« PreviousContinue »
and their great ancestress, the Sun-goddess, whose image, in the form of a circular mirror of polished metal, is the only object of worship on the altar of a Shinto temple. The cock and the white horse, which in all ages and countries have been held sacred to the sun, are almost invariably found in connection with the Shinto worship. The former is generally carved on the temple drum, and carried in solemn processions, while a white pony, either a living animal or a wooden substitute, is generally stabled
WHEEL SUPPORTED BY KNEELING ELEPHANTS. FROM
in some sacred building belonging to the temple.
I succeeded in buying two very curious old pictures illustrative of Shinto mythology. One gives portraits of many mikados, descendants of a beautiful goddess, crowned with a great red sun, while above her are grouped all the hierarchy of heaven. The other represents the Shinto pantheon, with a winged sun and moon occupying the place of honor. The sun is in each case painted bright scarlet, as we so constantly see it represented on flags and lanterns. at all national festivals-a scarlet circle on a white ground being the Japanese equivalent of the stars and stripes or the union-jack.
But the prayer-wheel was the special object of my quest, and the only chance of finding this was in the Buddhist temples, which besides, as representing the popular religion of the people, aroused my interest far more than did the cold, unemotional services of the Shintoists. So I quietly looked about me, peeping into all manner of dingy, neglected outhouses and small chapels attached to the great temples, where accumulations of dust and cobwebs, hiding the richly gilt and colored carvings, told of the evil days which have overtaken the Buddhist priests, in the forfeiture of their revenues and the establishment of Shintoism as the state religion. I had not long to search. From Yokohama, the foreign settlement where we first landed, one hour by railway (chief triumph of new Japan) brought us to Tokio, the great native capital, which
TEMPLE BUILDINGS AT THE SUMMER PALACE, PEKIN.
In the central pavilion is a miniature pagoda of porcelain. Those on either side of the upright stone contain revolving cylinders, with a multitude of niches for sacred images. On the lake are the "Camel Hump" and great marble bridges.
was formerly called Yedo, but has changed its name since the Mikado removed the seat of government from Kyôto, the old capital of the South. Here we saw true Japanese life to our heart's content, among the thousands of happy, good-humored, gayly dressed people, who seemed to be keeping continual holiday, thronging the temples and the surrounding tea-houses. The temples are legion, but many of them stand as empty and neglected as many many of our own churches, while others are crowded with an ever-moving stream of worshipers.
Chief among the popular temples ranks Asakusa, a noble building, albeit only of carved wood, with heavily thatched roof, the usual form of architecture whether for civil or ecclesiastical use. We approached it by a long street, where only foot-passengers may pass, and lined on either side by small open shops and booths, for the sale of all manner of pretty and odd things,-playthings for the countless happy children, artificial flowers, rosaries, sweetmeats, all doing a brisk trade for infinitesimal gains. We passed under a great gate-way, with heavy, overhanging thatch and five large lanterns of open-work brass, and before us stood the great temple, to me most fascinating from its strange, barbaric decoration. Lacking the exquisite refinement of high Japanese art, such as we had
seen at the more aristocratic temples, we here beheld the true worship of the peoplethe shrines most highly esteemed, the votive offerings of many generations. From the rafters hang innumerable lamps; some are of beautiful brass-work, but those which add most to the general effect are enormous paper lanterns, of brilliant color and strange device, many of them from ten to twelve feet in depth. Huge bronze vessels, of diverse forms and uses, occupy conspicuous places, but the principal shrines and high altars to the great Buddha and his saints stand back in deep shadow, which lends gloom and mystery to the solemn ceremonial worship of the shaven priests, and of such of the congregation as have made offerings of sufficient value to entitle them to pass into the inner sanctum. Thence comes the sound of chanted litanies, and the fragrance of incense, and there one day for hours I watched the priests feeding quite a large bonfire of some special wood, before one of the idols, while chanting wild incantations. In this land of terrific conflagrations the proceeding appeared dangerous; I watched it with extreme interest, having seen the same ceremony in some of the Brahmin temples at Benares, where on one occasion I saw the worshipers leap through the flames, as was the custom of so many lands in the days of the old Baal worship.
But while the wealthier members of the
congregation kneel apart in the gloomy interior, the gay crowd moves ceaselessly in the outer court; groups of brilliantly dressed girls with glossy black hair, shuffling along on high wooden clogs, halt by turns before each shrine and rub their hands together as they repeat some little prayer, and then, casting their small offering of copper cash into the great coffer, pass on to enjoy the many strange shows always on exhibition within the picturesque temple grounds, or to buy a few measures of grain wherewith to feed the flocks of sacred pigeons which nestle on the thatch. The sick and sorrowful worship on bended knee, rubbing their foreheads in the dust, before the image of their chosen saint or god. That most in favor is a life-size image of Binzuro, the god of medicine, to whom come all afflicted with any manner of pain. They rub his head, feet, and stomach, and then their own, especially the suffering member. The image is of lacquered wood, but the extent to which the lacquer has been rubbed off tells plainly of the many generations of faithful believers who have sought his aid.
Among the many buildings connected with the temple, the most conspicuous is a tall, five-storied pagoda, of carved wood, painted red, with dark, projecting roofs. Within this is, of course, a shrine, not much in favor. Close by it stands a small temple, disused and neglected, generally locked. So far as I could learn, no foreigner had ever cared to inspect its interior. Yet, as I peered through the barred windows, I saw enough to convince me that, if prayer-wheels did exist in Japan, I had surely discovered one. The priest in charge of the building was absent, but after a while a younger one procured the key, and admitted us. There, beyond all doubt, was the object of my search-a very beautiful specimen of the rotating cylinder, about ten feet in diameter and twelve in height, resplendent with scarlet and gold lacquer. It rested on a stone throne or pedestal of carved lotus-leaves, which is invariably the distinctive mark of Buddha, "The Jewel on the Lotus." Long spikes projected around the base of the cylinder, as from a capstan, and by means of these the heavy machine was made to revolve on its own axis. Unlike the wheels of Thibet, this, and all others which I subsequently found in Japan and China, are not prayer-wheels, but libraries, containing all the sacred Buddhist scriptures. How far they may be complete we cannot say, since we know that these number eleven thousand
volumes; but at least each cylinder contains a great many books, and the devout worshiper accumulates the merit of reciting the whole every time he turns the so-called wheel.
But in these days of degenerate faith, where in all Japan shall we find this particular act earnestly practiced? In my own limited experience, I can safely say that, of all whom I have seen turning wheels in various parts of the country, I observed only one who seemed to be doing it in earnest-one who seemed weary and heavy laden, apparently too abstracted to remember that he already bore a somewhat weighty burden tied on his back, before he began the hard labor of turning the heavy wheel, and who evidently was working out his task with resolute purpose. I observed, too, that in this case the priests seemed quite aware that they had found a true believer, and affected the greatest solemnity, taking good care, also, that he should show his faith by the amount of his offerings.
But on the occasion of this our first visit, no such affectation was attempted. The young priest showed us the wheel as if it were some curious relic of an obsolete ignorance (the same sort of feeling with
THE SYMBOLIC WHEEL ON THE BRONZE PORTAL LEADING TO THE SHRINE OF TYEASU, AT NIKKO.
which the young sportsman, proud of his breech-loading rifle, looks at the old muzzleloader of which his father was so proud), and on our asking him to show us how it was worked, he proceeded to turn it widdershins (i. e., against the sun)! This was a great shock to my carefully cultivated prejudices and preconceived ideas, so when the senior priest came in, my companion (a perfect Japanese scholar) questioned him on the subject. He admitted that it was against all rule, and, turning to his companion, remarked, "Well, you are a pretty fellow, to go and turn the wheel the wrong way." But they both laughed, and did not really care a bit.
In fact, with the exception of certain processions around the temples at Osaka, the only instance of the practice of the old sunwise turns that I saw being done quite in earnest, in any part of Japan, was the circuit of the crater on the summit of Fuji-yama, the holy mountain, an extinct volcano fourteen thousand feet in height, the form of which cannot fail to be familiar to the most casual observer of Japanese art, as it is lovingly represented on fans, porcelain, lacquer, in all native picture-books-in short, wherever it can possibly be introduced. Thousands of pilgrims annually flock thither on foot from every corner of the isles, and, halting to worship and present small offer ings at many a Shinto shrine, they toil up
the steep ascent to the summit, where they find a night's shelter in the rudest little stone huts. Just before sunrise they kneel on the bare, cinder-like rock, and, gazing eastward over the limitless expanse of isles and sea, watch for the moment when the Sun-goddess shall appear. Then all join in hymns of praise and chanting of solemn litanies. Their orisons ended, they walk in procession around the summit-of course keeping the right-hand toward the crater. This is a circuit of three miles. As a good pilgrim, I, too, duly made this sunwise tour, and obtained a magnificent view, not only of the vast panorama outspread on every side below me, but also of the crater itself, with its great crags of many-colored lava rising in bold relief from the white morningmists which lay cradled in its depths.
The majority of the pilgrims consider that they have now accumulated sufficient merit, but those who desire to lay up special stores of sanctity, or to atone for heavy debts of conscience, descend to the base of the cone, or, rather, as the mountain is one vast cone, I should say to the point where vegetation ceases, and whence the mountain-top appears but as a huge cinder-heap. Diverging from the downward track, the earnest pilgrim now commences his second turn sunwise, and a hard task he has before him; for the circumference of the mountain at this point must be upward of twelve
miles, and the way is over a loose, crumbling | soil of small cinders and volcanic ash, where every step plunges the weary traveler at least ankle-deep. It is a toilsome pilgrimage, and one which forcibly recalled to my memory the multitudes of Hindu pilgrims whom I had often watched wearily making the five-mile circuit sunwise around the holy city of Benares. They, too, travel from afar to perform this act of faith-coming far greater distances and enduring greater hardships than these Japanese pilgrims ever have to face; and when at last they have reached this, the object of their hearts' longings, and have worshiped a multitude of gods in innumerable temples, and knelt on the shores of the sacred Ganges to adore the rising sun, and made sunwise tours around many a shrine, they have still to accomplish the great "panch cosse," or five-miles' pilgrimage-a sunwise turn which may nowhere exceed a distance of five miles from given points. Here, too, the truly earnest pilgrims are readily discerned. The careless and easy-going take a simple and dry path within the boundary of the city, but the truly conscientious pass outside, and make their five-mile circuit wearily and painfully, men and women alike often wading up to the knees in the deep mud of the holy river.
The discovery of the great scripturewheel at the temple of Asakusa having satisfactorily proved the existence in Japan of this singular form of worship, I continued my researches with renewed interest, and, after exploring many of the temples least visited by foreigners, I was one day attracted by the pleasant, shady grounds of an old temple near the Saido Bashi. The whole place appeared neglected, and I saw only one poor old priest, looking as dilapidated as the buildings themselves. But in a small temple standing a little apart was a large scripture-wheel. Worshipers there were none, and the wheel was fast going to decay.
The next place to which I directed my search was the temple of Ikegami, picturesquely situated on a wooded hill a few miles from the city of Tokio. It is a place of note, as the resting-place of the ashes of the sainted Nicheren, founder of a large Buddhist sect. Its votaries assemble here at stated times to hold high festival, and I was fortunate enough to witness one of these most fascinating matsuris. They are religious fairs, to which the people come from long distances, in their very prettiest dresses, VOL. XXII.-58.
quite as much intent on pleasure as on religion. For miles before we reached the spot, we were in the stream of holidaymakers, and of the large class of peddlers who hope to find a ready sale for a certain class of wares-food and sweetmeats, of course, but in this place they deal chiefly in all kinds of ornamental straw-work, very beautifully made. They also sell rosaries, for the use of the Nicheren sect, which, in some respects, differ from those of other Buddhists. These, I think, have only one hundred beads, and a different arrangement of large ones. The disciples of Nicheren have one hundred and eight beads, to represent one hundred and eight holy persons; four beads stand for saints or apostles, and two short strings of five beads recall the ten Buddhist commandments. Two very large beads represent the sun and moon, or dual principle. For prayer, the Buddhists do not tell their beads, but rub the rosary between their hands and twist it so as to form a Chinese character signifying success, which they reverently kiss. The quality of the rosary of course varies with its price, some wood being much more expensive than others. A dark, polished wood seemed most in request, but sandal-wood is sometimes used, and the principal balls are often of polished agate, or even more precious stones. I met a lady in this temple whose rosary evidently represented the family diamonds, so rich was it both in material and workmanship. She seemed much gratified at my evident admiration, and handed it to me for closer inspection. Of course we met and parted with a profusion of low bows.
One cannot imagine a prettier scene than that in which we found ourselves. The picturesque group of temple buildings stands on a hill crowned with dark pine-trees. The ascent is by a long flight of stone steps, up and down which came trooping crowds of brilliantly dressed women and children, and more soberly clothed men, all alike wearing heavy wooden clogs, which clattered as they walked. Brilliantly colored paper lanterns hung in festoons, ready for the evening festival. We passed through a long row of booths, where graceful Japanese girls were bargaining for artificial flowers and hair-pins, or buying sweetmeats for the happy little ones. Then we toiled up the long flight of stairs, passing rows of most miserable beggars suggesting rather than demanding alms, and receiving gifts of infinitesimal cash with profuse thanks and low bows.