Ni-o_, literally "two kings," are guardian images which flank the entrances of Buddhist temples. Befitting their role as protectors of the Buddhist faith, they are usually depicted as ferocious, semi-nude figures with exaggerated musculature and facial expressions. They are represented as uttering the cosmic sounds of "a" (open-mouthed) and "un" the first and last letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, symbolizing the beginning and ending of all things, thus reminding us of the brevity of life. The hyper-realism and full-plasticity of these figures was achieved through the yosegi technique of multiple block construction. Originally, both images would have been brightly painted over a layer of black lacquer.