October 12, 2013

0837 JAPAN (Tōhoku) - Hiraizumi - Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land (UNESCO WHS)



For four generations, in Heian period (794-1185), between 1087 and 1189, Hiraizumi was the home of the family Hiraizumi Fujiwara, and at the same time the de facto capital of Oshu (an area containing nearly a third of Japan), an important political, military, commercial, and cultural centre, rivaling Kyoto. The area was based on the cosmology of Pure Land Buddhism, which spread to Japan in the 8th century, and represented the land that people aspire to after death, as well as peace of mind in this life. In combination with indigenous Japanese nature worship and Shintoism, Pure Land Buddhism developed a concept of planning and garden design unique to Japan. Following, Hiraizumi - Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land, comprises five sites, was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011.

Mōtsū-ji is one of these sites, and include a Buddhist temple of the Tendai sect and the historic area surrounding it, containing the ruins of two older temples, Enryū-ji (built in the mid 12th century by Fujiwara no Motohira, the second Northern Fujiwara lord) and Kashō-ji (a copy of Enryū-ji, began also by Fujiwara no Motohira and completed by his son and heir, Hidehira) in a Jōdo (Pure Land) garden. It is said that Mōtsū-ji had at the height of its glory 40 pagodas and 500 monasteries, all burned in 1226. The current temple was built in the 18th century and bears no relation to the ancient temples.

None of the original buildings exist today nor have been rebuilt, but the pond, called Oizumi ga ike, is largely preserved as it was 800 years ago, as also its feeder stream, known as yarimizu, designed based on the geomantic principles explained in the classic garden manual Sakuteiki (Treatise on Garden Making). The meandering flow is punctuated by rocks carefully placed to simulate the natural barriers, falls, and obstacles of a mountain stream. It is also the stage for Gokusui no En or Kyokusui no Utage (the Feast of the Winding Stream), an elegant poetry contest dating from the Heian period, which occurs each year on fourth Sunday in May (in the postcard).

Following the opening and announcement of the poetry topic, is performed the Young Woman Dance (jakujo) of the Ennen no Mai Longevity Rites. Sitting by the feeder stream, participants clad in Heian-style costumes (men in court or hunting robes, women in brocaded gowns or layered kimonos) compose poetry before a floating cup of peach sake reaches them, after which they take a sip from the cup. During the contest, there are elegant entertainments such as a traditional musical performance on a boat. Finally, the master of ceremonies reads the poems aloud, and this graceful event comes to a close. Like the floating sake cups, time seems to flow slowly and gracefully in this festival.


About the stamps
About the first postcard I can't say anything, and about the second, depicting an Eastern Honeybee (Apis cerana), I wrote here.

References
Hiraizumi - Temples, Gardens and Archaeological Sites Representing the Buddhist Pure Land - UNESCO official website

Mōtsū-ji - Wikipedia
Mōtsū-ji  Temple - Official website
Chapter 24: Streams - Japanese Gardens Online

sender: Yuko / yukk (postcrossing)
sent from Nara (Kansai / Japan), on 02.10.2013

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