Sunday, September 12, 2010

“It is recognized that you have a funny sense of fun.”

The problem with doing these massive trips where I see an average of three temples a day is I invariably lose track of which was where. I know the area this bell was, but I don’t know the name of the temple: Photobucket

Sanjuusangendou, on the other hand, I know very well. It’s one of the main Kyoto locations that all my kids write essays about:Photobucket

Archery contests are held the length of this veranda, so that one of the beams at the end (since taken down, replaced, and put on display) resembles a cactus from the broken shafts. Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket Photobucket

What drew my attention to Sanjuusangendou is that there are a thousand statues of the Thousand Armed Kannon. There’s actually only forty arms on each figure, but each one represents 25 worlds and holds a different tiny tool to save the people therein. The Kannon can also apparently take 33 forms, and at that point I lose track of the math.

But while those figures are impressive, what really caught my attention upon actually visiting was not the Kannons which stand in ten rows of fifty but are, on the whole, all pretty much the same. What I loved was the twenty-eight guardian statues standing in front of them, each unique and with its own mythological lineage. It was like being back in my Greek phase and talking a stroll down the pantheon.

This, for example, is Karura, from the Hindu Garuda via Buddhism to Japan. Body of a human but wings and head of an eagle, and you’d think the beak would get in the way of the flute-playing. He taught mankind how to treat snake venom and accidentally created emeralds. But what really makes my heart go “kyuu” with the resonance of the whole package, is that his foot is tapping to keep time. I mean, just. How briilliant is that?



The Arashiyama area in daylight:

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