Monday, September 29, 2014

Critters at the Shrine

With the sculptures of various creatures around the shrine (including the ox previously featured), it felt a bit more like the many Hindu temples of India. True, the creatures at Hindu temples often were of gods or their avatars, but their presence at both added a little dynamism to the scene.

The entrance at most Shinto shrines are guarded by stone statues of a Chinese-like lion or Korean-like dog. Typically appearing in pairs, the curly "dog" with its mouth open is supposed to spit out good luck, while the other paired member has its mouth closed to catch evil.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Always Look UP

Followed by the lush backyard of the Komozenji Buddhist Zen temple in Dazaifu, my second favorite thing required an upward glance. On its rooftop were more treasure troves for the eye. Roof tile ends were incised with various relief designs. The tiles appeared to ripple like water. Creatures reminding me of the japsang on Korean rooftops performed headstands, contrasting with the warm glow of early autumn leaves. I love to look up!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Backyard Beauty

Although the front garden with its concentric raked pebbles was enjoyable to view, my favorite part of the Zen temple was its backyard. Viewed from the porch through the simple sliding doors was a verdant sea of green. Like the trees in the Shinto shrine, moss and leafy growths clung to rocks and trees alike. More raked pebbles appeared to flow through the scene as if in a creek spilling its banks. Undoubtedly, this must be a wondrous sight when the leaves are ablaze in the warm hues of autumn.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ripples in the Rocks

Upon entering through the gate of the Komozenji Buddhist Zen Temple, a rather neutral-colored landscape welcomed us into the land of calm. Before us was a kare-sansui dry landscape garden typical of zen temples of the Rinzai Buddhist sect. Large darker rocks jutted out from the ground, rippled by carefully raked tiny pebbles - a way of meditation. The concentric ripples reminded me of an energy presence emanating from each rock and tree. Such beauty in simplicity.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Komozenji Zen Temple

Just a short distance from the Shinto shrine in Dazaifu, a smaller gate greeted us - this one belonging to the Komyozenji Buddhist Zen temple. Founded in 1273 by a Buddhist priest, even the gate of the temple seemed to evoke a quieter, more natural presence. Unlike the typical Buddhist temples in Korea, the grounds and buildings were all in neutral colors, the wood retaining its natural, unfinished look. Likewise, the interior was rather simple. Large mats covered the main floor. Natural lighting from a few windows gave a slight illumination to the small altars with their partially closed screens. No dragons carved from the ceiling beams or colorful lotus patterns on the ceiling. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Ox at the Shrine

Having lived in India where cows were considered sacred and often freely roamed the streets, I found the statues of the ox to be rather curious. According to legend, the ox carrying the coffin of revered scholar Michizane stopped at this spot and refused to budge. Therefore, the funeral procession halted here and Michizane was buried at this site. The shrine was then built to venerate this scholar. I love how the horns of the ox are highly polished. Many people stopped to have their photo taken with the resting creature with its red and white braid.

Note also in the photo above the tree with its rather "fuzzy" branches.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Taikobashi and Shinjiike Pond, Dazaifu

The bridge within the Tenmangu Shrine in Dazaifu, in its red-orange color, contrasted sharply with the abundant greens of the foliage and muddier-colored water. The Taikobashi bridge is actually comprised of three elements; the first arched portion represents the past, the flat part connotes the present, and the second arched bridge is for the future. Although the arched portions were not smooth, the slight steps were quite gentle.
Shinjiike Pond, I read, is actually in the shape of the ideogram of a heart. With its trees in the island in the middle and pavilions around the edge, it reminded me of some places in Korea, such as the UNESCO "Secret Garden" at the Changdeokgung Palace in Seoul.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Dazaifu Shrine, Japan

For our Chuseok (harvest festival) holiday in Korea, I decided to join some other expats and head off to Japan. Following an overnight bus from Seoul to Busan, we boarded a ferry and landed in Fukuoka, Japan, less than three hours later. Rain pelted us just as we boarded the bus, but everyone was in good spirits anyway. Having followed the weather forecast carefully, I arrived prepared with an umbrella and didn't get wet. 

A short distance from Fukuoka, the rather small city of Dazaifu was once an important administrative center for the island of Kyushu. Our first stop was the Dazaiful Shrine, a Tenmangu Shinto shrine dedicated to a well-known scholar Sugawara Michizane who died in 903 AD. The shrine complex is built on the site of Michizane's grave and still is a popular place to visit for students. Its main building dates back to 1591.
I loved the contrast of the neutral, slightly "fuzzy" roof compared to the more ornamental portion just below it. The main hall is a classic example of Momoyama-style architecture. I read that the tree next to the temple was one of 6,000 plum trees on the complex; how beautiful it must look in spring.

Absent in the shrine were deities or other statues. Shintoism, we were told, was not about following a particular scripture, dogma, or founder, but rather more about a reverence for ancestral traditions, customs, and living & acting to the guidance of the gods.

Devotees sat on cushions on the porch, while the priest performed his chanting and rituals from the elevated platform.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Friday, September 05, 2014

Buy a Tile

Want to support your local Buddhist temple in Korea? Buy a roof tile that will then be used. A bit more practical than buying a piece of sod from the Green Bay Packers stadium, once offered to help pay for resodding of their football field.  I wonder how much those hunks of dried grass are now worth though...

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Beauty Shop Gals

Beauty shop signs definitely vary by country. Above are some beauty shop poles in Seoul, South Korea.
A bit of a contrast, this hand-painted sign at a small stall in Velankanni, south India promotes a beauty of a different kind. Photographed during the annual religious pilgrimage, some devotees (both male and female) choose to have their head shaved as a sort of sacrifice.