Hiten (飛天)

The term "Hiten" refers to the tennin (heavenly beings) who flies around Buddha and sings. It is often drawn around the Buddhist statues (side wall or canopy).

Their origin is not clear; while it is said to originate from India, it is also said to originate from the tennin statues with wings in the Orient region which had been conveyed through the silk road. The tennin statues with wings which was began around Persia were also regarded as a symbol of the spirit (Furuwashi) which fly around the air in Zoroastrianism, and its figures are seen in ancient Persian ruins such as Taqi Bustan (Sassanid Empire) and Pasargadae (ruin of the place of Cyrus the Great). These figures were spread in Egypt and Mesopotamia, and gave influenced the states of deities with wings such as an angel in Israel and Eros and Nike in Greece.

The characteristic of Hiten in Buddhism is that it does not have wings, which differentiate it from those deities of Orient region. Since it is often drawn as a female image with hagoromo (feather-robe), it is also called 'Tennyo' (Celestial Maidens). Generally it is drawn as a figure who is dancing elegantly while scattering flowers, playing music and enhancing the flavor around Buddha such as Amida Nyorai (Amitabha Tathagata). It was drawn already in the Gandhara Buddhist Ruins, and its many elegant figures are seen in the Ajanta Caves of India and the caves of Dunhuang City and Yungang Grottoes in China. In Japan, its works are seen in various places such as the Kondo Hall Wall Paintings of Horyu-ji Temple, Suien (the Water Flame) of Yakushi-ji Temple Toto (East Pagoda), the background of Hoo-do Hall (the Phoenix Pavilion) of Byodo-in Temple, and Amida Hall Mural Painting of Hokai-ji Temple.

[Original Japanese]