life-liberating practice ［放生会］ ( hōjō-e): Also, life-releasing ceremony. A Buddhist ceremony of releasing living things, such as fish and birds, from captivity. This practice was conducted in China and Japan as a work of merit and as an expression of pity for living beings. Performers of this ceremony would release captured birds and fish in mountains, forests, rivers, lakes, and ponds. In China, this ceremony began to prevail in the Northern and Southern Dynasties period (439–589), and an imperial command was issued to build ponds where purchased fish were set free. In Japan, the life-liberating ceremony was carried out during the time of Emperor Bidatsu (r. 572–585). The life-liberating practice is closely related to the Buddhist idea of not taking life. The Brahmā Net Sutra says that, because all living beings were people’s fathers and mothers in past lives, captured beings should be set free rather than killed or eaten. The Golden Light Sutra speaks of Water Carrier, a skilled physician who lived countless kalpas ago. According to the sutra, he encountered a dried-up pond and saw many fish dying there. Feeling pity for the fish, he had elephants carry water to the pond and fill it with water, saving them.