Japan’s Doll Festival (Hina Matsuri 雛祭) has a very curious history, one largely forgotten in contemporary times. Held on March three every year since the mid-to-late Edo period (1600-1867), it was originally a day for ritual purification known as Jōshi no Sekku 上巳の節句 (literally “Seasonal Festival of the Snake”) when people would rub their bodies with crude human-shaped figurines made of paper, straw, clay or wood. These figurines served as “scapegoats” for exorcising spiritual pollution and bad karma. The word for snake (Jōshi) sounds like the word for girl (Joshi 女子), and the festival eventually became geared towards girls. The first sekku 節句 (seasonal festival) after the birth of a baby girl, it is now a day when charming dolls are set out for display to symbolize the family’s wish that their daughter will be healthy, free from calamity and able to obtain a happy life with a good husband. But it was not always so. Click the image below to read more, or click here.
Japanese Buddhism & the Deification of the Stars
Japan imported China’s Yin-Yang divination and Feng Shui practices in the mid-6th century CE, including astrological lore surrounding star groupings such as the Seven Big Dipper Stars, the Nine Luminaries, the 12 Zodiac Signs, the 28 moon lodges, and the 36 animals. The most receptive camps were Japan’s esoteric Shingon and Tendai schools, which took the lead in introducing star worship to Japan. The integration of celestial bodies into Japanese Buddhism peaked during the mid-and-late Heian period, but star faith never developed into a major branch of Japanese esoteric art — indeed, the number of extant star mandala and star-related masterpieces in Japan is very limited. Star worship is still alive today in Japan, but it is not a major force in modern religious practice. This 35-page report presents a brief history of the 28 moon lodges in China and the group’s later usage in Japanese star worship. This is followed by a lengthy review of the 28, plus a guide to the deification of other important stars and planets, including the Seven Big Dipper Stars, the Nine Luminaries, and the Pole Star (aka Myōken Bosatsu). All together, some 60 deities and over 100 images are presented. Click the image below to get started. Enjoy the tour. Popcorn not included.
Visual Tour of Korean Buddhism
Over 280 annotated photos exploring the creatures, deities, and artwork of Korean Buddhism. These photos were taken in June-July 2012 by site author Mark Schumacher, who journeyed to Korea to explore Kanhwa Sŏn 看話禪 and Hwadu 話頭 meditative techniques (the Korean counterpart of Japanese Zen kōan meditation). This special report includes an overview of Kanhwa Sŏn practice and features a sidepage entitled Korean Influence on Early Japanese Buddhism. Click the image below to get started. Enjoy the tour. Popcorn not included.