Art and Culture United in Japanese Ikebana
Ikebana (生け花)：The Art of Japanese Flower Arranging
You may have heard of this floral art form before and if not it is our great pleasure to introduce it to you today. Not only are we hoping to share information on such an elegant form of floral design from overseas but we hope to provide information that will help give a deeper meaning to a much more personal blog of a story dear to our hearts and lives of a beautiful friend who helped build international bridges and so much more.
For centuries flowers have been a favorite subject among artists, philosophers, poets, photographers and writers in cultures world wide as a favored form of inspiration and self-expression. A few well renowned pieces are the Sunflowers series by Vincent Van Gogh, ‘Petunias’ by Georgia O’Keefe, famous haiku’s about cherry blossoms by Koboyashi Issa and Basho Matsuo, and photography works like ‘One Hundred Flowers‘ and LIFE Magazine’s short video, ‘A Garden of Psalms‘ by Harold Feinstein.
Flowers play not only a main role in an artist’s eye but also holds deep symbolic cultural values in the rituals of life, like celebrating a birth, the uniting of two lives in a wedding ceremony and the expressing of hardships when a loved one has passed. Their common associations with beauty, sensitivity, elegance and love, irrespective of what culture or religion, hold a significant symbolic value. To give an example, in Hindu mythology places great importance on the lotus and deems it as the sacred seat of Lord Brahma, the Creator. For Christianity, passion flowers are primarily used to represent Christ’s suffering and sacrifice where as a white rose or lily has symbolic value for purity and has been associated with the Virgin Mary. White roses, in Islamic culture, are used occasionally for symbolizing virtue, while jasmine can be found in funerals. Lord Buddha is represented in Buddhism by the lotus, symbolic for knowledge and Chinese rituals, especially weddings, emphasize the use of orchids as a symbol for love and fertility. These beliefs and practices and their connections with flowers are almost synonymous. So, too, is another very popular floral culture—the ancient Japanese tradition of Ikebana.
Ikebana (生け花) which literally translates into, ‘make flowers alive’ or ‘arranged flowers’ has also been referred to as Kadō (華道) translated as, ‘the way of flowers’. The introduction of Ikebana from China led to floral offerings, known as Kuge, to Buddha and to the souls of the dead. Since then, varied styles and unique techniques molded from historical events, integrated theories of artistic composition, and one’s unique expression of subtle beauty grounded on the harmony of the flowers. Ikebana is the perfect blend of art and spiritual symbolism with the foundation of developing closeness between man and nature. It is a practice not taken lightly and entails years of training to receive a license to practice on a professional level.
There are essential elements for Ikebana, which consists of but not limited to living materials such as the freshly cut branches, vines, leaves, grasses, berries, fruit and seeds, even wilted or dried plants can be used. The container used is also of great significance. Deep thought and meaning is put behind the vessel that holds the arrangement. The relationship between the materials used, such as, their shape, size, color, paired with the style of arrangement and the place for its display, are all of vital. The depth of consideration put into the practice of Ikebana is also a form of meditation that places high value on awareness in respect to time, especially the change and passage of seasons. Becoming ‘aware’ is the first step to involving oneself with the art.
Visual display of the flower arrangement techniques essentially use asymmetrical form and empty space to represent a sense of harmony among the materials, the container and the setting. They have a word, Yugen (幽玄) which can mean ‘sense of beauty that comes from a subtle awareness of the unseen’. Over the course of time, Ikebana has achieved the status of an art form independent of its religious origins; yet, it continues to retain the core philosophical and symbolic implications. When practicing the art of Ikebana one tries convert the feeling of calmness and peace you experience while practicing Ikebana and apply the same feeling while performing other activities in life. Practicing Ikebana not only helps one to live ‘in the moment’ and become more tolerant and patient, but it is a form of meditation that enhances creativity and spiritual expressions.
While reflecting on the values of Ikeban it was a good reminder for the team of the New Years resolutions we mentioned in ‘The Year of Vision‘. Especially since New Years is the most popular holiday to celebrate in Japan we’ll close the New Year month with a reminder of enhancing creativity and pursuit of growth is something we’ll continue to strive for. January is coming to a close, but our New Years Resolutions continue strong and we encourage you to keep going strong with yours! Watch for our blog next week and our commemorative piece on how Franklin, Indiana connected with Kuji, Japan to build everlasting relations. It’s a story you won’t want to miss!
Oubaitori (桜梅桃李) – Like flowers, people bloom in their own time and in their own individual ways. How are you blooming?
We hope you come and visit our blog again next week!
For more information check out: Ikebana/Kado (The Art Of Flower Arrangement)