Niomon: Japan’s Well-Guarded Temple Gates

Most Japanese Buddhist temples have gates at the entrance. In some cases, these gates perform the standard function: indicating the entrance to the temple precinct. In other cases, the gates are larger, more elaborate, and also serve a secondary function: they house the temple’s nio  or kongōrikishi, guardian statues who protect the temple and its treasures. (Gates with nio in them are also often known as “niomon”). The statues stand guard inside enclosed bays at either side of the gate: While the one with its mouth closed is vocalizing “ɦūṃ” (Sanskrit: हूँ):

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