The Seiryu Festival or the Blue Dragon

The four gods (shijin) are often seen as guardians who protect the four directions of east, west, north, and south, which are also called the four gods of direction.

They refer to the four spirit animals which are Seiryu (blue dragon) in the east, white tiger in the west, Suzaku and Sujaku in the south, and Genbu in the north.

The belief of the “Four Gods” originated in ancient China and is said to have already appeared in Japan during the Yayoi period.

But was not considered as gods since the emperor was not yet associated with it as in China.

It was the arrival of the Buddhist religion in Japan during the Heian period that officially brought the existence of animal gods into the limelight.

The god Seiryu (dragon) is often found in the form of a purification fountain at the entrance to Japanese temples or shrines.

For Asian belief, the dragon (ryu) is a spiritual beast with a long torso that flies in the sky with spiritual power.

For us Westerners, the dragon is a creature that stands on two legs with large wings.

In Higashiyama, where the Kiyomizu-dera temple is located, Seiryu, the Blue Dragon has the role of protecting the eastern borders (Higashiyama) of Kyoto against misfortune and disaster.

Seiryu is considered the embodiment of the Buddhist Bodhisattva, Kannon (Avalokiteshvara), an enlightened being of Mercy and Compassion who is worshiped in the Kiyomizu-Dera temple.

This worship of Seiryu in the form of a Buddhist ritual called Kiyomizu-Dera Seiryu-e began in the year 2000, as he has always watched over Kyoto, day and night, to protect people from misfortune.

The only exception that he makes and according to legend, the blue dragon leaves the temple every evening to drink at the Otowa-no-taki waterfall at the foot of the temple.

This ceremony takes place several times a year, in spring and late summer when Seiryu dances and walks through the streets of Higashiyama (March 14-15/April 3/September 14-15)

Photo: Jacky, Internet
Writer: Jacky De Greef
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