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Main > Japanese folktales > Fairy tale "A Legend of Kwannon"

A Legend of Kwannon

In the days of the gods, Ama-no-Hashidate was the Floating Bridge of Heaven. By way of this bridge came the deities from heaven to earth, bearing their jewelled spears, their great bows and heavenly-feathered arrows, their wonder robes and their magic mirrors. Afterwards, when the direct way was closed that had been between earth and heaven, and the deities walked no more upon the Land of Fresh Rice Ears, the people still called a place Ama-no-Hashidate, for the sake of happy memory. This place is one of the Three Fair Views of Yamato. It is where a strip of land runs out into the blue sea, like a floating bridge covered with dark pine trees.

There was a holy man of Kioto called Saion Zenji. He had followed the Way of the Gods from his youth up. He was also a disciple of the great Buddha; well versed was he in doctrines and philosophies; he knew the perils of illusion and the ineffable joys of Nirvana. Long hours would he pass in mystic meditation, and many of the Scriptures he had by heart. When he was on a pilgrimage he came to Ama-no-Hashidate, and he offered up thanks because the place was so lovely in his eyes.

He said, “The blind and ignorant have it that trees and rocks and the green sea-water are not sentient things, but the wise know that they also sing aloud and praise the Tathagata. Here will I take up my rest, and join my voice with theirs, and will not see my home again.”

So Saion Zenji, the holy man, climbed Nariai-San, the mountain over against Ama-no-Hashidate. And when he had come to the place of the Lone Pine, he built him a shrine to Kwannon the Merciful, and a hut to cover his own head.

All day he chanted the Holy Sutras. From dawn to eventide he sang, till his very being was exalted and seemed to float in an ecstasy of praise. Then his voice grew so loud and clear that it was a marvel. The blue campanula of the mountain in reverence bowed its head; the great white lily distilled incense from its deep heart; the cicala shrilled aloud; the Forsaken Bird gave a long note from the thicket.

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