Four Heavenly Kings

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This article is about Buddhist gods. For other uses, see Four Heavenly Kings (disambiguation).
Korean statue of Gwangmok Cheonwang (Virūpākṣa)

In the Buddhist faith, the Four Heavenly Kings are four gods, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world. In Chinese they are known collectively as the "Fēng Tiáo Yǔ Shùn" (simplified Chinese: 风调雨顺; traditional Chinese: 風調雨順; literally: "Good Climate").

The Four Guardian Kings in Burmese depiction.

Nomenclature[edit]

The Kings are collectively named as follows.

Language Written form Romanization Translation
Sanskrit चतुर्महाराज caturmahārāja Four Great Kings
Lokapāla Guardians of the world
Sinhala සතරවරම් දෙවිවරු Satharawaram Dewi Four Privileged/Bestowed Gods
Burmese စတုလောကပါလ
စတုမဟာရာဇ်နတ်
IPA: [sətṵ lɔ́ka̰ pàla̰]
IPA: [sətṵ məhà ɹɪʔ naʔ]
Four worldly guardians
Four Great King Nats
Chinese 天王 Tiānwáng Heavenly kings
四天王 Sì Tiānwáng Four heavenly kings
四大天王 Sì Dà Tiānwáng Four great heavenly kings
Korean 천왕 Cheonwang Heavenly kings
사천왕 Sacheonwang Four heavenly kings
사대천왕 Sadae Cheonwang Four great heavenly kings
Japanese 四天王 Shitennō Four heavenly kings
Vietnamese 四天王 Tứ Đại Thiên Vương Four great heavenly kings
Tibetan རྒྱལ༌ཆེན༌བཞི༌ rgyal chen bzhi Four great kings
Mongolian Махаранз maharanja (Four) Great kings
Thai จาตุมหาราชา Chatumaharacha Four great kings
จตุโลกบาล Chatulokkaban Four Guardians of the world

The Four Heavenly Kings[edit]

The Four Heavenly Kings are said to currently live in the Cāturmahārājika heaven (Pāli Cātummahārājika, "Of the Four Great Kings") on the lower slopes of Mount Sumeru, which is the lowest of the six worlds of the devas of the Kāmadhātu. They are the protectors of the world and fighters of evil, each able to command a legion of supernatural creatures to protect the Dharma.

devanagari
Sanskrit romanization
वैश्रवण (कुबेर)
Vaiśravaṇa
(Kubera)
विरूढक
Virūḍhaka
धृतराष्ट्र
Dhṛtarāṣṭra
विरूपाक्ष
Virūpākṣa
Meaning he who hears everything he who causes to grow he who upholds the realm he who sees all
devanagari
Pāli romanization
वेस्सवण (कुवेर)
Vessavaṇa (Kuvera)
विरूळ्हक
Virūḷhaka
धतरट्ठ
Dhataraṭṭha
विरूपक्ख
Virūpakkha
Sinhala
romanization
වෛශ්‍රවණ
Vaishravaṇa
විරෑඪ
Virūḷhaka
දෘතරාෂ්ට
Dhrutharashṭa
විරූපාක්ශ
Virūpaksha
Thai
romanization
ท้าวกุเวร
Thao Kuwen
ท้าววิรุฬหก
Thao Wirunhok
ท้าวธตรฐ
Thao Thatarot
ท้าววิรูปักษ์
Thao Wirupak
เวสวัณ, เวสสุวัณ
Wetsawan, Wetsuwan
Burmese ကုဝေရ
Wéthawún Nat Min
ဝိရဠက
Virúlaka Nat Min
ဓတရဌ
Daddáratá Nat Min
ဝိရုပက္ခ
Virúpekka Nat Min
Traditional/Simplified Chinese
Hanyu Pinyin
多聞天王 / 多闻天王
Duō Wén Tiānwáng
增長天王 / 增长天王
Zēng Zhǎng Tiānwáng
持國天王 / 持国天王
Chí Guó Tiānwáng
廣目天王 / 广目天王
Guăng Mù Tiānwáng
毗沙門天 / 毗沙门天 留博叉天 / 留博叉天 多羅吒天 / 多罗吒天 毗琉璃天 / 毗琉璃天
kanji
Hepburn romanization
多聞天 (毘沙門天)
Tamon-ten (Bishamon-ten)
増長天
Zōjō-ten
持国天
Jikoku-ten
広目天
Kōmoku-ten
治国天
Zōchō-ten
Hangul
romanized Korean
다문천왕
Damun-cheonwang
증장천왕
Jeungjang-cheonwang
지국천왕
Jiguk-cheonwang
광목천왕
Gwangmok-cheonwang
Sino-Vietnamese Đa Văn Thiên Tăng Trưởng Thiên Trì Quốc Thiên Quảng Mộc Thiên
Tibetan romanization rnam.thos.sras (Namthöse) phags.skyes.po (Phakyepo) 'yul.'khor.srung (Yülkhorsung) spyan.mi.bzang (Chenmizang)
Color yellow blue white red
Symbol umbrella sword pipa serpent
mongoose stupa
stupa pearl
Followers yakṣas kumbhāṇḍas gandharvas nāgas
Direction north south east west

All four serve Śakra, the lord of the devas of Trāyastriṃśa. On the 8th, 14th and 15th days of each lunar month, the Four Heavenly Kings either send out messengers or go themselves to see how virtue and morality are faring in the world of men. Then they report upon the state of affairs to the assembly of the Trāyastriṃśa devas.

On the orders of Śakra, the four kings and their retinues stand guard to protect Trāyastriṃśa from another attack by the Asuras, which once threatened to destroy the kingdom of the devas. They are also vowed to protect the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Buddha's followers from danger.

Statues of the Four Heavenly Kings. From left to right: Vaiśravaṇa, Virūḍhaka, Dhṛtarāṣṭra, and Virūpākṣa.

According to Vasubandhu, devas born in the Cāturmahārājika heaven are 1/4 of a krośa in height (about 750 feet tall). They have a five-hundred-year lifespan, of which each day is equivalent to 50 years in our world; thus their total lifespan amounts to about nine million years (other sources say 90,000 years).

Painting of Kōmokuten (Virūpākṣa), the Guardian of the West (one of the Four Guardian Kings). 13th century.

The symbols that the Kings carry also link the deities to their followers; for instance, the nāgas, magical creatures who can change form between human and serpent, are led by Virūpākṣa, represented by a snake; the gandharvas are celestial musicians, led by Dhṛtarāṣṭra, represented with a lute. The umbrella was a symbol of regal sovereignty in ancient India, and the sword is a symbol of martial prowess. Vaiśravaṇa's mongoose, which ejects jewels from its mouth, is said to represent generosity in opposition to greed.

Tamon-ten

(north)

Kōmoku-ten

(west)

Heavenly Kings
(Japanese)
Jikoku-ten

(east)

Zōjō-ten

(south)

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]