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Adventures in Kyoto @KyotoDailyPhoto
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The origins of the Shukyo Gyoji (宗教行事/aka Oshorai おしょらい) are hazy at best, but there are many stories about how the great mountain fires came to be.
#五山送り火 #GozanNoOkuribi #大文字 #Daimonji #京都 #Kyoto
Iwata Hideaki (岩田英彬) in his work 'Kyo no Daimonji Monogatari' (京の大文字ものがたり) says "The event was launched by people with no particular status or fame, so there’s no record of its origin". This helpfully explains why we know so little about the Okuribi (送り火). 2/10
a) KUYA (空也上人)-
The Nihongi Ryaku (日本紀略) records that in 963 Kuya, wishing to celebrate completion of Saiko-ji (西光寺/the current Rokuharamitsu-ji 六波羅蜜寺), held a huge memorial service, with 600 monks chanting the Wisdom Sutra by the banks of the Kamo River. 3/10
As the service coincided with Manto Kuyo-e (万灯供養-an event of offering votive lights for the dead at Obon), that evening the monks walked about the neighbourhood & into the foothills with hundreds of lanterns. It is said this later inspired the Okuribi (送り火). 4/10
Rokuharamitsu-ji (六波羅蜜寺) remembers Kuya’s service on the afternoon before the Gozan-no-Okuribi. 108 lanterns are lit, some recreating the shape '大'. Interestingly here '大' most definitely represents the 5 elements (五大), important in esoteric Buddhism (密教). 5/10
In the Nanboku-cho period (南北朝時代 1336-1392) it is recorded that lanterns were lit at the graves on Ryozen (霊山) & Toribe-no 鳥辺野) to welcome back the spirits of the dead. The details are sparse, & it is unclear if this was a regular event. 6/10
By the 14thC Manto-e (万燈籠-lit. 10,000 lanterns) ceremonies were prevalent in many temples at Obon. Some of these temples were located on Kyoto's mountainsides, but there is nothing to indicate the lanterns were arranged to be deliberately seen in the city. 7/10
After the devastation of the Onin War (1467-77), Kyoto was struck by natural disasters & epidemics. The population began to fear that the spirits of the thousands killed in the 10 year conflict lingered in the city, causing increasing calamity. 8/10
The Onin War (応仁 文明の乱) had caused such devastation & breakdown of authority that proper funeral rites were all but abandoned, leading to a haunted city. It is said huge bonfires were lit on the mountainsides to guide these spirits home, & may have inspired the Okuribi. 9/10
By around 1558 (Eiroku era-永禄期) the tradition of lighting increasingly oversized lanterns at the end of Obon was prevalent across the city. Neighbourhood associations organised Furyu Odori (風流踊り-lit. Elegant Dance) to coincide with this. 10/10
#五山送り火 #GozanNoOkuribi #大文字 #Daimonji #京都 #Kyoto
Along the Kamo River the villages of Hanase (花背), Hirogawara (広河原) & Kumogahata (雲ヶ畑) preserve torch lighting ceremonies called Matsuage (松上げ). These fire festivals perhaps most clearly show where the Gozan-no-Okuribi came from. 2/10
On August 24th the temple of Koun-ji (高雲寺) in Kumogahata (雲ヶ畑) sponsors the Matsuage (松上げ). Each year a secretly chosen (usually Buddhist) symbol is created with bonfires on the mountainside opposite the temple as a prayer for good harvests and fire protection. 3/10
Another local tradition is the throwing of torches (or burning pieces of straw rope) into the air at the end of Obon (お盆). In this way spirits were literally directed away from earth to the netherworld. 4/10
From the end of the 16thC permanent war came to an end. The increased wealth & organisation of neighbourhood associations allowed for more lavish festivals. Obon thus became more than Buddhist memorial, it also became a time of celebration, of feasting, music and dance. 5/10
g) Unlike the Gion & Aoi festivals, the Okuribi's origins are hazy. In 1603 the nobleman Funabashi Hidekata (舟橋秀賢 1575-1614), in his diary Keicho Nikken-roku (慶長日件録), describes going to the Kamo River to see the mountain bonfires. It is the earliest record we have. 6/10
In 1802 the author Kyokutei Takizawa Bakin (曲亭/滝沢馬琴 1767-1848) describes in his work Jinju Tsukiryo Manroku (壬戌羇旅漫録) the reflection from hundreds of lanterns glistening like stars in the Kamo River (鴨川). 7/10
He goes on to talk about various temples in the foothills arranging lanterns so that they are visible from the city. Takizawa also talks of bonfires made up of hemp, burning on Higashiyama. Representing Buddhist doctrines, these fires purified & guided the dead after Obon. 8/10
In the late Edo period there are descriptions of the public gathering at the Kamo-gawa's dry river bed, placing lanterns in the water to float away...literally sending the spirits of the dead back home (the netherworld could be reached beyond the sea). 9/10
It is theorised that the Okuribi truly emerged as a result of the authorities clamping down on the many local fire festivals. As fire was a constant danger to the city (& raucous celebrations a source of unease for the government), the Okuribi offered a safer alternative. 10/10
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