Buddhist Statues 5:

Miscellaneous Statues, Ornaments and Other Objects




This is a "hou", a wooden fish used as a gong. It is carved such that a ball of wood remains stuck inside the fish's mouth, and the underside is hollow. It's about 46 cm (18.5 inches) long and 20 cm. (8 inches) high. The hollow section extends for about 6.5 cm. (2.6 inches) up into the fish's belly. Such fish are still used to call monks for their midday meal in Soutou (or Soto) monasteries. Originally, this would have been painted in quite vivid colours, but these have mostly worn away.

There is another closely-associated gong, used in chanting, known as "mokugyo" (= wooden fish). Mokugyo are not hard to come by, but I'm still looking out for the right one at the right price, and don't have one I can show right now! The hou is said to be the origin of the mokugyo.

These days, you can find replica hou, made in China for tourists and souvenir-hunters. They will generally come in a cardboard box and not have the signs of heavy use that a genuine hou has.



This is a top-piece panel ornament. It measures about 33 cm. (13.5 inches) in width and 21 cm. (8.5 inches) in height. Cranes, in particular, are a popular temple motif. The background picture for this web page is a set of line drawings of cranes taken from an old (1883) series of books of shrine and temple art. The series has quite a few drawing of cranes, but none with this particular posture. There are also a few pictures of rabbits, but again, these postures are not depicted, though I imagine this panel would have been placed over the head of a Buddhist deity in a temple somewhere at the time these books were published.



As the above detail shows, the artwork is quite finely detailed. It was made up in layers, with a piece of wood between the animal figures and the floral background to enhance the relief effect. The gilt is still in place, and the only real flaw is that one of the rabbits' ears has broken off.




Elephant heads, carved from wood. 6 cm.(2.4 inches) long by 3.5 cm. (1.4 inches) high. Mid-19th century (?). These would have sat at the ends of a narrow beam at either end of an ornamented panel. The picture on the left shows the tongues of wood at the back, that would have slotted into a groove on the beam-end. I haven't actually seen anything like them in Buddhist temples, but I am assuming they are Buddhist because elephants are associated with Buddhism, in Japan as in other parts of Asia.





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