Bells have become known not just as musical instruments, but also as having religious connections.Â Before medieval times, bells were used to call congregations to worship and today they still ring from churches. Â Bells were said to summon supernatural beings and thus became cult symbols as well.
In Chinese culture, bells hold special significances. For example, ancient legends speak of bells flying through the air to a specific place and the pitch of a bell can stand for happiness or sadness. The Chinese word for â€œbellâ€ (chung) is a homonym of a word meaning â€œto pass a test.â€ Â Because of this, bell imagery has been used for when one advanced in the civil service hierarchy.
In Japanese society, bronze bells have been documented as far back as 300 A.D. They were used religiously in ceremonies at Shinto shrines. Â Upon entering the shrine, worshipers would pull a string to ring the bell, donate a coin and then clap their hands while making a wish. This ritual is supposed to assure that the wish is granted.
Bells also have significance in Christian religions. They were used in monasteries dating back to the sixth century A.D. and in Roman catacombs to beckon people to Masses. Bells were also used in exorcisms and excommunication ceremonies.
Source: Â Biedermann, Hans, Dictionary of Symbolism. New York: Facts on File, Inc. 1992.Â