Hachibushu or Tenryu Hachibushu refers to eight deities who guard Buddhism. The ancient Indian gods such as the fierce god, the war god, the music god and the animal god, before the dissemination of Buddhism, came to believe in Buddhism and transformed to Goho zenjin (good deities protecting dharma).
Hachibushu means eight species. For this, there are various theories. Usually it means the following eight deities based on mainly 'Sharihotsumon-kyo Sutra,' and 'Hoke-kyo Sutra' and 'Konkomyo Saisho-kyo Sutra' as well; Tenbushu (Deities who reside in a heavenly realm, one of the six realms in which the souls of living beings transmigrate from one to another), Ryushu (Pre-Buddhist snake or dragon deities), Yashashu (a class of semi divine usually considered to be of a benevolent and inoffensive disposition but sometimes also classed with malignant spirits), Kendatsubashu (Gandharva), Karurashu (Garuda), Kinnarashu (Kinnara) and Makoragashu (Mahoraga).
However, the names of the famous Hachibushu statues of Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara Prefecture are different from those above, and according to the temple legend, they are called Gobujo, Sakara (Shagara), Kuhanda, Kendatsuba, Ashura, Karura, Kinnara and Hibakara.
In addition, Hachibukishu (eight fierce gods) who serve Shitenno (the Four Guardian Kings), are often confused with these Hachibushu because they have similar names to Hachibushu and some of them have the same names but they are different deities basically. Incidentally, Hachibukishu include Kendatsuba, Bishaja, Kuhanda, Heireita, Naga, Futanna, Yasha and Rasetsu (Rakshasa).
In Jobon (chapter 1, Introductory) of Hoke-kyo Sutra, the names of these Hachibushu are seen as 'nonhuman entities' in addition to 'humans' such as Biku (Buddhist priest), Bikuni (female Buddhist disciple), Ubasoku (upasaka) and Ubai (upasika) (devout men and women lay follower of Buddhism) as the audience.
It is an inclusive term of so-called 'Tenbu' (deities of Buddhism) such as Bonten (Brahma, a major Hindu deity thought to be responsible for creating the world) and Taishakuten (Sakra devanam Indra). It means six heavens of Yokkai (the realm of desire), four dhyana heavens of Shikikai (the realm of form) and Shikushoten (four realms of the world of formlessness) of Mushikikai (the realm of non-form). It has the meaning of light, nature, purity, freedom and superiority. It is an inclusive term of Tens in ancient India. It is an organizer of all things in heaven and the earth.
It is an inclusive term of species called 'dragon' or 'king dragon.'
It is a deity transformed from a snake and is considered to live in water and bring forth clouds and rain. In addition, it was the king dragon who gave affusion at the time of the birth of Shakyamuni. It has a human face and human body with a figure of a dragon on the crown.
It shows the evil fierce gods of ancient India, who came to believe in Buddhism and became Goho Zenshin (good deities protecting dharma). They fly in the air.
It is said that it eats fragrance and is a guardian god of soma, the alcohol of the gods, as well. In Buddhism, it is seen a music god of kenzoku (disciples or followers of Taishakuten). It is Gandharba in Indian myths and has its origin in the period of Proto-Indo-European language going back from the period of Indo-Iranian language because it is guessed to have the same origin as the Centaurs in Greek myths.
It was a war god in ancient India and it is said to originate from the Sun god in the central and Iranian districts during the period of the Indo-Iranian language. Usually it is shown to have three faces and six arms.
It is also called Konjicho (Golden Bird), a legendary bird which favors dragons and live on them. It is a deity transformed from a kind of fierce bird such as an eagle.
It is a music god and is also said to be a nonhuman entity with a half animal body. It is neither human, animal nor bird. In Buddhism it is said that it is Taishakuten's Kenzoku as well as Kendatsuba, and descants.
It is also said to be Taishakuten's Kenzoku and a music god as well as Kinnara. Or it is called a mausoleum god. Its body is human but its neck is that of a snake. It belongs to the dragon species. It is a deity transformed from a big snake (sometimes also called a python).
The statues of Hachibushu in Kofuku-ji Temple
As works of the Hachibushu statues in Japan, the statues at former Saikon-do (an image hall situated to the west of a pagoda in the temple grounds) of Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara Prefecture (Nara period, national treasures) are well known. Besides them, sometimes Hachibushu are drawn on pictures with other disciples of Shakyamuni, such as Nehan-zu (Nirvana painting), and their statues including Ashura are seen in statues on the north side of the first story of Goju-no-to (five-storey pagoda) of Horyu-ji Temple, which show nirvana of Shaka, but other statues are rarely seen.
Nijuhachibushu, the twenty-eight attendants which are Kenzoku of Senju Kannon (Sahasrabhuja-arya-avalokites 'vara, "Thousand-armed Kannon") (representative works in Japan are statues at Sanjusangendo Temple and those at Kiyomizu-dera Temple in Kyoto Prefecture) include statues of Hachibushu.
The Hachibushu statues of Kofuku-ji Temple are made by kanshitsu-zukuri, which is a technique of pasting hemp clothes in layers with lacquer were and had been placed at Saikon-do hall which was abolished later. Saikon-do was build by Empress Komyo in 734 for the memorial service of her late mother TACHIBANA no Michiyo, and is known that the Shaka triad as the principal image, as well as statues of Bonten and Taishakuten, Hachibushu statues, the statue of Judai deshi (the Ten Chief Disciples of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni) were placed. Kofuku-ji Temple Mandala picture' in the Kyoto National Museum (from the end of the Heian period to the beginning of the Kamakura period, important cultural property) shows that each two statues of Hachibushu were placed at the right and left in the front and rear of the principal image respectively. The statues at Saikon-do of Kofuku-ji Temple including Hachibushu are interpreted to have been produced based on Konkomyo saisho-kyo (Golden Light Sutra of the Most Victorious Kings) instead of Jobon of Hoke-kyo Sutra.
A summary account of the Hachibushu statues in Kofuku-ji Temple is as follows.
The statue of Gobujo - Shikikukyoten (heaven of the most rarefied form) in the highest grade of Shikikai and Gobujo Goten, a Tenbu of the lower grade. It is shaped to put on a crown with an elephant's head and an expression like a boy. The statue of Kofuku-ji Temple is badly damaged and only the head and a part of the upper body are remained (besides this, the right hand of this statue is in the possession of Tokyo National Museum, which was donated by an individual owner in 1904 to the then Imperial Museum). It seems to be the statue which corresponds to 'Ten' in scriptures. Among Nijuhachibushu of Senju Kannon's Kenzoku, there is the statue of 'Gobujo Goten,' and some of them are of war gods with a sword in each hand, including in Sanjusangendo Temple and the main hall of Kiyomizu-dera Temple.
The statue of Sakatsura - it is shaped as a figure where a snake is wound around from the top of the head to the upper body and it has a sad look on its face like a boy. This statue is considered to be the statue which corresponds to 'dragon' in scriptures.
However, there is a theory that the state of Sakatsura in Kofuku-ji Temple corresponds to 'Makoraga' instead of 'dragon.'
It appears in the name of 'Sakatsura Ryuo' among Nijuhachibushu.
The statue of Kuhanda - it is shaped in the expression of anger with its hair stood on end and its eyes narrow. It is considered to be the statue which corresponds to 'Yasha' in scriptures. It is also said to be Kenzoku of Zochoten, Virudhaka, among Shitenno. There is no statue which corresponds to Kuhanda among Nijuhachibushu.
The statue of Kendatsuba - it puts on armor and a lion crown. Both eyes are almost closed.
The statue of Karura - the statue of Kofuku-ji Temple wears armor with a bird's head and a human body. Different from this, the statues of Karura among Nijuhachibushu at Sanjusangendo Temple and the main hall of Kiyomizu-dera Temple have wings and blow a whistle.
As the temple legend, the statue of Kinnara - it has a horn on the head and seems to have been made as the statue of Kinnara from the very beginning.
The statue of Hibakara - it is shaped as a somewhat older face with a beard, different from other statues. It is said to correspond to 'Makoraga' in scripture, but not sure. There are both Hibakara and Makoraga among Nijuhachibushu, and the former is expressed as the statue of a war god in a common style while the latter is expressed as the statue who plays the Japanese lute with five eyes.