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Zaou Gongen @‘ ‰¤Œ Œ»
KEY WORD :@art history / iconography
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Also Kongou Zaou Bosatsu ‹à„‘ ‰¤•ìŽF. The deity of Kinpusen ‹à•ôŽR in Nara one of the most important deities of the Japanese religious mountain practice sangaku shuukyou ŽRŠx@‹³. Zaou Gongen typically looks like a tantric deity: blue-black in color, his hair stands on end; he grimaces and shows fangs and he has three eyes. His right hand holds a thunderbolt or vajra *kongousho ‹à„‹n, above his head; his right foot is raised while his left hand is at his hip in the sword mudra touken-no-in “Œ•ˆó. There are minor variations in his depiction, but he is always characterised by his enormous vitality, his pose that of leaping, or perhaps alighting.
According to legend, the founder of shugendou CŒ±“¹, *En no Gyouja –ðsŽÒ practiced on Kinpusen and prayed for a deity who could accomplish the salvation of all sentient beings. First, a deity who looked like *Jizou ’n‘  arose, but was rejected as too mild; then the fierce figure of Zaou Gongen arose, and was accepted as equal to the task. Originally he was believed to be a manifestation of *Shaka Žß‰Þ. He is sometimes identified as a form of Kongou Zaou Bosatsu , who appears in the Kokuuzou ‹•‹ó‘  court of the *Taizoukai mandara ‘Ù‘ ŠE™Ö䶗… which developed in esoteric teachings in China, but is generally believed to be a Japanese invention.
In the mid-Heian period, when the cult of *Miroku –íèÓ grew popular, Kinpusen came to be known as the inner sanctum of Miroku's paradise, Tosotsu nai-in Š•—¦“à‰@, and Zaou Gongen was considered a manifestation of Miroku. Zaou Gongen was the guardian of Kinpusen (Gold Mountain), which was believed to contain gold treasure that would become accessible when Miroku appeared on earth.
This was a major site of sutra burials, a practise said to have been introduced fron China by the monk Ennin ‰~m in the 9c. Copies of sutras were buried along with the donor's instructions for their future benefits. The sutras were expected to rise and bear witness to the religious devotion of the donor.
The cult of Zaou Gongen was carried throughout Japan along with the practices of mountain religion and there are many images of him, including small metal sculptures buried with sutras. The earliest dated image (1001) is an engraved mirror owned by Soujiji ‘ŽŽ› in Tokyo.
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