The “Roaring Dragon” of Shokoku-ji Temple (Kyoto, Japan)


Kyoto imperial palace garden in Kyoto, Japan
Image via Wikipedia

You enter the temple. An eerie quiet surrounds the few pilgrims, besides you, inside the hall of the inner sanctum. Yet it feels as if someone or something is watching from above. Your gaze travels toward the ceiling where a giant dragon is coiled in painted wood above your head. While you stand transfixed, yours and the creature’s eyes lock.

Then the unthinkable occurs. Someone claps their hands disturbing the peace of the sanctified place. Before righteous indignation registers, an amazing thing takes place. The dragon, in all its Imperial majesty, roars.

You cannot believe it. A trick of imagination and the awesome surroundings must have caused the breathtaking phenomena. Yet, another clap summons the dragon once again and you smile.

“So this is what calls the creature to wake.”

You hear someone whisper that the sound is a reverberating echo traveling between the parallel planes of the floor and the ceiling. A subtle overlapping of acoustic reflections is what brings the dragon to life. Still, you clap your hands knowing the sea god, Ryujin has communicated to you on a mystical level that words cannot express.

Facts:

Located in the old neighborhood near Doshisha University, just north of the Imperial Palace.

The Main Hall was completed 1394 by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (1358-1408).

Destroyed by fire and rebuilt many times, only the Dharma Hall and the Imperial Gate are what is left of the original structures.

A Zen sect temple, Shokokuji has treasures and cultural collections displayed in the Shotenkaku Museum, onsite.

References:

Kansai Window: Japanese Architecture in Kansai, Echoes, “The Secret of the Dragon and the Mysterious Urns”       http://www.kippo.or.jp/e/culture/build/archi.html

Draconian.com: “Dragon Sculptures, The “roaring dragon” of Sokoku-ji” http://www.draconian.com/dragons/dragon-sculptures.php

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