Always, one guardian has his mouth open. This is “A”. The other guardian’s mouth is always closed. This is “Un” and together the sound becomes “Aun” which is also the name of the hidden principles in martial arts training.
These guardians have many manifestations but are typically known as “Kongo-Rekishi”. When threatened or angered they coalesce forces spiraling up into the sky like a gathering storm. When merged together they are known simply as “Kongo” and their combined power becomes the hardest material on earth but is literally translated as gold and steel.
How could manmade carvings be imbued with this otherworldly power? These multi-story behemoths transform into an all-powerful representation of a deity designed to strike fear into its’ mortal and spiritual enemies.
Master carvers such as Unkei understood perspective and designed the Niou by how they would be viewed by a person standing on the ground looking up. There are other clues as to the craftsmanship that went into the making of these guardians discussed elsewhere in the blog under “Sculptures”.