The upper part of this character now is 折 (‘oru: to break off, to bend’), in the previous character forms, however, it is considerably different. 斥 is the form of an ax, 扌, however, in this case, does not mean a hand. That the ax is used with the hands is common sense and does not have to be mentioned in full detail. Here, it shows the object being made with the ax.
Like at the Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima, there are so called god ladders to be used by the Kami (gods) when ascending to and ascending from heaven. It is a wooden ladder as one often finds at sacred places in China. The扌 of the upper part of 哲 is a god ladder and shows the making of a gods ladder with an ax. As the 口 of the lower part is a receptacle for putting in ‘norito’ prayer writings, this character represents the heart and mental state when welcoming the gods. Therefore, since antiquity it had the meanings ‘akiraka: clear’ and ‘kenmei: wise.’ This adjective was also often used for kings. There also is the character form with 心 ‘heart’ instead of the 口 ‘norito’ prayer receptacle which in a representative ancient dictionary is defined as having the meaning of “It is 敬 ‘Kei: reverence’.” The Zhu Xi school (in Japan ‘Shushigaku’) which exerted profound influence on East Asian thought for hundreds of years and became the political thought and philosophy of the Japanese Tokugawa government from the 17th to the 19th century had made 敬 the guiding principle. The meaning of this character 敬 thus is defined as identical with this previous character form of 悊.
Also, long before this, there was the variant character form 喆 (tetsu). Based on the dictionary Shuō Wén Jiě Zì, Setsumon Kaiji (Explanation of Simple Graphs and Analysis of Complex Characters) from the later Han period, Dr. Shirakawa also introduces the equivalent 嚞 made up of three 吉.
left: bronze inscription
right: so called Old Script from the Shuō Wén Jiě Zì
It shows the form of putting 士, a small broadax on top of a 口 prayer or benediction receptacle. Dr. Shirakawa’s Kanji research has first proved that 口 does not mean the human mouth but a ‘norito’ prayer receptacle already fifty years ago. As can also be understood from the character form 王, which shows the head part of a broadax, one generally thought that extraordinary spiritual power resides in weapons like a broadax. What regards the putting of something on the ‘norito’ prayer receptacle, it is similar to the character 悟 (吾) which shows a double lid. Here, however, it is the small broadax, symbol of the warrior class, which was an action widely spread among people to further enhance the effect of prayer. Therefore, it generally is used for benedictions, including also military affairs.
Although there is praying and requesting from God also in monotheism, there is no ‘auspicious’ - ‘inauspicious’ judgment like in Oriental religions when praying and asking for inquiring the chance of realization of a prayer. In Japan, it is usual to draw a ‘omikuji: written fortune oracle,’ at a shrine, in monotheism, however, this is absolutely unthinkable. Such a religious view letting people reflect on their lives by judgment in terms of auspiciousness and inauspiciousness shows that originally there is a basic Oriental tradition of being clear and definite about personal prayers. In this respect, there is no room for the thesis of an original ambiguity of Japanese or East Asian culture as often propounded by Japanese and non-Japanese authors.
Tamaudun located in Shuri Kinjo-cho, Naha City, Okinawa Pref. is a royal mausoleum of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It is a National Historic Site and was registered with UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000.
The mausoleum was constructed by King Sho Shin in 1501. In Okinawa, there is a tradition of building a large and fine tomb to express the reverence to the ancestors. It is considered that the king had an intention of using his people’s reverence toward their ancestors for the stabilization and reinforcement of the national unity. The mausoleum is divided into three compartments laid out from east to west. The bodies were placed in the central compartment till they were skeletonized, and then the dry bones were taken out to be cleansed. After that the bones of kings and queens were placed in the eastern compartment and the other members of the royal family in the western compartment.
Although Tamaudun was severely damaged by Battles of Okinawa, it was restored to the present form after the World War II. Tamaudun was a sacred place of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom.
This five-storied pagoda is located in Mount Haguro, which is situated in front of Haguro town, Tsuruoka district, in Yamagata prefecture. In 1966, it was designated as a national treasure. Yamagata prefecture is currently trying to register the architecture as a world heritage site. It is believed that an older pagoda existed on the site before restoration from 1368 to 1375. The pagoda is 29m high and uses the medieval form of construction. In the Meiji period, many shrines were destroyed by order of “Shinbutsu bunri”. However, this pagoda was luckily spared. Therefore, it is an important historical asset because of its original shape. The tower stands in the forest among cedars, some of which are a 1000 years old. The intricate architecture is wonderful, yet the carvings of dragons that are similar to king-sized “Ranma” are also spectacular to see.
Katsuren gusuku was a castle located in Katsuren, Uruma City, Okinawa Pref. The castle stood at an altitude of 68-98 m above sea level, 140 m from east to west and 85 m from north to south. It was built around 12th-13th centuries as a residence of Katsuren Anji. The last castellan that gave it a refurbishment was Amawari, who was a growing power in this area. To check his advance on the capital, Shuri King placed his retainer Gosamaru in Nakagusuku Castle. In 1458, Amawari defeated Gosamaru and advanced his forces to the capital, but was severely defeated and destroyed by the King’s forces.
Standing on a hill facing the Pacific Ocean, the gusuku looks like a castle in the sky. At present the castle ruin site is arranged into Katsuren Castle Ruin Park, where a lot of visitors come to enjoy beautiful landscape.
Sonohyan Utaki Ishi-mon is a gate located between Shurei Gate and Kankai-mon Gate of Shuri Castle. It was erected by Seito under the order of Ryukyu King Sho Shin. The woods in the inner part of the gate are a sacred place called Sonohyan Utaki. Utaki is a sacred place usually located in each village and the place where the rituals concerning agriculture or fishing and any other communal events were held. Sonohyan Utaki was the most important place for Ryukyu Dynasty, where the king offered prayers for national order and safety before all his travels around the island. It was also the place where Kikoe Ogimi (the highest ranked priestess) dropped in at and offered a prayer on the day her enthronement ceremony was held.
Although the gate was severely damaged by Battles of Okinawa, it was restored to the present form in 1957. It was registered with the World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000.
Shikinaen located in Maaji, Naha City, Okinawa Pref. was a detached palace of the Ryukyu kings. The construction started in the era of King Sho Boku (1752-1795) and completed in 1799. The palace with a total area of 4 ha is the largest second residence of the Ryukyu Kingdom. It was used as a rest house for royal family as well as a guest house to receive foreign emissaries.
The palace is famous for its beautiful circuit-style garden. Walking along the circular path, you can enjoy viewing the palace, miniature hill, flower gardens laid out around the pond. The small and large bridges cross over the pond and a Chinese-style hexagonal house is on a small islet. The architectural style is the blending of Chinese and Japanese elements. As most of the buildings were destroyed in Battle of Okinawa, what can be seen today are the restored structures. Shikinaen Garden is an exquisite garden that reminds us of the prosperous days of the ancient Ryukyu Kingdom.
Jigoku-Gokuraku (heaven and hell) Cave at Keishoji Temple Ruin
This is a cave dug out under the supervision of the monk Godo Hoin of Tendai sect, who intended to teach Buddhism to common people by experiencing Jigoku-meguri (hell tour). The cave is historically very precious in that it has been well preserved as it was when completed with only chisels. Walking into the cave, you will first be judged by Enma Daio (the gate keeper king), then go along the hell road (40 m) guided by Gozu (steer-headed executioner) and Mezu (horse-headed executioner) until you reach the Chinoike-jigoku (Blood Pond Hell). On the way Datsueba (Old Hag of Hell) will be luridly waiting for you. Beside the Blood Pond Hell, Aka-oni (Red Demon) and Ao-oni (Blue Demon) await you. After passing through the Hell Road, you will go along the Heaven Road (30 m) helped by the thirteen Buddhas and then welcomed by Raigo-Amida (Amida's Welcoming Descent), Kannon, and Seishi-Bosatsu (Guardian of Buddha Wisdom), who will lead you to Gokuraku-Jodo (the heaven). Climbing up the 5-meter vertical hole with the help of the chains, you will get to Gokuraku-Jodo, where you can enjoy the fine view with Amida-Nyorai (Lord of Gokuraku) and many other Bosatsu (Bodhisattvas).