Naraen Kongo

Misshaku Kongo


Horyuji Temple
Ikaruga, Japan

A celebrated pair of Nio (Kongo Rikishi, or Guardian Kings) guard the temple. The statues, dated 711, are located at the Chumon (Middle Gate) of the West Precinct. Their placement, with Misshaku Kongo (Agyo, open mouth) to the right, and Naraen Kongo (Ungyo, closed mouth) to the left, is opposite to that in other temples such as Todai-ji. Misshaku (open mouth) pronounces "Ah," the first letter of the Sanskrit alphabet. Naraen pronounces "Un," the final letter. The two combine to express the mantra of existence ("Om.")