Originating in China, the Buddhist temple block, also known as the “wooden fish” (pinyin: mùyú in Chinese) is an exquisitely crafted instrument made of natural camphor wood, a Southeast Asian hardwood. Hand carved to represent the head of a fish, this temple block is also steeped in Buddhist tradition.
Because fish never close their eyes or lose awareness of their surroundings, they have become known as a symbol of alertness in Buddhism. While one goal of meditation is to empty the mind, another goal is to do this while remaining fully aware. The fish represents a perfect balance between the two.
As a musical instrument, the temple block plays tones that are short and rich, with just a single stroke being played as a subtle way to promote mindfulness in meditation. It is also used in many Asian religious ceremonies to sustain focus throughout the meditation exercises. Commonly used during the recitation if mantras, sutras and Buddist texts, the wooden fish (temple block) is used to maintain the rhythm during meditation chanting rituals. Even the Taoist clergy have adapted the wooden fish into their rituals.
In Buddhist tradition, the wooden fish instrument is hollow and carved into a round shape with scales on its top and two fish heads embracing a pearl on the handle, symbolizing unity. Like the one shown here, they often rest on a small cushion made of bright satin or embroidered fabric to keep the instrument from being damaged.
This beautiful temple block is an ever-present symbol of mindfulness and will make an excellent addition to your meditation space. It also makes a unique and thoughtful gift. Block measures 6” long and 5” wide, and comes with a red and gold satin pillow and mallet.