Tennin

From Academic Kids

Tennin are spirits similar to Western angels or fairies found in Japanese Buddhism. They were imported from Chinese Buddhism, which was influenced itself by the concepts of heavenly beings found in Indian Buddhism and Chinese Taoism.

Tennin are mentioned in Buddhist sutras, and these descriptions form the basis for depictions of the beings in Japanese art, sculpture, and theater. They are usually pictured as unnaturally beautiful women dressed in ornate, colorful kimonos (traditionally in five colors), exquisite jewelry, and flowing scarves that wrap loosely around their bodies. They usually carry lotus blossoms as a symbol of enlightenment or play instruments such as the biwa, drum, or flute.

Tennin live in the Buddhist heaven as the companions to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Some legends also make certain tennin solitary creatures living on mountain peaks. Pilgrims sometimes climb these mountains in order to meet the holy spirits.

Tennin can fly, a fact generally indicated in art by their colored or feathered kimonos, called hagoromo ("dress of feathers"). In some legends tennin are unable to fly without these kimonos, an idea that was perhaps influenced by Persian myth. More rarely, they are shown with feathered wings. In a Noh play Hagoromo, for example, tennin come to the earth and take off their hagoromo. A fisherman spies them and hides their clothes in order to force one to marry him. After some years he tell his wife what he did, and she finds her clothes and returns to heaven. The Legend says it occurred in beach of Miyo, now a part of Shizuoka city.

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