Antique Japanese Vases

japanese vase art

The guide to understanding the history of Japanese Vases and the art of Japanese decoration

Japanese vases are probably the oldest art form in the country, and arguably one of the oldest ceramics on Earth. The earliest creations, which historians have found, date back to the Jōmon period (-13,000 to a-300 BC) before the Japanese became sedentary.

Over the centuries they have perfected their manufacturing techniques and become masters of a unique know-how in the world.

The evolution of vases in Japanese culture

The first vases were simple unadorned clay objects and had a purely practical function: to store food. The evolution of cooking techniques allowed the development and cooking of more sophisticated and resistant vases.

Their materials evolved accordingly, starting with stoneware and moving on to ceramics and porcelain. These changes were partly influenced by trade with China and Korea.

The primary function of Japanese vases has evolved over the centuries. They went from being storage objects to receptacles for ashes during funeral rites. At the same time, their form and use diversify. The more the centuries pass, the more the vase takes an important place in the decoration of a Japanese interior.

They will then know a golden age when the tea ceremony will be popularized at the beginning of the 16th century, needing a lot of ceramic objects to present and serve the tea. During all this period, art was the center of preoccupations of the nobles and the rich, so it became one of the elements of decoration preferred by Japanese.

However, it is the ikebana that will elevate the vases to a work of art.

ikebana vase

The birth of a traditional Japanese art: Ikebana

Ikebana, also called kadō for "the way of flowers" this art appears around the 13th century and is really very different from our western way of valuing flowers.

Ikebana does not rely on the number or variety of flowers and colors that can be found in a single bouquet. On the contrary, it favors a much more delicate approach, based on three fundamental principles that symbolize the sky through its asymmetry, the earth through its space and finally humanity through its depth.

As a result, we obtain floral representations completely opposite to those we know, but totally in harmony with the Zen culture of the Japanese people.

This is also the reason why Japanese vases sometimes take quite atypical shapes because they are not meant to showcase flowers in the same way as the one we know in America.

Ikebana is a true artistic discipline that can be associated with meditation. Creating a flower arrangement is supposed to be done in peace, better in silence, to allow the florist-designer to observe and meditate on the beauty of nature and gain inner peace.

The more experienced realize not only the importance of silence, but also the importance of space, which is not meant to be filled, but created and preserved through the arrangements. This ties in with other principles of Ikebana, including minimalism, form and line, humanity, aesthetics and balance...

The usefulness of Japanese vases

The vase plays a major role in the balance of these floral arrangements. However, ikebana is not the only way to enhance Japanese vases. Most of them can be used as a single decorative piece in any living space, bringing its own special atmosphere depending on its color and shape.

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