Monday, May 24, 2010

The Temple Bell

I have a long-standing fascination with the big bronze temple bells that are a feature of Buddhist temples in Vietnam.
The heavy, expensive, cast-metal bell is, of course, a very ancient part of traditional Buddhist temple decoration, and can be seen in temples across China, Japan and Korea as well. They are frequently one of the most costly items to furnish a temple, and they are used to call the faithful to prayer for the evening service. They are also used to wake up the monks in the mornings, and sometimes to call them to lunch.
In Vietnam there is also a really beautiful tradition of sounding the bell for a period during the afternoon, normally around 3pm. An older member of the community sits by the bell and sounds it softly at intervals, normally while reciting a sutra or mantra, or reciting the rosary. To sit in the temple garden and listen to the bell is one of those rarefied ways of spending your leisure time that makes me love Vietnam so much.

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