Bonji (Sanskrit characters) of the eight Buddhist guardian deities

8 guardian deities, 12 zodiac signs & associated Bonji 

Buddhism arrived in Japan in the mid-6th century AD, the Japanese eagerly imported both the Buddhist teachings and the Zodiac calendar -- the calendar was officially adopted in 604 AD. In Japan, the Zodiac calendar is known as Kanshi 干支 (also read Eto), and the 12 animals of the Zodiac are known as the Jūni Shi (Juni Shi) 十二支. The Zodiac's popularity in Japan peaked during the Edo Era (1600-1868 AD), by which time each of the 12 animals were commonly associated with one of eight Buddhist patron protector deities (four guarding the four cardinal directions and four guarding the four semi-directions; the latter four are each associated with two animals, thus covering all 12 animals).

Read more about the Chinese zodiac and buddhism on this website.

List of Bonji and related 8 guardian deities


Fugen Bosatsu
(Bodhisattva of Universal Goodness)
- Dragon
- Snake

Fugen is known as the "Great Conduct" Bodhisattva, for Fugen teaches that action and conduct (behavior) are equally important as thought and meditation. Fugen encourages people to diligently practice the Buddhist precepts of charity, moral conduct, patience, and devotion. Fugen made ten vows for practicing Buddhism, and is the protector of all those who teach the Dharma (Buddhist Law).

Fudo Myo-o
(Kings of Luminescent Wisdom)
- Rooster

Fudō Myō-ō is the central deity in all Myō-ō groupings, and in artwork is positioned in the center. Fudō converts anger into salvation; has furious, glaring face, as Fudō seeks to frighten people into accepting the teachings of Dainichi Buddha; carries kurikara or devil-subduing sword in right hand (representing wisdom cutting through ignorance); holds rope in left hand (to catch and bind up demons); often has third eye in forehead (all-seeing); often seated or standing on rock (because Fudō is “immovable” in his faith). Fudō is also worshipped as a deity who can bring monetary fortune.

Amida Nyorai
(Buddha of Infinite Light and Life)
- Dog
- Pig

Amida is one of the loftiest savior figures in Japanese Buddhism, and Amida faith is concerned primarily with the life to come, the life in the beyond. Amida is described in the Amitābha Sūtra, the Sutra of Infinite Life, and many other Mahayana texts. Amida is the central deity of Japan's popular Pure Land (Jōdo) sects and the ruler of the Western Paradise of Ultimate Bliss (Gokuraku; Skt. = Sukhāvatī).

Senju Kannon
Thousand-Armed Kannon)
- Rat

Thousand-Armed Kannon, or Kannon with a Thousand Arms and a Thousand Eyes. One of Japan's most beloved esoteric forms of Kannon. From the 8th century onward in Japan, Senju Kannon was worshipped independently as a central object of devotion, often prayed to for avoiding illness, eye problems, and blindness.  Senju is also one of Six Kannon who protect people in the six realms of karmic rebirth. As one of the six, Senju Kannon watches over the realm of hungry ghosts (gakidō).

Seishi Bosatsu
Bodhisattva of Strength)
- Horse

Seishi appears in early Mahayana sutras, including the Immeasurable Life Sutra, the Meditation Sutra, and the Lotus Sutra. Seishi did not gain great popularity in India, but in China and Japan, Seishi's importance grew with the spread of the Pure Land sects devoted to Amida Buddha, for Seishi is one of the two main attendants (kyōji) of Amida Buddha. The other is Kannon. In Japan, the three appear in a popular grouping known as the Amida Sanzon (lit. = Amida Triad), with Amida in the center, Seishi to the right (representing wisdom), and Kannon to the left (representing compassion).

Kokuzo Bosatsu (Bothisattva of Wisdom and Memory)
- Ox
- Tiger

Kokūzō is especially important to Japan's Shingon sect of Esoteric Buddhism (Mikkyō). Kokūzō symbolizes the "vast and boundless" Buddha wisdom that permeates the universe. In Japan, believers pray to Kokūzō to grant them wisdom on their quest toward enlightenment. They also pray to Kokūzō to improve their memory, technical skills, and artistic talents.

Dainichi Nyorai
Cosmic, Great, All-Encompassing Buddha)
- Sheep
- Monkey

Dainichi Buddha (Sanskrit = Vairocana or Maha Vairocana) represents the center (zenith) among Japan's esoteric sects. Esoteric Buddhism (Jp. = Mikkyō) is another term for Vajrayana (Tantric) Buddhism, one of the three main schools of Buddhism in Asia, most widely practiced today in Tibet. The other two forms are Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism. Mahayana is the mainstream in Japan, but the country's Shingon and Tendai sects are still strongholds of esoteric traditions, especially the Shingon sect.

Mooju Bosatsu
Guardian of the law)
- Rabbit

Monju was a disciple of the Historical Buddha, and represents wisdom, intelligence and willpower. In Mahayana traditions throughout Asia, Monju is the personification of the Buddha's teachings, and hence Monju symbolizes wisdom and the enlightened mind. Monju is considered the wisest of the Bodhisattva, and thus acts as the Voice (Expounder) of Buddhist Law. Monju enjoyed vast popularity in Asia for many centuries. But today in China and Japan, Monju's popularity has diminished somewhat among the common folk. Nonetheless, Monju is still counted as one of the most popular of all Mahayana divinities.

Check which is your guardian deity based on year of birth

Based on your year of birth, check in the table below what your sign in the Chinese zodiac is. Then, refer to the above bonji list and find out which one is your guardian deity.

 Rat OxTiger  RabbitDragon Snake Horse Sheep Monkey Rooster Dog Pig 
190019011902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910 1911 
1912 1913 1914 19151916 1917 1918 1919 1920 1921 1922 1923 
1924 1925 1926 1927 1928 1929 1930 1931 1932 1933 1934 1935 
1936 1937 1938 1939 1940 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 1946 1947 
1948 1949 1950 1951 1952 1953 1954 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 
1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 
1972 1973 1974 1975 1976 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 
1984 1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 
1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 
2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019