People of all ages participate in the annual bell-ringing.

SAN FRANCISCO — The Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St. in San Francisco’s Civic Center, will host the 31st annual Japanese New Year bell-ringing ceremony on Saturday, Dec. 31, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

To mark the close of 2016 and welcome 2017, the museum invites members of the public to reflect upon the passing year and literally ring in the new year.

Following a New Year’s tradition practiced for centuries, a 2,100-pound 16th-century Japanese bronze bell — originally from a temple in Tajima Province and now part of the museum’s permanent collection — will be struck 108 times to curb the 108 mortal desires (煩悩 bonnou) that, according to Buddhist belief, torment humankind.

Zen Buddhist priest Gengo Akiba Roshi will conduct a blessing and lead participants in this inspiring ceremony, which will include a purification ritual and chanting of the Buddhist Heart Sutra.

Rev. Akiba will begin the bell-ringing, and participants may then take turns ringing the bell to leave behind any unfortunate experiences, regrettable deeds or ill luck from the previous year, and herald the start of a prosperous new year. Each toll is struck after the reverberations from the preceding toll have dissipated. In Japan, the last toll traditionally coincides with the first few seconds of the new year.

It is recommended that the public arrive in Samsung Hall no later than 12 p.m. for the public ceremony. Every effort is made to allow all visitors an opportunity to participate.

Those wishing to participate will be assigned numbered tickets on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 10 a.m. in South Court; 108 groups of up to six people will be assembled to strike the bell. No advance reservations will be accepted. Hands-on art activities will also be offered in the education studios during this time.

The cost is free with museum admission.

Major support for this program is provided by The Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Charitable Foundation.

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