生花/Ikebana is a traditional flower arrangement. The word is from the Japanese 生ける/Ikeru (to arrange flowers, have life, be living) and 花/Hana (Flower), and it is also known as 華道/Kadou. Ikebana aims to bring out the inner qualities of flowers and express the harmony between nature and humanity considering colors, lines, forms, spaces, and time.
History of Ikebana
When Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the 6th century from China and Korea, offering flowers to statues of the Buddha became common. Unlike India, where lotus was widely used, other native flowers for each season were used for this purpose in Japan. This practice is believed to be the origin of flower arrangement in Japan, though at that time there were no meanings or systems. Later on, central flower arrangement named Shin-no-hana started : In the middle, a huge branch of pine or cryptomeria was used, and 3 or 5 seasonable flowers were places around it.
That was the first attempt to represent natural scenery.
The styles of ikebana we see today were perfected in the Muromachi period (1336-1573) with the development of the 書院造/Shoin-zukuri (a style of Japanese houses used in the mansions of the military, temple guest halls, and as a place to train Zen. Floors in the residents are covered with tattami) architectural style. As the interior decorations, 掛物/Kakemono (scroll pictures) and flower arrangements in vases became popular. The practice of Ikebana flourished with the combination of belief systems of Buddhism along with 依代/Yorishiro (objects that divine spirits are summoned to) of Shintoism.
The flower arrangement became a fine art and mental training for lords and a Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1436-1490) spread the custom widely. He was so into art like tea ceremony and Ikebana that he even built a temple in Kyoto known as Ginkaku-ji, where he could focus on his studies.
Soami, a friend of Yoshimasa and a painter, conceived the idea of expressing three elements of heaven, human, and earth through Ikebana and that concept is still practiced today.
Under the influence of Buddhist tea masters, Ikebana has grown over the centuries, and there are over 2,000 ikebana schools now.
How flowers are arranged
Arrangements are often mounted in a vase, though this is not always the case. The surface of the water is considered as the surface of the earth from which plants stand. Ikebana often emphasizes areas of the plant such as its stems, leave, shape, line and form. Ikebana artists express through the combination of colors, shapes, lines, and the implied meanings. To reflect the beauty of the nature, applying minimalism without designing too much is considered to be a virtue.
Artists need to think about the appropriate arrangements for occasions as well. For example, for a flower offering at death, they should use white flowers to express peace. If they give flowers as gifts, they need to choose flowers in bud, so that the person receiving can enjoy seeing them open.
Ikebana teaches a lot to the one who practices it : He/She can feel close to the nature, relax mind and learn to become more patient. Now that we live in a very hectic and stressful time, practitioners say it provides peace of mind, body, and soul. If you are in Japan, you can find many schools listed on the internet by just searching. If you are not here and would like to learn online, I can introduce a teacher so just send me a message to : [email protected]
Today’s words and phrases
・be perfected 完成される
Thank you for reading today’s post.
Until next time!
*I’m a professional composer by the way.
You can listen/download my music below.