Japanese Cast Iron Furin Bell
Furin Zen Garden Bell
If you've ever visited Japan in the spring or summer, once you're outside the big city, you'll often hear a melody of faint bells, each one expressing a single note, but one that harmonizes with those around it. Hung from the eves of homes, temples, pagodas as well as tree branches are small sand cast iron bells with a paper clapper.
Bells are placed outdoors at the first hints of spring and early summer and their sound, created from a light breeze are much anticipated and welcomed on hot days. Here in America they are referred to as Zen Garden Bells, whereas they are technically a wind chime.
The word Furin literally translates from Japanese as "Wind Bell." Their use isn't purely for their beautiful sound; instead, they are used to notify people that a cool breeze is blowing! Each Furin comes with a string and paper wind catcher which is replaceable (it is often common to write dreams and wishes and hopes on these, in hopes that the wind will take these desires to the heavens!)
As these bells are intended for fair weather summer use, if you're going to keep them outdoors year round, you may wish to replace the paper with a lightweight aluminum or tin wind catcher.
The Furin's sound is characteristic of Japanese minimalism. Usually hung on porches or eave, it is a truly soothing and peaceful sound conducive to daydreaming or meditating, invoking a relaxing and near mystical feeling.
The Furin Wind Bell is a Japanese cultural icon. The distinctive quality of its sound distinguishes it from traditional wind chimes which can sound like a clatter where the Furin has a single, resonant sound that has been described as "clear, cool and other-worldly". Characteristic of Japanese minimalism concentrating on one single sound rather than a jumble of different sounds.
The sound of the Furin is an alpha sound which is a sound found at the first state of sleep or meditation. This sound has been proven to reduce stress, enhance creativity, improve mood, expand awareness and provides people with a natural sense of balance and buoyancy.
Bells exist throughout the world, and have served important roles as for instance, talisman to avert evil and keep time. The direct predecessor of the Furin is thought to be a category of bells known as Futaku (hanging bells) that were used in Buddhist halls and towers in China and were in the Kamakura Period (1192 - 1333).
Buddhists attaching them profusely by the hundreds or even thousands to the eaves of temples, shrines, and pagodas, causing during breezy moments an almost overwhelming auspicious sensation of sound. The enjoyment of Furin sounds become popular among the general populace in the Muromachi Period (1336 - 1573), and Furin hung under the eaves to provide a sense of cool in summer became the custom.
During the Edo Period (1603-1867), sales of Furin by peddlers carrying their wares on poles resting on their shoulders began the spread of the custom across the nation, adding a special charm to summer.
Interestingly, although a hawking cry was essential for ordinary peddlers, the Furin peddlers did not require such a cry because the collection of bells they carried made their presence known.
A master metallurgist mixes a combination of cast iron and heats it in a crucible kiln, heating it to about 1,400 degree C - 1,500 degrees C (2,552 degrees F - 2,732 degrees F). A ladle is used for transporting the liquid iron to the mold. Cast iron is notoriously difficult to work with compared to say bronze, as it splatters and is challenging to cast properly. The metal is poured into the mold and it is allowed to cool. At this stage the mold is literally destroyed by being broken apart, exposing the bells. The bells are ground with large spinning grinding wheels to remove any flaws . They are then sealed with a lacquer finish on their inside and some are colored using pigments on the outside. They are then polished one by one using a dry cloth. The clapper is often aluminum. These bells are crafted by small multi-generational family foundries and workshops.