(Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner file photo)

Asian Art Museum to mark New Year’s Eve with Japanese bell ringing ceremony

A 16th century Japanese bell will be struck 108 times during a New Year’s Eve ceremony at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum by visitors wishing to leave behind misfortunes of the past year.

The Japanese New Year Bell-Ringing Ceremony, in its 34th year at the museum, follows a tradition practiced for centuries, according to a release from the museum..

The 2,100-pound bronze bell came from a temple in Japan’s Tajima Province and is now part of the museum’s permanent collection. Museum visitors are invited to reflect upon the passing year and literally help ring in the new year at Tuesday’s ceremony.

The bell will toll 108 times to curb the 108 mortal desires that, according to Buddhist belief, torment humankind. Participants take turns ringing the bell, to leave behind unfortunate experiences of the past year, according to the museum.

Zen Buddhist priest the Rev. Gengo Akiba Roshi will conduct a blessing and lead the ceremony, which will include a purification ritual and chanting of the Buddhist Heart Sutra.

In Japan, the last toll is struck to coincide with the first few seconds of the New Year. The Asian Art Museum’s ceremony takes place from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, with doors opening at 10 a.m.

Museum members may attend an earlier ceremony at 9:30 a.m.

Visitors wishing to participate will be assigned numbered tickets on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10 a.m. in the south court. There will be 108 groups of up to six people assembled to strike the bell.

The cost of the ceremony is free with museum admission.

More information is available on the museum’s website, at http://www.asianart.org .

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