Bonshō Symbols of World Peace
iPhoneOgraphy – 03 Apr 2016 (Day 94/366)
Bonshō (Buddhist bells), also known as tsurigane (hanging bells) or ōgane (great bells) are large bells found in Buddhist temples throughout Japan, used to summon the monks to prayer and to demarcate periods of time. Rather than containing a clapper, bonshō are struck from the outside, using either a handheld mallet or a beam suspended on ropes.
The bells are usually made from bronze, using a form of expendable mound casting. They are typically augmented and ornamented with a variety of bosses, raised bands and inscriptions. The earliest of these bells in Japan date to around 600 CE, although the general design is of much earlier Chinese origin and shares some of the features seen in ancient Chinese bells. The bells’ penetrating and pervasive tone carries over considerable distances, which led to their use as signals, timekeepers and alarms. In addition, the sound of the bell is thought to have supernatural properties; it is believed, for example, that it can be heard in the underworld. The spiritual significance of bonshō means that they play an important role in Buddhist ceremonies, particularly the New Year and Bon festivals. Throughout Japanese history these bells have become associated with stories and legends, both fictional, such as the Benkei Bell of Mii-dera, and historical, such as the bell of Hōkō-ji. In modern times, bonshō have become symbols of world peace.
The bonshō is derived from the bianzhong (henshō 編鐘 in Japanese), an ancient Chinese court instrument comprising a series of tuned bells. One larger additional bell, which eventually developed into the bonshō, was used as a tuning device and a summons to listeners to attend a bianzhong recital. According to legend, the earliest bonshō may have come from China to Japan via the Korean Peninsula. The Nihon Shoki records that Ōtomo no Satehiko brought three bronze bells back to Japan in 562 as spoils of war from Goguryeo.