kanbutsu-e 潅仏会
KEY WORD : art history / general terms
A ceremony held every year to commemorate Buddha's *Shaka 釈迦 birthday, April 8th, where a small statue of Buddha is sprinkled with scented water or hydrangea tea. The ceremony recreates a legend that when the Buddha was born he was sprinkled with perfume by the dragon god, ryuuou 龍王 (see *ryuu 龍). A small shrine, known as the hanamidou 花御堂 is set up and decorated with flowers. A small image of the Buddha in the form of a child as he appeared at birth *tanjoubutsu 誕生仏 is placed on a wide, shallow metal bowl, known as the kanbutsuban 潅仏盤. The statue of Buddha has the right hand held up, and the left hand pointing down, depicting the moment when Buddha took seven steps forward and pronounced the words, Tenjou tenga yuiga dokuson 天上天下唯我独尊 (I alone am honored in heaven and on earth). Visitors to the temple where the ceremony is performed use a small ladle to sprinkle scented water over the top of the statue. The kanbutsu-e ceremony was brought to Japan from China, and the first recorded celebration in Japan was at Gangouji 元興寺 in Nara in 606. It spread to become a regular part of Buddhist tradition in other temples, the court, and among ordinary citizens. A famous kanbutsuban decorated with hunting scenes is preserved in Nara's Toudaiji 東大寺. It dates from the Nara period and shows outstanding metal craftsmanship.


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