Temple Bell-Ringing at Asian Art Museum

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People of all ages participate in the annual bell-ringing.

SAN FRANCISCO — Say goodbye to 2011 with family and friends by taking a swing at a giant temple bell.

Bring your loved ones to the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St. in San Francisco’s Civic Center, on Saturday, Dec. 31, and literally “ring in” the new year, Japanese-style.

Everyone is invited to participate in the auspicious Japanese tradition of striking a temple bell. This popular event offers the community a memorable opportunity to reflect peacefully upon the passing year.

As in past observances, a 2,100-pound, 16th-century bronze bell originally from a temple in Tajima Province and now part of the museum’s collection will be struck 108 times with a large custom-hewn log. According to Japanese custom, this symbolically welcomes the New Year and curbs the 108 bonno (mortal desires) that, according to Buddhist belief, torment humankind.

It is hoped that with each reverberation the bad experiences, wrong deeds, and ill luck of the past year will be wiped away. Thus, tolling heralds the start of a joyous, fresh new year.

Zen Buddhist priest Gengo Akiba Roshi will conduct a blessing and begin the bell ringing. Akiba Roshi is director of the Soto Zen Buddhism North American office. He is also a Zen teacher at Oakland’s Kojin-an Zendo.

Hands-on art activities are offered in the education studios from 10 a.m. to entertain families while waiting for their turn at the bell.

Free with museum admission. Children 12 and under are always admitted free.

Numbered tickets to ring the bell are assigned to visitors on a first-come, first-served basis in South Court beginning at 10 a.m., when the museum opens to the public. No advance reservations are accepted. 108 groups of four to six people will be assembled to strike the bell.

Asian Art Museum members are invited to a special members-only bell-ringing ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Numbered tickets are distributed at the Membership Desk. For more information email [email protected] (no RSVPs).

For more information on events and exhibitions at the museum, visit www.asianart.org.

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