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Ring dem bells. Greet the New Year at the Asian Art Museum

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Today the Asian Art Museum will be continuing their decades long practice of ringing a temple bell to welcome in the New Year.

The bell they use is a 16th-century Japanese temple bell, heavy and fragile at the same time. Groups of four to six people, working in unison, strike the bell on the outside with a long wooden pole suspended from a wooden frame. In Japan, the bells would be suspended from the temple ceiling but the ceiling at the Asian was just not built with that in mind.

According to Buddhist belief, each ring wipes the 2013 slate clean of bad experiences, wrong doings, and ill luck.

Rev. Gengo Akiba of the Oakland Zen Center will lead the ceremony with opening remarks about the Japanese New Year by Yoshie Akiba. The ceremony includes a purification ritual and chanting of the Buddhist Heart Sutra.

The Heart Sutra contains key concepts of Buddhist Philosophy. These include the skandhas, the four noble truths, the cycle of interdependence and the central concept of Mahayana Buddhism, Emptiness.

Those who gather at the Asian ring the bell 108 times, symbolizing the 108 bonno (mortal desires) that torment mankind. It’s the perfect way to greet the New Year.

The sound of the bell is unique and can be heard throughout the museum. The harmonic vibration goes right to the center of the listener.

Bask in the positive and peaceful vibes, and stick around for art activities. Read up on the background regarding the bell (

Tim Hallman, press agent for the Asian, adds: " But it’s important to remember that the bell is more than 480 years old. Like all ancient things, it should be treated gently and with respect. When you do so, you’ll be rewarded handsomely. Struck at the right spot, and with the right energy, the bell makes a magical sound. You can literally feel it reverberate over your body and hear a pleasant humming whisper in your ears."

Event starts at 11:30 am, doors open at 10 am.


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