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Words-and-Pictures: Asuka's Monkey Stones

(as seen on October 11, 2001, on the Yamato stage of the Aki Meguri)

Note: Asuka is even older than Nara.  It is filled with mysterious stones, of which these "Monkey Stones" are just a small part.  You can read more about these stones, and my visit to Asuka itself, in my Logbook, read more about my Yamato experiences, or read about the entire Aki Meguri from the beginning.
 
Near the moated kofun of Princess Kibi in the ancient Japanese capital of Asuka, there is a small rise with a torii gate and a wrought-iron one.  Behind these gates stand four peculiar fellows.

Actually part of a group of five--their missing companion is about five kilometers away, at the site of a ruined castle--these stones have come to be called the Saruishi or "Monkey Stones."  They were excavated in a field in the Edo period and moved to where we see them today.  They may have been tomb guardians, as they were found near a mausoleum, and ancient records mention such artifacts.  Others speculate that, given their obvious--uh--attributes--they may have been some kind of fertility fetish.  In fact, local women "pray" to these statues for easy and safe delivery of children.

Like many of the "mysteries" of Asuka, by the way, these stones bear similarities to others found in Korea.

I have shown them from left to right, as seen from outside the gate.  Three of them are said to have faces on the back, which we can't see in their current position.  Some say the two figures on each stone are male and female (reinforcing the fertility idea); others claim those are monsters on the back.

 
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