Origin: Niō (仁王) Japanese, the name for guardian statues at the entrance to temples.
Perhaps the choice of the name Niō for iDter’s product is best explained by the following paraphrased quotation from a booklet about the figures below:
"The chief function of temple guardians is obvious. They keep guard, standing either side of the open gate. Everything about their impressively muscular bodies is calculated to deter and arrest: outthrust hands repel or grasp fearsome weapons, muscles are tensed as if they might leap into action at any moment, their stare is terrifying. They confront evil in the broadest sense of the word. … They remind visitors to behave well, and ward off evil forces."
Temple Guardian (Niō, one of a pair), The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Such figures provided intelligent deterrence for protected premises - they were conspicuous, their expressions fierce, their gestures discouraging visitors with evil intent. The analogy to our product is striking - our Niō is rugged, reliably deployed outdoors in all weather at all times, startling intruders with loud warnings and sirens, with a fierce visage of blinding, strobing bright red and blue lights, ready to act at the slightest trigger. Of course, our product does more - it allows for live engagement, alerts others of the danger, and captures video recordings for future retrieval.
Truly, our product is a Niō for our times!
Niō - A Brief History
The first guardian images seem to have been arisen in early depictions of the Buddha in India about two thousand years ago. There is some speculation that these early images were also influenced by Hellenistic Greek depictions of Heracles, at a time of active interaction between the Greek culture left behind after Alexander, and the Central Asian Buddhist societies. In any case, when Buddhism spread to China, one can already see features of the later Japanese Niō figures, by 550 AD. The earliest figures in Japan date from the seventh century; the most well-known of the early figures, the magnificent pair at the Nara Horyuji temple, date from 711. Depictions of these paired guardians, Agyo and Ungyo, continued to be built or restored at important temples in Japan through the centuries, even up to present times. There are over a hundred and fifty pairs across Japan, with the most famous being the 26 feet tall pair at Todaiji temple in Nara (now a UN World Heritage site), made in 1203.
Niō - Art & Style
It is interesting to trace the similarities and development of the stylistic features of Niō figures as they spread through cultures and time periods. Some of these features to observe are
- Paired open (typically for Agyo) and closed mouths (Ungyo), with esoteric symbolism (this convention was also taken up by the stone shishi lions that guarded imperial buildings in China).
- Parrying gestures
- Top-knotted hair
- Furrowed brows
- Muscular limbs
- Bumps across the ribs
- Loose, flowing, robes
- Dynamic poses with tilted hips and one leg forward
- A ribbon grasped by one hand heightening the dynamism of the pose
- A mace held in one hand (the vajra - which means both thunderbolt representing power and diamond representing indestructibility)
Niō - Comparison
Deterrence Then: Niō
- outdoor guardians, protected houses of worship
- rugged build
- reliably served in all conditions
- fierce looks
- deterring gestures
- reminded visitors to behave
- warded off evil
Deterrence Now: Niō
- outdoor guardians, protect premises and property
- rugged build
- reliable in all conditions
- blinding lights and strobes
- deterring behavior
- warns intruders to behave with messages and live exchange
- wards off crime
- captures recordings for law enforcement
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