October 20, 2012

Cosmos in Cosmoses

Already Nara is in the middle of deep autumn. Everyday, the air is getting transparent and crispy more and more. I am enjoying the most comfortable time of the year!

I visited Hannya-ji Temple (般若寺) in Nara. This temple is well-known as Cosmos Temple. The history of the temple is said to date back to the 7th century.
 The main hall of the temple looks as if it were floating 
amid 150,000 cosmos flowers of 35 species.

Cosmoses are flowers native to Mexico. Around the end of the 18th century, the seeds of the flowers were first brought to Antonio Jose Cavanilles, the chief of Royal Botanical Garden in Madrid , Spain from Mexico. He named these flowers "Cosmos bipinnatus"

The word origin of "cosmos" comes from Greek word "Kosmos" which means order, harmony and the universe.  Maybe, people have seen the harmonious and well-ordered beauty in the flowers also.  Cosmetic or Cosmopolitan are derived from "cosmos".

For me cosmoses are difficult flowers to take photos.
Often they are very photogenic, but suddenly they turn photo-shy.

Among lovely flowers, the stone statues of Buddhist deities appear and greet us here and there.

How peaceful their archaic smiles are! Maybe they are whispering us
about the Buddhist cosmos in the middle of the  waves of cosmoses. 

Hannya (般若) means the wisdom of Buddha to see the truth.  The name of Hannya-ji Temple means this.

Interesting enough, Hannya has another meaning. It is said in Japan if a woman is so jealous, she transforms to a  female demon with two horns,  which is also called Hannya(般若).  This is a  mask of the female demon tormented by jealousy. The mask is used in Noh plays. As this type of masks were made by Priest Hannya first, so that they have been called Hannya.

My related blog
Most Beautiful Jealousy
Heart Sutra

Zizo Bodhisattva, a guardian deity of people especially children, wears a red bib where Heart Sutra (Hannya Sin Gyo, 般若心経) is written.  Heart Sutra, composing of  276 Chinese characters, is one of the shortest sutras. But it shows the essence of Buddha's teachings. Listening to Buddhist priests  chanting this sutra is soothing and brings me the peaceful state of mind.

 The thirteen-storied stone pagoda in early sunset.

大空の 青きとばりに 寄りそひて

人を思へる こすもすの花


Snuggling up to the blue shroud of the wide sky

Longing for someone

Cosmos flowerers

By Akiko Yosano (1878 - 1942)

She is one of the greatest poets. Her poems are characterized by a fiery passion and love. Surprisingly enough, she changed so neat and clean flowers into so passionate ones!

a dragonfly and cosmoses

参考) 季節の花事典、 麓 次郎 著、(株)八坂書房 発行所


  1. 青空の下で咲くコスモス、お地蔵さんに寄り添うコスモス。色々な表情で咲いていますね。200年も前にスペインを経てメキシコから運ばれて来たとは、始めて知りました。こうして写真を見せて頂いてると、日本古来の花のように感じてしまいます。どれも素晴らしいですが、特に9番目の写真が好きです。
    Green Tomato

  2. Beautiful pictures! Our churches are not so much about flowers. There are some inside for decoration sometimes, but the old churches are often surrounded by the town. I envy your beautiful landscapes!

  3. Dearest snowwhite,
    What beautiful pictures of cosmos in Hannya-ji Temple♡♡♡ And very informative post☆☆☆
    色々教えて頂いて有難う御座いました。 特に(般若)についてが興味深かったです(^_^)彡☆

    Have a wonderful weekend my new Japanese friend☆☆☆ Miyako*

  4. Cosmos grow in my part of the world, too, and I have enjoyed them in my garden. They are difficult to photograph but you managed to capture their poetic beauty and resilience. I liked reading about the history of the flower. And linking back to the related post, I also found all the comments you received and discussion about the topic of jealousy very interesting and worth rereading.

    1. "Most Beautiful Jealousy" is my favorite and the theme which I want to write again and again. The painting of Lady Rokujo, being wrapped with invisible blue fire of jealousy, is so inspiring but conveys me the deepest sadness. Thanks a lot for reading it!

  5. Your artistry in photography is so evident. Thank you for sharing these beautiful photos of the cosmos.

  6. こんばんは。コスモスとお寺良く似合います。コスモスの写真の撮り方を教えていただいた様です。

    1. Minoruさん、

  7. コスモスの花は撮りにくいというのは解る気がします。可憐な花の表情が平凡にみえるときもあるのですね。それにしても、とても豊かに撮れていると感激します。仏塔との取り合わせも思想性さえ感じます。

  8. Gorgeous, beautiful creative images . . . I love a field of Cosmos . . .

  9. こんばんは♪

  10. I very much like how you entwined your photographs with the Heart Sutra and the Akiko Yosano poem. I know this philosophical/spiritual foundation is a part of how/why you take such wonderful photographs, but it is exciting for us as viewers of your work to understand this. Thank you!

    1. Bruce,
      6 years ago, I read two commentaries about Heart Sutra. One was written by a scientist and another by a Buddhist priest. There were minor differences in interpretation of the sutra between them, but the core was fabulous in both of them. And I remembered what I had heard. Some of the astronauts became very religious after coming back from the universe. "This is a symbolic story", I thought.
      I am very glad and thank you for your understanding what I wanted to say here in my poor English.

    2. The Heart Sutra is my favorite.

      And your English is terrific...no apologies necessary.

  11. º°♪♫♫
    Essas flores são muito bonitas.
    Fotos maravilhosas.

    Bom fim de semana!
    °º♪ Brasil ♫♫♫

  12. At one time I rented an urban garden space along with several other gardeners and one of the women planted a packet of Cosmos seed. They overran the entire garden plot and we had almost nothing but Cosmos everywhere! They blow in the breeze and nod their heads for us, which is lovely. You have elevated this flower to soaring heights. I enjoyed the chant very much. thank you for sharing the beauty you find Keiko. wishing you a delightful autumn week.

    1. Becky,
      oh, I did not know cosmoses are such strong flowers! Here in the temple, the stone statues seemed to be sinking in the sea of cosmoses. I guess cosmoses have many faces.

  13. コスモスの写真は撮りにくいということですが、般若寺のコスモスは実に様々な色があり、そのために余計撮りにくく感じまがしたが、これらの写真はとても自然。Keikoさんの写真のぼけはいつも絶妙で、花や虫たちが異次元から現れてくるような気にさせてくれます。 I love cosmic beauty of cosmoses as well as their translucency and resilience.


  14. I love your post's title! :)

    Cosmos is very difficult to photograph, but you did a brilliant job. I love the photos that combine soft blurry flowers with stone statues, and that dragonfly is such a perfect capture!

    Here in Tokyo it's cooler and crisper, and the sky is a beautiful cobalt blue, but the trees stubbornly refuse to change colour. I'm trying to be patient (and not succeeding). Sigh.

    Thanks for your stunning photos!

  15. Keiko,your photos are stunning!I love the angle at which you've taken them,it shows off the spidery shapes of the flowers to perfection.The first and last images are my favourites. I had thought that these flowers must also be indigenous to Japan,they seem to grow in such profusion in your area.
    I'm glad to hear you are enjoying the cooler weather,it sounds very pleasant.

    Wishing you a happy week,

  16. 般若寺には、こんなに多くのコスモスが咲いてるんですね。お地蔵様達とコスモスのコラボは優しく似合います。逆光で撮るコスモスの表情が多彩ですね。ヘッダーも秋の進みいく大和の涼しさを感じます。
    Have a lovely week!

  17. Hi,

    Wonderful Nara ... Temple, Buddhist steles, Noh masks, Zizo Bodhisattva, the pagoda ... and your photos ...

    I'm very grateful for your wonderful look...

    Domo arigato

  18. Arigato.
    Do you know Ayourgat?
    Cause Snow White must know Snow Penny in Snowmageddon and Snow Flake.
    Pet wood.
    All with Pmpor- MD V?

  19. These pictures are so beautiful Keiko (well, except of course for the female demon who is not supposed to be beautiful ;>)!).... I love the cosmos and they look wonderful on the hills in front of the temple...such a peaceful and yet colorful place. Thank you for sharing it.

  20. So lovely those blooms are - Cosmoses in Cosmos. Interesting connotations of the word - Hannya - One is gentle while the other is scary! The temple precincts are very peaceful and the cosmoses surrounding it make it even more tranquil. All your captures are magnificent and the flowers may be camera shy but you have given its beauty the most beautiful exposure that they could ever have. Gorgeous sights, Keiko. Absolutely lovely!

    Enjoy your cool days, its slowly getting cooler here but still some more time to step into the season of winter.

  21. Your pictures are marvelous, as always. I specially enjoy your pictures of flowers : you caught the very essence of the flower, it is so beautiful... I read all the information you gave, too : your words are always so well chosen ; it is a real pleasure for me to read Japan through you blog.


  22. 空の写真は特によいですね。空に向かって花がなにか言っているようです。They are heart touching. :)

  23. Keiko san, what a lovely post. I especially enjoyed reading this post with the sutra chanting in the background. So beautiful....

  24. I love the garden cosmos blossoms! We have many of this beautiful late summer flower in German gardens and parks as well. We call them "Schmuckkoerbchen", literally translated into "jewellery basket". They are real floral gems and everywhere I spot this flower I try to capute its beauty.
    Thanks for sharing your cosmoses cosmos!

    1. Floral gems! What a beautiful expression! I love this.

  25. Very interesting post. Love the information and the photos are outstanding.

  26. What a great, fascinating post for the day, Tsuki!! And your photos are indeed outstanding!! I love it! Thanks for sharing this with us today! Hope you have a great week!

  27. Another stunning post with amazing shots - so poetic. And what a beautiful place with all those flowers. That last shot is spectacular.

  28. Beautiful temple with such lovely garden full of sculptures.

  29. I always enjoy reading your posts. They are full of interesting information and wonderful photos. The cosmos and the dragonfly photo is very beautiful- even spiritual.

  30. Great post!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

  31. Your pictures seem more wonderful every time I see them. I love the dragonfly but my very favourite is of the silhouettes against that beautiful sky. In England we call it a "mackerel sky" because its skin looks like the scales of a mackerel (fish) It usually signifies a change in the weather.

    Looking at your picture of the pagoda I realised that I have no idea whether the pagoda's shape has some kind of meaning. It is so unusual, and so unlike anything here.

    1. Jenny,
      Oh, we also call those clouds "Mackerel Clouds", "Scale Clouds" or "Sardine Clouds"!! When I see this type of clouds in the sky, I imagine a beautiful sunset where sunlight reflects on the clouds beautifully.
      Once a pagoda had been the most important structure and the main object of worship in a temple because symbolically Buddha's ashes were buried under the pagoda. But over the years, the significance was shifted from the pagoda to the main hall enshrining Buddha's images. Pagodas were the graves of Buddha in India. On the seventh section of the Pagoda's finial placed on the top of the pagoda, there is the upside down bowl . The shape of this bowl is the original shape of the graves of Buddha, the simple earth mounds.

  32. ステキなブログですね。私のブログタイトルに使っているコスモスをこんな風に写真と共に説明出来たらどんなにいいでしょう・・・コスモスの魅力をこんなにも表現して下さってうれしいです。

  33. 私も般若心経 何度か覚えようとしましたが、なかなかです。短いだけに一つ一つの言葉の深さ、美しさに毎回新鮮な驚きをおぼえます。


Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and leaving warm messages. I will visit your site soon. keiko