Thursday, August 27, 2009

Maria Kannon and the Philippines

A few posts ago, I wrote about Kuanyin in relation to the sandalwood trade. In Japan, the goddess Kuanyin is known as Kannon.

When Christian missionaries brought their religion to Japan, the early Japanese Christians fused Mary, the mother of Jesus, with the goddess Kannon creating what became known as "Maria Kannon" マリア観音.

This Maria Kannon eventually was used to covertly continue Christian worship after the government began persecuting the religion. Crucifixes were said to have been hidden in the Maria Kannon images, and Christian prayers were offered to the icons. The Maria Kannon images were particularly frequent in areas like Nagasaki. These statues were generally indistinguishable from ordinary Buddhist Kannon statues with the exception of the hidden Christian symbols.

Maria (Maruya), though, became associated with Luzon (Roson) among Japanese Christians rather than the Christian Holy Land in the Middle East. She was said to have been a native Luzon, and ends up marrying the resurrected King of Luzon. I have discussed how this might have come about in some earlier postings.

Interestingly after World War II, the Japanese have funded a number of Kannon or Maria Kannon memorials in the Philippines including some on the island of Luzon, which have mostly been funded by Japanese veterans or other private groups.

Here are some examples:
Ten-foot tall Kannon statue of the Japanese Garden Of Peace at Corregidor, the site of a major battle during World War II.

From the Maria Kannon Garden/Philippine-Japan Peace Commemorative Park in Tacloban, Leyte, called the "Madonna of Japan."

File:Heiwa Kannon.JPG 

Koyasan Shingon Buddhist Shrine with 15-ft. Kannon statue at Clark Field, Pampanga, Philippines in honor of dead Kamikaze pilots.

The Kannon statue is a special symbol of peace between Japan and the Philippines, and the Hito Kannon in Aichi, Japan is dedicated to Japanese who died in the Philippines during World War II. There is another Kannon war memorial for all the Japanese who fell in the war at Ryozen.

One has to wonder whether the choice of the Kannon and Maria Kannon statue memorials in the Philippines is not linked with modern historical knowledge of Maria's connection, among Japan's hidden Christians (Kakure Kirishitan 隠れキリシタン), with the ancient kingdom of Roson.

Paul Kekai Manansala