IV. FROM A TRAVELING DIARY
But the gift of the people to Kyoto is still grander. It is represented by the glorious Higashi Hongwanji, - or eastern Hongwan temple (Shinshu). Western readers may form some idea of its character from the simple statement that it cost eight millions of dollars and required seventeen years to build. In mere dimension it is largely exceeded by other Japanese buildings of cheaper construction; but anybody familiar with the Buddhist temple architecture of Japan can readily perceive the difficulty of building a temple one hundred and, twenty-seven feet high, one hundred and ninety-two feet deep, and more than two hundred feet long. Because of its peculiar form, and especially because of the vast sweeping lines of its roof, the Hongwanji looks even far larger than it is, - looks mountainous. But in any country it would be deemed a wonderful structure. There are beams forty-two feet long and four feet thick; and there are pillars nine feet in circumference. One may guess the character of the interior decoration from the statement that the mere painting of the lotos-flowers on the screens behind the main altar coat ten thousand dollars. Nearly all this wonderful work was done with the money contributed in coppers by hard-working peasants. And yet there are people who think that Buddhism is dying!
More than one hundred thousand peasants came to see the grand inauguration. They seated themselves by myriads on matting laid down by the acre in the great court. I saw them waiting thus at three in the afternoon. The court was a living sea. Yet all that host was to wait till seven o'clock for the beginning of the ceremony, without refreshment, in the hot sun. I saw at one corner of the court a band of about twenty young girls, - all in white, and wearing peculiar white caps, - and I asked who they were. A bystander replied: "As all these people must wait here many hours, it is to be feared that some may become ill. Therefore professional nurses have been stationed here to take care of any who may be sick. There are likewise stretchers in waiting, and carriers. And there are many physicians."
I admired the patience and the faith. But those peasants might well love the magnificent temple, - their own creation in very truth, both directly and indirectly. For no small part of the actual labor of building was done for love only; and the mighty beams for the roof had been hauled to Kyoto from far-away mountain-slopes, with cables made of the hair of Buddhist wives and daughters. One such cable, preserved in the temple, is more than three hundred and sixty feet long, and nearly three inches in diameter.
To me the lesson of those two magnificent monuments of national religious sentiment suggested the certain future increase in ethical power and value of that sentiment, concomitantly with the increase of national prosperity. Temporary poverty is the real explanation of the apparent temporary decline of Buddhism. But an era of great wealth is beginning. Some outward forms of Buddhism must perish; some superstitions of Shinto must die. The vital truths and recognitions will expand, strengthen, take only deeper root in the heart of the race, and potently prepare it for the trials of that larger and harsher life upon which it has to enter.
Kobe, April 23.
I have been visiting the exhibition of fishes and of fisheries which is at Hyogo, in a garden by the sea. Waraku-en is its name, which signifies, "The Garden of the Pleasure of Peace." It is laid out like a landscape garden of old time, and deserves its name. Over its verge you behold the great bay, and fishermen in boats, and the white far-gliding of sails splendid with light, and beyond all, shutting out the horizon, a lofty beautiful massing of peaks mauve-colored by distance.
I saw ponds of curious shapes, filled with clear sea-water, in which fish of beautiful colors were swimming. I went to the aquarium where stranger kinds of fishes swam behind glass - fishes shaped like toy-kites, and fishes shaped like sword-blades, and fishes that seemed to turn themselves inside out, and funny, pretty fishes of butterfly-colors, that move like dancing-girls, waving sleeve-shaped fins.
I saw models of all manner of boats and nets and hooks and fish-traps and torch-baskets for night-fishing. I saw pictures of every kind of fishing, and both models and pictures of men killing whales. One picture was terrible, - the death agony of a whale caught in a giant net, and the leaping of boats in a turmoil of red foam, and one naked man on the monstrous back - a single figure against the sky - striking with a great steel, and the fountain-gush of blood responding to the stroke.... Beside me I heard a Japanese father and mother explain the picture to their little boy; and the mother said: -
"When the whale is going to die, it speaks; it cries to the Lord Buddha for help, - Namu Amida Butsu!"
I went to another part of the garden where there were tame deer, and a "golden bear" in a cage, and peafowl in an aviary, and an ape. The people fed the deer and the bear with cakes, and tried to coax the peacock to open its tail, and grievously tormented the ape. I sat down to rest on the veranda of a pleasure-house near, the aviary, and the Japanese folk who had been looking at the picture of whale-fishing found their way to the same veranda; and presently I heard the little boy say: -
"Father, there is an old, old fisherman in his boat. Why does he not go to the Palace of the Dragon-King of the Sea, like Urashima?"
The father answered: "Urashima caught a turtle which was not really a turtle, but the Daughter of the Dragon-King. So he, was rewarded for his kindness. But that old fisherman has not caught any turtle, and even if he had caught one, he is much too old to marry. Therefore he will not go to the Palace."