Thursday, May 07, 2009

The Origin of Prayer Wheels?

One hears all sorts of explanations for the origin of prayer wheels. A popular version has them descended from revolving sutra cases. 

Sounds reasonable, but who knows?

The first revolving sutra case of which I am aware is from the Liang (500 - 550 CE). There is also one from the early or north Sung (960 - 1126 CE), the Chuan-lun-tsang Tien. This is nicely documented in Liang Ssu-ch'eng's remarkable Pictorial History of Chinese Architecture, which I highly recommend. You can also find a discussion online at the China History Forum. One also finds them elsewhere in Asia, such as Japan's Kamakura Hasedera rotating case, above.

Sure is fun to dress them up, isn't it?

Well, lets take a deep breath... we have the Kangyur in 103 volumes, yes? The Tangyur in 213? I am talking the big, fat Derge edition. We have 63 volumes of the Rinchen Terdzo.... catch my drift?

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1 reader comments:

Hamish said...

So, mother earth circumambulates the sun clockwise, while turning on her own axis widdershins. Most humans circumambulate the sacred clockwise, the Yidam's mantra mala circumambulates its seed syllable clockwise (unless a female yidam), and the prayer wheel, whose vast store of mantras embody compassion and emptiness, circumambulates itself with the assistance of sentient beings, benefiting all who are trapped in cyclic existence.