Sunday, September 12, 2021

Many Komainu at Mizuta Tenmangu


Mizuta Tenmangu is a fairly large, well establishd, and popular shrine  in southern Fukuoka, and so has over the years received donations and support from wealthy benefactors as well as parishioners. Komainu statues are one such recipient of donations, and Mizuta Tenmangu has numerous pairs that have been installed over the centuries.

These first pair are carved into the lintels of the porch, along with baku, the mythical elephant-like creature. Usually, but not always,  one of the pair will have an open mouth, and one a closed mouth. With this pair, it is not clear.

The open mouth corresponds to "Ah" and the closed mouth to "un", the Sanskrit equivalent of the Greek alpha and omega. usually the "ah" is on the right, I presume because the Japanese traditionally wrote and read from right to left.

All these komainu are made out of different kinds of stone. Originally komainu were wooden and placed inside the shrines. Predominantly in the Edo period they came to be placed outside and made of more weather-resistant stone, though you can sometimes find them made of metal or ceramic.

Behind this pair, you can see a bronze statue of an ox.... a symbol of Tenjin, and found at many Tenmangu shrines.

Lichen and erosion take their toll on komainu and other stone statues. One of the pairs here is in the haunches raised pose.

This final pair seem to be more recent as they have little miss, lichen, or erosion. I continue to be fascinated by the diversity of styles of how komainu are represeneted both through history and in different regions. A selection of previous posts featuring komainu can be viwed by clicking this link.