The Kongorikishi cast with a wrathful expression, finely cold-painted, both standing on layered rockwork and wearing flowing skirts with heavenly bands, their muscular chests and arms left bare. They are modelled after Ungyo and Agyo, the two monumental 13th century cypress figures at Todaiji temple, Nara, Japan.
HEIGHT 55 cm (each)
WEIGHT 14.7 kilograms (both together)
Condition: Superb condition with only minor wear. Good natural patina. Minor losses to painting.
Provenance: From an old English private collection.
Nio or Kongorikishi are two wrathful and muscular guardians of the Buddha standing today at the entrance of many Buddhist temples in East Asian Buddhism in the form of frightening wrestler-like statues. They are dharmapala manifestations of the bodhisattva Vajrapani, the oldest and most powerful of the Mahayana Buddhist pantheon. According to Japanese tradition, they travelled with Gautama Buddha to protect him. Within the generally pacifist tradition of Buddhism, stories of dharmapalas justified the use of physical force to protect cherished values and beliefs against evil. Nio are also seen as a manifestation of Mahasthamaprapta, the bodhisattva of power that flanks Amitabha in Pure Land Buddhism and as Vajrasattva in Tibetan Buddhism. They are usually a pair of figures that stand under a separate temple entrance gate usually called Niomon in Japan. The right statue is called Misshaku Kongo and has his mouth open, and the left statue is called Naraen Kongo and has his mouth closed. Similar to Alpha and Omega in Christianity, they signify “everything”.