This watercolor painting illustrates the glow of a temple light up in Kyoto, Japan. Arrays of lights shine up onto the multi-colored leaves of the trees and upon the various buildings on the temple grounds. This view is from Kiyomizu-dera, looking up at the surrounding mountains towards a small part of the temple near the mountain peaks. The landscape feels otherworldly, and although logic knows that there are hidden lights shining on the trees, it seems as if the light is radiating out of the trees themselves – perhaps as if an inner light was illuminating the landscape and bringing it to life. Although the technique of the light show is modern, the scene before me felt quite ancient and as timeless and the changing seasons.
Japan celebrates the richness of each season in a way that is unique amongst the countries I’ve visited thus far. Even in this age of jet-imported fresh foods from half-way around the world, the Japanese still retain an emphasis on what is local, seasonal, and fresh – the uniqueness and beauty of what is right in front of them at the moment. The same is true for the arts – it is often apparent which season is depicted in each Japanese painting, as that momentary fleeting beauty is represented. It’s a celebration of impermanence, and of being present and living in the moment. Where else do people, as an entire society, go out together just to see the autumn leaves? Seeing Kyoto that November gave me the most appreciation for the potential benefits of having four seasons that I’ve ever had, being a woman of the tropics at heart.
Are there other parts of the world that have such autumn light ups? Let me know in the comments!
On a crisp autumn night in Kyoto, Japan, the full moon shines down on Kiyomizu Temple (清水寺). The name of the temple “pure water” comes from a nearby waterfall. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was founded in 798 during the early Heian Period, and reconstructed in 1633 without a single nail. The sense of history and majesty of the place come alive during the special night temple light-ups that occur during certain times of the year.
Jizo (地蔵) is a Buddhist bodhisattva known as the guardian of travelers and children, particularly children who die before their parents die. He is one of the most popular figures in Japan, with statues commonly found along roadsides and in graveyards. Parents praying for the health of a sick child, or grieving and seeking protection for their child’s spirit, often clothe the statues. This art piece was inspired by a stone statue of Jizo at Daihonzan Miyoshinji (大本山妙心寺) in Kyoto, Japan.
Jizo is also popular in other parts of Asia, where his names include:
– Sanskrit: Kṣitigarbha क्षितिगर्भ
– Chinese: Dìzàng 地藏
– Korean: ji jang 지장
– Tibetan: sa yi snying po ས་ཡི་སྙིང་པོ
– Vietnamese: Địa Tạng Vương bồ tát
– Thai: Phra Kasiti Khappha Phothisat พระกษิติครรภโพธิสัตว์