Saturday, May 5, 2012

般若寺/Hannya-ji Temple in Yamabuki color

花咲きて 実はならねども 長き日に 思ほゆるかも 山吹の花  -author unknown-

(Double petaled) yamabuki bears no fruits but only flowers 
still I'm waiting long for the flower to bloom
so is my love.

In the tanka poems of Manyoshu Anthology compiled in the 8th century, Yamabuki is often associated with fruitless love because double-petaled yamabuki bear no fruits.  Now is the season when "yamabuki" is aglow with beauty. Yamabuki is Kerria Japonica which is native to China and Japan and has common names like Japanese roses or yellow roses.   

There is a color called “yamabuki-iro” in Japanese, it would be golden yellow in English.    At Hannya-ji Temple, spring is yamabuki yellow.

Hannya-ji is located at the top of Nara-zaka (Nara slope), a part of the old highway connecting Kyoto and Nara, and is to the north of the Todaiji Temple.  Due to its position of "kimon (demon's gate)", the quarter lying to the northeast of the capital of Nara, Emperor Shomu dedicated “般若波羅蜜多心經/Hannya-kyo", or The Heart Sutra, written by himself to the pagoda's stylobate: this is thought to be the origin of the name of the temple.  It is a small temple different from the vast and pompous looking of Todai-ji or Kofuku-ji.

The roof tiles are shining silver.

Stone Buddhist images queue up beside the main hall. Flowers of the season play around the stone images throughout the year.

The stone Buddhas are in peace in meditation here and there in the precinct.

Let's have a stroll in the precinct, seeing the historical sites in the profusion of yellow blooms.

The garden is seemingly untamed, which gives me warm, familiar feel.

The temple gate is one of the most important historical sites of this temple.

楼門(temple gate) built in the late 14th century, National Treasure

from the outside

The thirteen-storied stone pagoda, too.

Thirteen-story Stone Pagoda completed till around  1253, 12.6 meters high

votive tablets

Hannya-ji is said to have been founded by priest 慧灌 (Ekan) from Kokuri/Korea in 629 (Asuka Period).   It was burnt down to ashes in 南都焼討 (an incident that the Taira clan army led by Taira no Shigehira set fire to Buddhist temples in Nara such as Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji by the order of Taira no Kiyomori in 1181) and became a dilapidated temple.  In Kamakura Period (1192-1333), the temple rose like a phoenix.  Thirteen-story Stone Pagoda, the symbol of the temple, was built by the monk 良恵 (Ryoe) and completed till around 1253.  Afterwards, the main image and the Main Hall were reconstructed by 叡尊 (Eison) of Saidai-ji Temple, who is known as a founder of Shingon Ritsusyu sect of Buddhism. He gave relief to the poor and the ill.   In 1490 and 1567, main structures were again burnt down, and besides, the temple was terribly damaged by the anti-Buddhist movement in the early Meiji period (1868-1912) that led to the destruction of Buddhist temples and images.

After the WWII, priests have made the utmost efforts to keep it standing.   The temple has prospered as a study temple of the Heart Sutra and Flower Temple.

Splash of Yamabuki-yellow

Though many visitors and large sightseeing buses rush to the temple during cosmos flowers season, people were sparse in the morning precint despite Golden Week.

My mother left hospital on Wednesday and is at home with my brother's family.   She was cured for the infection but still has health problems.  Fortunately she is not suffering so far though she tends to suffer in silence.   I hope she will live in peace with self-management, medication, and love of family as long as possible, just like a cracked teacup can last long when treated carefully and gently.  


  1. Hello Yoko:
    What a wonderful little temple which looks so very pretty nestling as it does amongst the profusion of untamed Kerria japonica. An such an interesting vignette of history.

    We are pleased that your mother's health is satisfactory.

  2. Your posts are always so beautiful.

    To have a garden look wild and natural takes a great deal of skill and hard work.

  3. Lovely virtual tour as always with so many delightful pictures and beautiful description of the place. What i loved of it, apart from the tranquility of course, are the buddhist images and the colorful flowers that naturally surround them. The unpaved way with all the greenery around only adds to the old world feel.

    Yoko, glad to hear your mother is back home. I am sure with love as her medicine, she will fight her ailment and come out strong. My prayers and best wishes are always with her. Your last article on the temple of peonies was very beautiful too... Take care.

  4. Dear Yoko - what a pretty temple surrounded by the calming yellow flowers of the Kerria Japonica.
    Pleased to hear that your mother is home with her family.

    I shall remember your analogy - just like a cracked teacup can last long if treated carefully and gently. A memorable quote worth heeding.

  5. The ancient looking stone tablets are suited to the unruly grasses and flower shrubbery and appear very mysterious in such surroundings. I like how the language of poetry also finds its way into daily life and the holiday is called Golden Week. Your mom is fortunate to have such good care, stardust. Love goes a long way in keeping “cracked teacups” content and in one piece.

  6. thanks for the note on your mother. what a sweet comparison...

    i loved these flowers. such a gorgeous color and proliferation.

  7. 自然な感じがとてもいい雰囲気を出していますね。写真の捉え方がいいのだと思います。2月(だったかな?)水仙を撮りに行ったときはちょっと期待外れでしたが、私の見る目がなかったのかも知れません。


  8. The temple looks so beautiful with yellow yamabuki blossoms! When I visited it with my friends a long time ago, cosmos were beautifully in bloom! It was a lovely autumnal day. Your beautiful photos made me want to visit the place again. So good to hear that your dear mother has been recovered!!

  9. Beautiful pictures! The votive tablets made me curious - what are they?
    Pia xx

  10. Hello Yoko, thank you for that tour in the garden with the lovely
    yellow flowers, I love that yellow shade, the yamabuki yellow, as you say, it's such a warm and optimistic colour. And the untamed garden and the temple. It's so beautiful.

    It's good to hear that your mother is better. It can be so difficult to grow old. It's not for sissies, but it's a good thing that she's not alone, that she has a family. To feel safe is a part of being better.

    Best wishes

  11. So many beautiful photos. I love the abundance of yellow - such a sunny colour. I always learn so much about Japanese history from you.

    So glad to hear your mother is able to be home with your brother. May she continue to enjoy life for a long time.

  12. Yellow goes well old architecture well.
    The yellow tells us the Spring and makes us bright. :)

  13. Pia - Votive tablets are offered at Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples to express one’s prayers or wishes or to express one’s thankness when prayers are answered. Wooden tablets with (mostly) a horse design are sold about five hundred yen at Temples or Shrines.

    Cosmos - 実家の庭で咲いていましたが、残念なことに山で見たことがありません。 こんなにたくさんの山吹を見れるのは般若寺しか知りません。写真ではソフトな黄色に見えますが、実際は明るい黄色です。 GWなのに静かな境内、山吹たちの元気をもらってきました。

  14. お母さま、退院なされて本当によかったですね。一病息災という言葉は"a cracked teacup can last long if treated carefully and gently."にぴったりです。
    I visited this temple while cosmoses were in full bloom. Timing to visit temples which are famous for beautiful flowers is very important, also to have perfect timing is very hard. You caught the perfect timing. Luck you!!
    I wonder without fruits how Yamabuki increase?? ってふとおもいました。

  15. So glad to hear your mother is out of hospital. I wish her and you peace.

    Wonderful photos - how cheerful and uplifting to see all that yellow. The roof and stone Buddhist images are also very peaceful.

  16. What wonders and treasures of beauty you always present us Yoko! A post to indulge in it!
    I am glad to hear your mother is at least better, and I am happy that you you and your family are taking care of her with love and tenderness...

  17. snowwhite - ごもっともな疑問です。八重山吹はおしべが弁化し、めしべも退化しているので、果実ができないそうです。 地下茎をのばして増えるようです。

  18. 新緑の5月、旅先で鮮やかな黄金色の山吹の花が咲き乱れる様子を見る度に、私もこの花のようなエネルギーを持たないといけないなぁ~と何故か思います。同じ時期に咲く牡丹や藤の花を見てもそうは思わないのですが。

  19. dear Yoko!
    domo arigato for this peaceful+zen virtual walk, I loved the colours and composition in your pics...wish u, your mum and your family tons of happiness together+quick&painless recovery!

  20. What a warm, lush, wonderful place! Thanks, again, for all the most interesting information!

    So glad your mother is doing better and is being well-cared for.

    We'll be on hiatus for awhile and will not be posting on any blogs after today. Best wishes to you.

  21. This is such a charming temple, it seems almost to be hidden in the golden flowers. I am surprised that so few people come to see it during this season. Cosmos are very beautiful but this seems (from your pictures) to be almost as beautiful.

    I am sure your mother is glad to have a family who will care so well for her, and I liked your analogy of a cracked teacup treated with care. I send her my best wishes.

  22. What a beautiful post! Thanks for the tour around this wonderful and interesting place. Your photos are beautiful, and I enjoyed reading!
    The Kerria japonica is a lovely sight, it looks so beautiful.

    Have a nice new week, Yoko :)

  23. I loved this post because yellow has always been one of my favourite colours. It's just impossible to be sad if you're surrounded by cheerful yellow flowers.

    I hope your mother will be able to enjoy spring flowers for many years to come.

  24. The Buddhist Stones add to the serenity of the garden. I love this profusion of flowers especially with a ray of sunshine that brings thier rich golden shades out! thnaks again for such a beautiful post Yoko!

  25. Hello Yoko!
    This temple and grounds seem lost in time but no doubt carefully tended by secretive gardeners.A visual feast in yellow! These japonica flowers bring back memories of my mother's garden,she grew the double variety.Your photos are lovely and informative.I like the crow admiring her reflection....or maybe just drinking water!
    Is it possible that we are all cracked teacups?

    All best wishes,

  26. ヤマブキといえば、小学生の時担任だった先生が教えてくれた太田道灌の山吹の一枝の話を思い出します。知ってると思いますが、説明させてね。道灌が鷹狩の帰りに雨にあい蓑をかしてほしいと駆け込んだみすぼらしい家のむすめが、七重八重花は咲けども山吹のみのひとつだに(実と蓑)なきぞかなしき とよんで山吹の一枝をさしだしたとか。なんとロマンチック?


  27. Ruby – I think it’s possible. We are not perfect, we all have weakness more or less, so each of us is a cracked teacup.

    sarah - よく覚えていたね! 聞いて思い出しました。 貧しくても教養のあるお嬢さんやね。

  28. My deerest friend Yoko
    Wonderful place!
    Excellent temple and great information! Thank you.
    I am glad for your mother and moved to the metaphor of cracked glasses.
    I wish you the best for all your family!
    Many greetings and kisses

  29. Glad to hear that your mother has recovered sufficiently to go to your brothers house. That is a very fitting analogy to the cracked teacup.
    The yellow flowers are beatiful and the close ups of the temples are facinating too. Thank you,

  30. When I was a child, I was taught that yellow flowers are to be given only to men. For me it was a stupid custom I never respected because yellow flowers are some of my favorites (especially freesia).
    And luckily there's a few bushes of yambuki I can admire daily, in a small garden just outside the building where I live.
    The golden yambuki collage is great, it has so much life and energy in it!

    The Hannya-ji Temple is very beautiful, mostly because of its simplicity. By not trying to overpower the nature around through an ostensive and sophisticated architecture, nature and temple co-exist in a balanced manner, making the most of each other. Too bad so many wars and so much destruction mankind bore in the the name of religion!...

    I'm happy for the good news concerning your mother, Yoko, and I hope she will keep on going better and better with each day passing! The cracked teacup analogy is very sweet and it reflects exactly what a cup like that needs in order to last long: the love and care of the "owner".

  31. Wonderful to have a look at your great springtime impressions of Hannya-ji Temple. I've been only once to Japan, but I enjoyed the different temples and shrines of Kamakura so much!

    Regards from Germany,


  32. What a wonderful post!
    Thanks for sharing from this lovely place.
    The yellow blooms are gorgeous.
    I'm so glad to hear that your mother is home with her family.
    Wish you a wonderful day.

  33. Cuando leí lo de tu madre se me sobresaltó el corazón; la mía también acaba de salir del hospital donde estuvo ingresada 11 días, vive con mi hermano, su salud es delicada pero ella es fuerte, eso espero.

    When I read about your mother my heart jumped; mine also just left the hospital where she was admitted for 11 days, and lives with my brother, her health is delicate, but she is strong. I hope.

  34. My thoughts are with you and your Mother--I hope she does well. I am sure you are giving her much careful and gently treatment. Your world is "aglow" with bright yellows--how can we not be happy when surrounded with such loveliness. Take care. Mickie :)

  35. I love the yellow .....and the pagoda....beautiful. Lovely series of pictures. Thanks for sharing. Chris


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