How a nonprofit plans to preserve the sound of an ancient Japanese bell in DC

WTOP's Kate Ryan reports on the National Bell Festival's New Year's Day gift to D.C.'s National Arboretum.

Buildings and art aren’t the only things that get preserved at the National Arboretum in Washington, D.C. For one group, it’s all about sound.

For the National Bell Festival, the sound the nonprofit wants to keep very much alive is that of the bell, including an 18th-century Japanese temple bell recently brought to the District.

Paul Ashe, the director of the National Bell Festival, spoke to WTOP after the relic was installed at a New Year’s Day ceremony at the National Arboretum’s Bonsai and Penjing Museum.

“To kick off this year, we thought it would be wonderful to bring a hanshō to Washington. These Japanese temple bells, along with their larger cousins, the bonshō, are widely recognized as international symbols of peace and friendship, offering a lot of parallels to our community-driven festival,” Ashe told WTOP.

Ashe said when the group was looking for the best spot to place the bell, it hoped to find “a space where Japanese art, history and culture are celebrated, and which maintains suitable security and exhibition protocols for a 226-year-old artifact.”

“The Arboretum checked all the boxes,” he said, “and the project proceeded accordingly with our gift.”

Now, he said, guests can see the “living sculptures” of more than 300 plants in the bonsai and penjing style.

Take a look at some of the photos from the National Bell Festival below.

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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