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A CHINESE JOSS HOUSE.

“ The Vagabond,” in one of his series of Chinese Sketches, contributed to the Argus, gives the following description of one of the most celebrated Joss Houses round Shanghai ; “ It has an ordinary mean outside. At the dingy entrance is a gigantic painted red and gold figure, with threatening sword. Guardian of the temple, this is meant to look fierce, but to our eyes is only comical, and it doesn’t seem to scare anyone. Through a side door we enter the first temple. Here on a large pedestal is a life-size gilt figure of jolly ‘Joss,’ who is depicted laughing-visaged, ' with fair round belly,’ around which his hands are complacently folded. A sort of iron grill is before the altar, on which, by the droppings of wax around, votive tapers have been burnt. The surroundings are all mean, the walls dingy. We pass through a court into another building. Here are two more bizarre figures which would do well outside a London tabacconist’s door, far eclipsing in attraction the smoking Indian or snuff-taking Highlander. Here is ananother gilt joss, a little more reverendlooking. Here, too, is a very large and beautifully-engraved bell, said to be chiefly composed of silver. It has a most musical sound. In old days, I am told, there was a golden joss here, but he has long since been melted down. Through a back door we pass into a well-kept court. In front is the entrance to the great temple. It is really very fine and interesting to a stranger, and the gigantic gilt figure of Buddha, which faces us as we enter, attracts us so much that we forget the disappointment caused by the Bub bling Well, and stand in admiration of this emblem of power gnd wistjom, •" i _ ■ ;i.j 1 i.O

“No longer a jolly larking ap jearance, no longer displaying ordilary human passions, this figure s Budda, as he is personified n the Eastern World, the ‘ Light Df Asia, whose followers surpass those af any other forrh of creed, numbering it is said, 470 millions. It is the same face which one sees in temples of this faith everywhere. The same crosslegged figure is represented from Dai Boodsa in Japan to furthest Ind. The calm, passionless features strike one with the same sense of sedate power which one recognises in many Egyptian monuments. And there is more j a supreme unconsciousness, a wisdom far removed from the things of this world; there is ‘ perfect purity and tendernessthe eternal .nhvana, at which the believers in this religion hope that they will some day arrive. Whoever first made an image of Buddha, which has served as the type for the thousands in the East, was certainly an inspired artist. The many mysteries added to the simple Buddhist creed, the absurd ritualism which has been grafted on this as on other faiths, I cannot attempt to deal with, but to those who have read in a broad spirit Mr Edwin Arnold’s work, this personification of the princely founde of Buddhism, styled “ the Saviour of the World,” comes as a material revelation. Artists whose genius has never been surpassed have left behind them enough sacred Christian subjects, but none have given us anything like the ideal figure of Buddha. It personifies the spirit as the Venus de Medici does the flesh. Raised on a high altar this herculean idol (as my missionary friends would call it) has by its side a standing female figure of life size, also gilt,

which, with clasped hands, appears to be appealing for that mercy ot which she is the goddess. On a raised platform round the temple are twenty other gilt figures, life-size and life-like. They are all sitting, but otherwise in all sorts of postures. Some are reading, some in meditation, some in argument, some expounding, some threatening with uplifted fist* some enjoying a dolce far nienie, one with a crozier would pass for a Catholic priest, one has a crook, another nurses some impossible animal, and one is decorated with a fine black beard. The expressions of all are very good. These I am told are some of the sacred followers of Buddha, canonised riot for their own good deed, but for those of their postefity. We could not find out what materials these were made of, and my companion, who wanted to buy one, could not come to terms. The priests or “ bonzes ” in the temple have no sacerdotal garments, and are only to be recognised by their close-cropped heads and absence of pig-tall, which they sacrifice when they take _up their presumed sacred profession. Many women and children are in this temple. On what would have been their feet if Nature had had its way, they slowly toddled over the pavement, there is very little reverence amongst them. One woman sat down on a bench and bound up her little girl’s tiny feet with the most perfect unconcern. In front of Buddha is a place to kneel on, a large tribute box, a stand for tapers, a pan where ‘joss-sticks’ and written prayers are burnt, and hanging in front of the altar a number of small oil or paste cokes, made up in silver paper like confections. These are reputed to be blessed, and are burnt in sick rooms or on board ships as omens of good fortune. All this to the stranger is very romantic, but shortly we are aroused to the practical by our attention being drawn to the printed announcement, in English, that ‘ subscriptions are received here to defray the cost of building this temple.' I didn’t bow down in this house of Rimmon; worse, I gave my dollar. I am told that this new temple has been entirely built out of the gifts of foreigners! How sad in this land of missionaries ! The societies should look to it.”

[ For continuation of reading matter see first page.]

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Permanent link to this item

http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AG18811220.2.12

Bibliographic details

A CHINESE JOSS HOUSE., Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 513, 20 December 1881

Word Count
986

A CHINESE JOSS HOUSE. Ashburton Guardian, Volume III, Issue 513, 20 December 1881

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