The Shitennō as seen here is one of the Four Heavenly Kings, these figures are positioned at the four corners of Japanese Buddhist altars, each watching over a different cardinal direction. As deities, they protect from evil spirits – psychological states that go against the Buddha and his message of freedom from suffering. The examples displayed here were likely intended for the altar of a smaller worship space, rather than that of a large temple. The Shitennō are usually portrayed dressed in armor, carrying symbolic weapons or objects, and standing on a demonic figure - signifying their dominance over enemies of Buddhism.
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