa - Japan Licensed Guide
(83) Reviews

Tips for the Appreciation of Buddhist Statuary (5)     This is the last section about Buddhist statuary.  This time let's learn about Ten-bu ( Deva ) deities that have a role of guarding Buddha's Law.  Most of the ten-bu were originally deities of Brahmanism and Hinduism and were incorporated into Buddhism.  They are ranked below myo-oh, but were established long before myo-oh statues were made.  There are two types of ten-bu: Goho-shin, who protects Buddha's Law and faithful followers of Buddhism, and Fukutoku-shin, who brings us happiness and worldly benefits.

     Statues of ten-bu group excel nyorai, bosatsu and myo-oh statues in number and have different historical backgrounds.  For this reason, ten-bu statues have various characters and appearances.  They represent deities of high birth, warriors clad in armor, half-human and half-animal bodies and demonic spirits.  In this section, allow me to choose some of the ten-bu statues you might encounter at famous temples in Kyoto and Nara.

     Bon-ten was originally the Creator of Universe in Brahmanism and Hinduism and was incorporated into Buddhism.  He is usually dressed in Chinese clothes of noble class.  He is often paired with Taishaku-ten, who was a guardian deity of warriors clad in armor with a kongosho weapon in a hand.  The oldest pair of Bon-ten and Taishaku-ten in Japan are housed in Tohji Temple, Kyoto, along with Godai Myo-oh statues introduced in the former section.  Taishaku-ten in Tohji Temple sits on a white elephant.  

     Kongo Rikishi ( Deva King ) statues usually welcome visitors at temple gates in pairs.  They are supposed to protect temples from outside enemies.  They look like sumo wrestlers with a scowling face and a kongosho in a hand.  The statue with an open mouth is called Agyo, and the one with a closed mouth is Umgyo.   A (あ) is the first letter in Sanskrit and also the first kana letter of Japanese, and Um (ん) is the last letter in Sanskrit and the last kana letter just like alphabetical A and Z.  This represents  that they see and know everything from the beginning to the end.  The most famous Kongo Rikishi  statues are found at Nandaimon ( South Great Gate ) of Todaiji Temple, Nara.  The statues ( about 8 meters tall ) are said to have been sculpted by Unkei, Kaikei and their 20 followers in only 69 days in 1203.

     Shitenno are Four Heavenly Kings, who are said to provide protection in four directions; Jikoku-ten ( east ), Zocho-ten ( south ), Koumoku-ten ( west ) and Tammon-ten ( north ).  They are placed in four directions in a worship hall with a role of protecting nyorai or bosatsu statues.  All of the four statues crush underfoot demon monsters symbolizing evil spirits.  One of the most famous groups of Shitenno statues is housed in Kondo Hall, Horyuji Temple, Nara.

     Hachibu-shu is the general term for eight guardian deities who specially pledged loyalty to Shaka Nyorai among the deities of other ancient religions who gave devotion to Buddha.  Hachibu literally means eight tribes and shu is a collective term for a group of people. Each statue of Hachibu-shu  has its own name and character.  For example, Kendappa is a music deity, Yasha a flying demon deity and Karura a deity with a bird head that eats evil dragons.  Of the eight deities, the most famous and popular is Ashura, a deity of wars. You can see an excellent display of Hachibu-shu statues in the National Treasure House of Kohfukuji Temple, Nara.  In this house I strongly recommend you have a close look at Tentoki ( open mouth ) and Ryutoki ( closed mouth ) statues with lanterns.  Before they were converted to Buddhism, they were demon monsters stomped by Shitenno.  Now they stand shedding lantern light to the feet of Shaka Nyorai with their noses stuck up in the air.  What a humorous look!  

     Juni-shinsho ( Twelve Heavenly Generals ) are twelve guardian deities that protect Yakushi Nyorai.  Each deity is clad in armor holding a weapon.  The number twelve is very important in that they provide protection for the twelve directions, twelve periods of time and twelve eto ( the twelve zodiac signs in Chinese astrology ).  The oldest Juni-shinsho statues in Japan, made of clay in Nara period ( 710-784 ), are housed in the main hall of Shin-Yakushiji Temple, a short walk from Kasuga Grand Shrine, Nara.  Of the twelve statues, the most appealing is General Bazara standing in the right front with a furious look and ruffled hair.  In contrast with Bazara stands General Indara in the left front with a self-possessed look.

     In additon to the ten-bu statues, there are many other Buddhist statues which do not belong to the four groups of statues, but it must be remembered that the wishes and devotion of the people are curved into every and each Buddhist statue and each statue has its own social and historical background.  This concludes the tips for the appreciation of Buddhist statuary.  Lastly I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to those who have kindly read my passages to the end.

    

 

 

Did you like my article?

You can send me a message to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience. Let's explore Japan Together.

I'll be waiting for you, so please check my profile and get your trip plan now


27 Aug 2016

Yoshihisa

Licensed Guide
(83) Reviews

Plan your trip to Kyoto with Yoshihisa

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Send a message

Recent Tour Reviews in Kyoto

“ Golden indeed ”

Excellent
1 day ago Traveler: Richard -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

We spent a full day in Kyoto with Yoshie and he was an absolutely pleasure...extremely knowledgeable and consideration. We covered more ground this day than any other in our trip and he didn't just walk us to the spots for good picture taking but gave us the full background and significance of each site which was what we were looking for. Yoshie was a great conversationalist and highly sensit...
read more

“ Sight seeing Kyoto in the rain with Yoshi - a wonderful experience. ”

Excellent
5 days ago Traveler: Martin -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshi, took our family out for a day of sightseeing. It was raining but it did not take anything away for the day we had. Yoshi was well organized and considerate of all our needs. Each ancient site he took us to was unique - some very popular and others off the beaten track. If we had been on our own we would not have found many of these places and would never have been able to see as much in ...
read more

“ Great day and great tour guide ”

Excellent
1 week ago Traveler: Paola -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshihisa was super friendly and energetic and was very well informed on all the sites visited. His english is very good and he took the time to answer all of out questions . Overall my family and I greatly enjoyed having him tour us.
read more

“ Kyoto delight. ”

Excellent
2 weeks ago Traveler: Sandy -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshi was a great tour guide. He was accommodating and very knowledgeable. He answered our questions patiently and tailored our trip with our requests. I would highly recommend him to my friends.
read more

“ Great Trip - be prepared to walk ”

Excellent
1 month ago Traveler: Vincent -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshie was great. His knowledge of the area and English skills are a blessing for our trip in Kyoto. Be prepared to walk a lot and fast since there are many places to see in a single day. I would recommend for teenagers and up and not suitable for young children since there’s lot of waking involve.
read more

“ Great introduction to Kyoto ”

Excellent
2 months ago Traveler: Rem -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshi was a great guide. He is very knowledgeable. He speaks English well and helped us accomplish our goal of being able to navigate 4 more days in Kyoto entirely on our own.
read more

“ Great guide! ”

Excellent
2 months ago Traveler: Deborah -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshi was a great guide. We appreciated the stories he shared and how he gave us a feel for the city. Thoughtful, kind, generous man. We loved being able to be with someone who would focus on what we were interested in. Definitely recommend Yoshi!
read more

“ Nara Day Tour ”

Excellent
2 months ago Traveler: Trisha -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshie was AMAZING! We had such an enjoyable trip to Nara with Yoshie. He was an excellent tour guide who taught us about the culture. We really appreciate it Yoshie and my family had a wonderful time. He also is very flexible with schedule and time. Recommend him wholeheartedly for an awesome trip.
read more

“ 6 hour Kyoto tour with 15 yr old grandson ”

Very Good
2 months ago Traveler: Skee -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Yoshie was at the well described meeting point, sign in hand with a gift of origami figures crafted by his wife for our grandson! As a former teacher, his English was good and he was very knowledgeable about the various sites we were able to visit in the short time we had with him. Knowing that our grandson was interested in manga, he arranged for us to visit the Manga Museum which was a big hit....
read more

“ Highly recomend ”

Excellent
2 months ago Traveler: Gintaras -   Tour Guide: Yoshihisa

Perfec day and tour with Youshie; well selected sites to see, very good english, and Youshie really good companion. Highly recommend.
read more

Related cities