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Central Buddhist Museum Holds “Dharma Bell, the Resonating Sound of Wisdom”

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Writer Jogye Date27 Jun 2017 Read164 Comment0

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Central Buddhist Museum Holds “Dharma Bell, the Resonating Sound of Wisdom”

 

 

A special exhibition on Korean Dharma bells from the Unified Silla to modern periods has been opened.

 

The Central Buddhist Museum holds a themed exhibition called “Dharma Bell, the Resonating Sound of Wisdom” from June 21 to August 20, 2017. At the exhibition, twenty outstanding Dharma bells of each period, such as the Small-sized Bronze Bell of Haeinsa and Bronze Bell of Gimryongsa, and twenty-five rubbings of Dharma bells are displayed. It is all the more meaningful that the exhibition showcases both restored bells and reproductions by Mr. Won Kwangsik, Jucheoljang, or bell casting master (National Intangible Cultural Heritage Asset No. 112), who is known to have exceptional skills of casting Dharma bells in Korea.

 

Dharma bells are significant ceremonial instruments in Korean Buddhism. They have been cast and used since ancient times up until now. Importantly, Korean Dharma bells are well-known for their refined embellishments and majestically resonating sound. One staff member at the Central Buddhist Museum said, “The sound of Dharma bells is the sound of the Buddha. Dharma bells encapsulate outstanding scientific and artistic skills of ancestors. The resonating sound of a Dharma bell prompts sense of gratitude and sincere aspiration of all.”

 

The exhibition consists of four sub-themes: ‘Unified Silla Period: Transmitting Celestial Sound’, ‘Goryeo Period: Encapsulating the Buddha’s Teachings’, ‘Joseon Period: Giving Ear to All Kinds of Sounds’ and ‘Modern Period: Reflecting Aspiration for Protecting the Nation’. The four chronological sub-themes reflecting distinctive characteristics of each period make the exhibition easier to understand to visitors. Dharma bells cast in the Unified Silla period, known to have the deepest resonance out of all Korean Dharma bells, are adorned with celestial nymphs playing musical instruments while descending on clouds. The illustration of celestial nymphs shows the intention to soothe chaotic secular realm through the sound of the Buddha. Prime examples include the Bronze Bell at Unjuji of Japan and Bell Excavated in Seolimwon Temple Site in Yangyang County. The embellishments of Buddha triad and Buddhist sutras are easily found on Dharma bells of the Goryeo period. Along with the popularization of Buddhism, the number of small-sized Dharma bells increased significantly and a variety of patterns were used to depict essence of the Buddha’s teachings, which the Small-sized Bronze Bell of Haeinsa and Bronze Bell of Naesosa well represent.    

 

Outstanding Dharma bells of the Joseon period showcased at the exhibition include the Bronze Bell of Gimnyongsa and Bronze Bell of Naksansa and Bronze Bell of Haeinsa. Standing bodhisattvas with their palms together along with Sanskrit script (梵字) were widely used on Dharma bells during the Joseon period. Sanskrit Mantras such as ‘Om mani padme hum’ and ‘Mantra for Destroying Hell’ were inscribed, too. Both bodhisattvas and mantras reflect the aspiration of sentient beings towards bodhisattvas who give ear to all kinds of sounds amid oppression against Buddhism in the Joseon period. In modern times, Dharma bells following the Joseon styles were largely made amid voluntary Dharma propagation activities of the Korean Buddhist communities, while influenced by Japanese Dharma bells due to the Japanese colonial period.

 

Ven. Hyunjo, Director of the Central Buddhist Museum, said, “It is said that the sky and earth were shaken when the Buddha gave his first teaching. It is not different that Korean Dharma bells have long been transmitting spiritual elation to sentient beings with their majestically resonating sound. I hope this exhibition which sheds a new light on Dharma Bells of Korea allows the resonating sound of wisdom to be delivered to many visitors.”  

 

 

Article reference: http://www.beopbo.com/news/articleView.html?idxno=98660

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