Friday, September 12, 2014

Unju-ji


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After leaving Kiyomizudera I headed for Unjuji, what I believed to be the next temple on the Izumo Kannon Pilgrimage. When I studied the route and guide I saw a temple marked at the approximate location of Unjuji, and as Unjuji was a pretty big temple and on the Chugoku 33 Kannon Pilgrimage I didn't read closely enough. Temple 22 is actually a small temple about 600 meters away, so technically I have not yet finished the pilgrimage until I go back and visit the proper temple 22.

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When I've been to Unjuji before I have seen pilgrims there, as can be attested by the photo above of the Kannon-do.

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There are a lot of small statues scattered around the grounds, and a very fine gate. The temple was founded in 1322 and belongs to the Rinzai Zen sect.

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The most interesting thing at the temple though is a bronze bell that is somewhere between 1000 to 1300 years old. Its a Korean bell, more specifically from Silla, the country that unified the Korean Peninsula in the late 7th Century. During the "colonial" period of Japanese rule over Korea in the first half of the 20th Century much was looted from there, and Korean bells were one of the objects apparently prized. Also, of course, much was looted from Korea by Hideyoshis armies in the 16th Century. Why the bell, and others like it throughout Japan, have not been returned is a mystery to me. Some historians believe this particular bell is one of the oldest of its style in existence.

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There is a fascinating article here that discusses the meaning of Korean Bells, and the Unjuju Bell, in relation to a pre-Buddhist "Goddess" religion of East Asia. The author is also pretty scathing in her criticism of how Japan portrays Korean history.

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