Jizō embodies supreme spiritual optimism, compassion, and universal salvation, all hallmarks of Mahayana Buddhism. One of the most widely known is the Sūtra of the Fundamental Vows of Jizō Bodhisattva (Jp.= Jizō Bosatsu Hongan Kyō 地藏菩薩本願経), in which Jizō vows to remain among us doing good works and to help and instruct all those spinning endlessly in the six realms of suffering, especially the souls of the departed who are undergoing judgment by the Ten Kings of Hell (thus explaining why Jizō statues are commonly found in Japanese graveyards).Jizō is often translated as Womb of the Earth, for JI 地 means earth, while ZŌ 蔵 means womb.But ZŌ can also be translated with equal correctness as “store house” or “repository of treasure” -- thus Jizō is often translated as Earth Store or Earth Treasury.But the pairing lends strong support to Jizō’s early association with the Hindu goddess Prthvi.The strongest support for the Prithvi/Jizō link, however, is the Jizō Bosatsu Sūtra (Jp. Only later, in China’s late Sung dynasty (960–1279), does Jizō become associated with the Taoist Ten Kings of Hell and appear in Chinese artwork surrounded by the ten.
In modern Japan, Jizō is popularly venerated as the guardian of unborn, aborted, miscarried, and stillborn babies (Mizuko Jizō).Some of Japan’s innumerable Jizō emanations (both traditional and modern) include: Although of India origin, Kshitigarbha (Jizō) is revered more widely in Japan, Korea, and China than in either India or Tibet.Most scholars generally consider Jizō-related texts to be products of China rather than India, followed later by Japanese renditions and additions.= 地蔵菩薩本願経), a 7th-century Chinese translation from Sanskrit, in which Prthivi vows to use all her miraculous powers to protect Jizō devotees. In Japan, Jizō first appears in records of the Nara Period (710 to 794 AD), and then spreads throughout Japan via the Tendai and Shingon sects.When and how Jizō was introduced to China is unknown, but from the earliest extant texts (7th century), Jizō is already closely associated with the earth and with the Lord of Death (Skt. According to an old legend, the first Jizō statue was brought to Japan from China and installed at Tachibanadera 橘寺 during the reign of Emperor Shōmu 聖武 (reigned 724-49), but was later moved to Hōryūji 法隆寺 Temple in Nara.