The sound of the Cloud Panel
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Also known as a flat panel, ritual panel, or panel bell, the cloud panel is also found at Chan temples in China, where it is a favorite of the Four Ritual Objects (bell, drum, wooden fish, and cloud panel). It is flat, in the shape of a cloud, and made of bronze or iron, and because of its cloud shape, is known as the “cloud-shaped metal panel.” Its original function in Chan temples was to signal the beginning and end of meditation sessions, and to ward off sleep. Gradually, the cloud shape became fixed as its functions also increased to include announcing mealtimes, calling the assembly and rituals.
Although the cloud panel has only one form, that of a cloud, the styles of the clouds have varied through time and some have been quite beautiful. The manufacture of cloud panels for the kitchen includes incantations to ward off fire, since clouds carry rain.