This interesting item is an very large antique wooden bell striker (bai) for use with large Buddhist temple bells. The striker dates from the early to mid Showa period (1926-1989) and has seen much past use and today is in poor condition with a worn and tattered fabric striker. The solid wood handle is in good condition though there are chips and scratches from past use. Due to its condition and age we recommend this striker as a display item only.
Size of striker:
Length: 18.3 inches (47.0 centimeters or 15.7 sun*)
Weight: 7.9 ounces (225 grams)
* The Japanese still measure many traditional craft items according to the old kanejaku system of measure which was formally replaced with the metric system in 1891. Altar bells and accessories are one example where this old system of measure is still used, and brand new religious items will commonly include labels stating the item’s size in kanejaku units. The basic unit of measure within this system is the “sun” which equals roughly 3 centimeters.
Japanese Buddhist home altars
At the start of the long Japanese Edo period (1600-1868) the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu determined that the country of Nippon (Japan) should be closed to the outside world with the exception of a few ports of trade. This was done in an effort to protect Japan from the colonizing forces of the west and in particular to isolate the Japanese people from the influences of Christianity, which the Shogun viewed as a threat to the principals of Confucianism upon which his rule did depend. Over time this fear of Christianity grew such that laws were eventually passed requiring the Japanese to annually swear devotion to Buddhism. Fearing the threat and penalties of Christian belief, many Japanese families began to erect small Buddhist altars within their home as further proof of their loyalty to Buddhism. These home altars or butsudan as they are called were commonly outfitted with religious implements such as bells, incense burners, candlesticks and statues such that they might resemble Buddhist temples in miniature. Specialist crafts developed for the sole purpose of manufacturing beautiful wooden butsudan and their associated articles of worship. Over time, the practice of maintaining a home altar lost it’s original purpose of publicly expressing one’s loyalty to Buddhism and instead became an accepted and important household function, particularly with families acting as the head of the household name (usually the home of the first born son). Far from being forgotten as a relic of Japan’s past, the butsudan is today an important household fixture which may receive daily attention by family members who consider the altar to symbolically enshrine the spirits and memories of departed ancestors.
item code: R1S6-0004456
category code: (nipponrin) (butsudannomono)
ship code: B