Misshaku Kongo

Naraen Kongo
Photos by Eisuke Ueda, © Todaiji-Temple


Todai-ji Temple
Nara, Japan

This pair of guardians (Kongo Rikishi, or Nio) dates from the Kamakura period (13th century) and was carved by Unkei and Kaikei. The statues are approximately 8 1/2 meters tall, the largest pair of wooden Nio in Japan. The statues are located in the Great South Gate of the temple. Their placement is opposite to the pair in Horyu-ji.

Misshaku raises his left arm, while Naraen raises his right arm ("open mouth, left arm up; closed mouth, right arm up"). Additionally, the bodies bend in the direction of the gate, so their original placement can be determined even when they have been moved.

Misshaku and Naraen are also called A-gyo and Un-gyo, respectively, because of the syllables which they utter.