Monday, September 3, 2018

The Giant Stone Lantern (Ishidourou) of Yame City (Fukuoka Prefecture)

At the Yame Dentou Kougei-kan (Yame Traditional Craftwork Center), there is as giant lantern that might as well be a torii or a pagoda because of its size. It is the biggest Stone Lantern I know. 

In the olden times, stone lanterns were light towers that had double purpose: as illumination and as offering to Buddha. These days though, stone lanterns are ornamental elements of Japanese gardens (Nihon teien). 

Ishidourou (stone lanterns) are a constant feature of Japanese Gardens meant to add to the balance, harmony, and enduring nature of the garden. They have become almost iconic in their significance. In its usual form, there's a pedestal that supports the lantern, though they have varied designs. 

Mark Brazil, in his post for Japanese Visitor, traced the origin of Stone Lanterns. 

They were first used as votive lights, not for gardens. Introduced to Japan from China during the 6th century, stone lanterns were part of the arriving Buddhist tradition, with the light held in the lamp representing the teachings of the Buddha that help overcome the "darkness of ignorance."

"As such the lanterns represented important symbolic offerings to the Buddha. Their significance as a votive offering was transferred into Japan's native Shintoism and they began to appear at shrines too. They were eventually adopted not just as votive lights, but also as more practical lanterns to light the precincts of shrines and temples."
"From the 16th century onwards, the value of such lanterns was recognized by the secular community, and they were adopted by masters of the Japanese way of tea, who included them in tea gardens to light the way, and by the wealthy owners of private residences."
"During this period designs specially made for gardens began to appear, and granite lanterns are now a fixed feature of the Japanese garden."
Stone Lanterns are particularly common in Yame City. What follows are their different versions in this out-of-the-way city.

#stonelanterns   #kyusku   #fukuoka   #yamecity   #ishidourou

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