To recap and expand information on chabana containers, the tea utensils for flowers are called hanaire (“flowers put in”), since the emphasis is on putting the flowers in for a short time rather than “arranging” them SO they can live longer. Compared to ikebana, the utensils used are fewer and limited, partly by historical precedent, partly by aesthetic choice. They can be divided several waysÅF by material, by formality levels, by historicity, and by the way they are used in the tokonoma. Seasonality also figures in but to a lesser extent.
For example, there are three ways a chabana may be used in the Chaji. Kake hanaire are made to hang, usually from the mid-wall of the Tokonoma or the tokobashira pillar, or more rarely from the window of the tokonoma, from holes in the back or hooks especially installed for it. These are probably the latest type, invented or fostered by Rikyu (late 1580’s). A slightly older form, dating from the Ashikaga shoguns (1400’s), is the tsuribune hanging boat type of suspended flower container, hung from the ceiling of the shoin or the toko, the edge of the toko’s front wall, or the bottom of a shelf by a chain. The oldest form (dating perhaps to the introduction of Buddhism in the 600’s) is doubtlessly the standing or oki-hanaire, which stands on a table, a flower board (c.f.) or directly on a wooden toko floor. Bamboo hanaire can be used in all three positions.
Levels of formality are intimately tied in with both the history of the introduction of the container type to Chanoyu and the material used to make it. The constellation of SO or Informal hanaire covers not only the latest historically but the widest number of types. Not only the unglazed ceramics like Iga, Shigaraki and Bizen, which are the oldest Japanese ceramic hanaire used in Tea, but also the non-ceramic types recommended by Rikyu-bamboo, gourd, and basket. Other materials used which are considered informal are such things as wood and lacquer, as found for example in drum bodies used in classical Noh theater. Shells such as the conch or nautilus, either in a metal net or attached more directly to chains are a rare but exquisite natural container. Coconuts have been known in Japan from early times but in the Momoyama period their natural rusticity let them to use. Glass, although known from Nara times, was not used for Chanoyu until rather recently.
The whole question of Shin, GYO or SO formality level is important not only because the other utensils need to balance it within the complete toriawase or assemblage, but because a specific thin board, called an usu-ita is used under the vase when used on a tatami tokonoma floor, depending on the status of the vase. For SHIN vases one uses a yahazu (arrow notch) ita of shinnuri, shiny black lacquer (43.3 x 27.8 x 0.9 cm). The notch is slightly uneven and the wider side is used up. For GYO, one uses a hamaguriba (clam edge) board also shinnuri but slightly smaller (40.9 x 28.7 x 0.8 cm). For SO vases which require one (only baskets do NOT), a hamaguriba board of kiji, unlacquered wood with the grain pointing kamiza, roots usually to the left or geza is used, soaked and wet but of course dry on the bottom. Woods used can be cedar, burnt cedar, or any wood than is resistant to water. They are the same size as gyo. There are other boards, but these are the three essential ones.
Originally, flowers were presented on an altar, then on a small table called a joku, displayed in the larger toko space. After or simultaneous with this, trays (usually carved cinnabar or other decorated trays), and finally usuita came to be used. From the time of the Golden Pavilion, hanging boats had been hung from the ceilings of shoin reading nooks and from the ceilings of tokonoma by adjustable chains; from Rikyu’s time these boats were also suspended from the otoshi-kabe, the wall suspended from the top front of the toko. Rikyu had his nail on the front side of the wooden border, sending the flowers out among the guests; Sotan, his grandson put the nail on the back side.
Nevertheless it is in the center of wall that the flowers achieve their greatest impact. The use of scroll and flowers together necessitates the flowers being in a subservient position. In post-Momoyama period Tea, the flower most often replaces the scroll and takes its physical place in the toko, on the back wall. The practice of dividing scroll and flowers also began with Rikyu, even though he experimented with scroll and flowers together, only scroll or only flowers throughout the chaji, flowers followed by scroll or added to scroll in the second half. The flowers are also often hung on the tokobashira pillar today in large gatherings where both scroll and flowers are simultaneously displayed, and during practice sessions.
I. BY PLACEMENT
kake 掛 - hang on wall, tokobashira; from window-bokuseki mado
tsuri 釣 - from ceiling; from (kemman-kugi) ochikabe-Rikyu (outside), Sotan (inside) konomi; from wakidoko, window in kabe – bokuseki mado
oki 置 - on joku, bon, dai, usu ita-boards, toko floor-basket; itadoko
II. BY STATUS Shin 真 - karamono 唐物
bronze or (any) metal which are almost indistinguishable
Celadon or types
ceramics which are almost indistinguishable
Gyo 行 - kuniyaki 国焼, purposefully glazed ceramics (completely UNRELATED to whether the foot is glazed or not)
unglazed ceramic (completely UNRELATED to whether the foot is glazed or not)
other organic materialsÅF shell, coconut,
Not quite decided- lacquered maki-e’ed; Raku, glass, modern ceramics; some Oiemoto bamboo
III. BY MATERIAL
METAL (Shin) 金属
BronzeÅF karakane 唐金 唐銅, koudou 故銅; SahariÅF 砂張
Shippo- enameled bronze
CERAMIC TYPES (SHIN > Gyo)
Seiji 青磁 - celadon
early Chinese (Tang-Song)
Korean (mostly inlaid) 象嵌
South East Asian (Thai- suwangkolock)
Chinese (late Yuan-Ming/ e. Ching; imported)
Japanese- Imari; Eiraku utsushi
Annan 安南/shibori-de 絞手- S. China/ Vietnam
Aka-e 赤絵； iro-e 色絵; kinran-de 金襴手 red over-glaze enamel with gold leaf, etc.
Japanese-kyoyaki, Ninsei; Imari, Nabeshima; Eiraku
Wamono (Gyo> So) 和物
Seto 瀬戸 -copies of Chinese
Mino 美濃 -not SetoÅF Shino, Oribe, Ki-Seto, Mino-Iga
Shigaraki 信楽； Iga 伊賀
Bizen 備前, other non-glazedÅFTokoname 常滑, Echizen 越前
Kyoyaki wares 京焼- Raku (few), Ninsei, ko-Kiyomizu, Awata
kuniyaki, castle town wares- Hagi 萩, Karatsu 唐津, Takatori 高取, Agano 上野, Zeze 膳所, Akahada 赤肌,
Shimamono 島物, Namban wares 南蛮 - Borneo, Thailand, Vietnam; Holland
Karamono (Shin) and utsushi- dark, bamboo, finely split, complicatedly woven, often decorated with beads, handles, panels, wooden additions, woven designs, etc.
found objects- fish weir; veg., shell, salt basket; insect cages,- white bamboo, fuji, other vines, willow, etc.; fine-roughly split, tightly- very loosely woven, inner tube part of design, to give cool feeling
C. Other-non-Japanese- modern BAMBOO (So) 竹
pre-Rikyu-okurizutsu 贈 / 送筒, daily use
Rikyu- Shakuhachi 尺八, Onjoji (ichiju-giri 一重切), Yonaga (niju-giri 二重切)
post-Rikyu- Sotan- tsuribune 釣舟
konomimono- maki-e, different shapes
OTHER MATERIALS (So)
Wood, lacquer- drum body
Originally, flowers were presented on altar, then joku, tray (zorori bon), ita; then center of wall. tokobashira 床柱; otoshi-kabe 落壁 Morokazari 諸飾- display of jiku and flowers- pre-Rikyu; keiko and chakai.
SHIN- if short or yokomono, can center (depending on scroll content); shouldn’t interfere with scroll. Gyo- half inside. (depending) SO- half -> completely outside. Or on tokobashira, from ceiling, from window,
Shin: yahazu 矢筈 (shinnuri真塗; top wider)- bronze, celadon, etc.; 43.3 x 27.8 x 0.9 cm
Gyo: hamaguriba 蛤歯 ([shin] nuri)-kuniyaki, glazed by man’s hand; 40.9 x 28.7 x 0.8
So: (kiji hamaguriba 木地; the grain points kamiza, roots usually (left/geza)- unglazed/ naturally kiln-glazed, non-ceramic (not basket) same size as gyo
Maru kodai 丸香台(shinnuri)- the odd bit; D.31.8 x 1.4
konomimono- there are numerous of these
nakakugi 中釘- in center of toko;
hashira kugi 柱釘-on tokobashira
hana hiru kugi 花蛭釘- ceiling of toko, geza and faces “out,” kamiza, toward window, light
yanagi kugi 柳釘- toko back wall pillar geza, 7 sun from edge of ceiling; for New Year’s yanagi
asagao kugi 朝顔釘- in window (bokuseki mado 墨跡窓); hana akari
kemman-kugi 華板ー from center of ochikabe/ otoshikabe 落壁-RikyuÅF on front, Sotan konomi back
SHIN HANAIRE The whole question of Shin, GYO or SO formality levels is important when we begin to deal with any utensil not only because the levels reflect a historical trend in taste which must be considered, but because the other utensils need to balance it within the complete toriawase or assemblage and because a specific thin board, called an usu-ita is used under the vase on a tatami tokonoma floor, depending on the rank of the vase.
The SHIN or Formal style hanaire we find to be mostly karamono – objects of Chinese (Song, Yuan and Ming dynasty) meaning non-Japanese manufacture or Japanese copies which are in some way identifiable [shape or material] as formal. There are two main categories ÅF a. metal known as karakane Chinese bronze, brass, sahari or almost any historically known metal; and b. ceramicsÅF seiji celadon, stoneware and porcelains of later periods, especially sometsuke – underglaze cobalt, and red overglaze with gold, kinran-de. Locally produced inspirations, copies and imitations of these shapes and glaze types made in Japan, Korea or Southeast Asia are also included. Needless to say, the demand for less expensive examples and conformity to Japanese wabi taste led to ceramics which were modified for Japanese sensibilities but still retain their Formal classification.
There are Chinese baskets, karamono kago, which could conceivably be considered SHIN but they will be dealt with elsewhere.
SHIN USU-ITA Originally, flowers were presented on an altar table, then on a small table called a joku, displayed in the larger toko space. After or simultaneous with this, trays (usually carved cinnabar or other decorated trays) and finally usu-ita, literally “thin board” came to be used.
For SHIN vases one uses a yahazu (arrow notch) ita, a rectangle of hinoki wood, lacquered shiny black (shinnuri) and measuring on top 1shaku 4sun 3bu (43.3cm) long x 0.9.3.5rin (28.3cm) wide x up to 0.0.2.5 (0.9cm) thick. The notch is slightly uneven and the wider side is used up. The bottom is 1.4.2 (43cm) x 0.9.2.5 (28cm).
KARAKANE Although the greater majority of metal chabana containers are bronze, other copper-based alloys like brass, sahari and moru make up most of the rest. There are even a very few ancient enamelled pieces. The details of their manufacture simply do not exist and even the earliest texts admit the impossibility of separating Chinese from Japanese pieces, but show no surprise that this is the case.
Ancient metal, although tougher than ceramic is rarer to find because, at least until recently, it was very likely to be melted down in times of war or recast when fashion changed.
Having been made in the Song or Muromachi period first of all as flower containers for large rooms, not for Tea settings, most of them sit on the toko floor but some hang from the toko ceiling on chains. None seem to have been made to hang on the toko wall, but recently I have seen some iron containers (an ancient lock, a musket barrel and cannon) of Japanese manufacture used as “found” pieces but the SHIN catagory might be stretching it a bit.
Classic karamono bronze flower containers seem derived in shape mainly from the very ancient Shang (second millennium B.C.) to the Han period (2nd c B.C. – 2nd c A.D.) ritual bronze tradition. Specifically the tsun was often used for the three piece set of Buddhist altar equipment, called mitsu-gusoku. Other, Indian shapes as well found their way into bronze.
One ancient text, as yet untranslated in full, does say that decorated pieces were “low priced” and plain pieces were valued. What decoration there is also often derives from either the Shang or the Ming “neo-Shang” tradition. Generally speaking the pieces are cast rather than formed, with wax carrying the designs over a dirt and clay mold. It is much easier to cast a tube then attach the bottom later by brazing. Patination was probably induced by boiling the vessel in or applying certain nasty chemicals, over heat, until the desired color was achieved. These patina are sometimes quite beautiful and are no longer reproducible, both because of the loss of the skill and the too great a purity of modern metal has deprived cast pieces of the trace metals which are required for the patina to adhere. SO if you should acquire an old piece, handle it with gloves or a towel, be careful to keep excess water off the surface, and air dry it a few days before putting away.
The flowers used in a formal metal hana-ire are most often of a severe, upright, formal nature, more often tree flowers, like tsubaki, paeony, Chinese magnolia or althea, but narcissus and chrysanthemums look good too. “Grass” flowers are usually considered too “light” for metal
SEIJI Let’s look at SHIN ceramic Tea flower containers with what were historically the first types introduced to Tea, namely celadons. In the 7,000 year history of Chinese pottery, celadons as high-fired ash glazed stonewares first seem to make their appearance in Han times, but true celadons appeared in the Song dynasty c. 950-1275. Seiji as a type of stoneware has a high ash and iron content glaze, fired in a highly oxygen-reduced atmosphere. It is characterized by a blue or green color but the range extends from a robin’s egg blue to pinkish, to bluish gray to yellow, from a deep, soft opaque to thin clear green. It’s peak production in China was in the late 9th -10th centuries. It is said that first attempts were to recreate a jade substitute but the resulting successes were considered sufficiently beautiful in themselves.
One explanation for the term “celadon” itself may have come from a French novel “l’Astree” (1610) by Honore dorufe , in which the heroine’s lover, a sheppard, is named Celadon. When dramatized in 1617, Celadon’s costume was a beautiful light green color. At this very time, many Chinese ceramics were being introduced into France and what came to be known as “celadon” was especially popular. Thus the name celadon was attached to the light green color and to the ceramic.
Another explanation has it that when the great Egyptian sultan Saladin sent 40 pieces of Seiji to the sultan of Damascus in 117 ; his name, slightly altered, was what was attached to the ceramic. There are several other interesting explanations for the intrepid researcher to discover.
Those which came to Japan in the Kamakura period were made at the Lung-chuan kilns in the Southern Song and Yuan periods. Export in considerable quantities to Japan by ship is confirmed by a shipwreck with several hundred fine examples off the coast of Shinnan, Korea. Early records seem to place the import of celadons at the hands of the Kamakura Shogunate to the early 1320’s.
There are 4 major shapes of celadon popular with chajin
shimo-kabura, “turnip bottom” with a swelling bottom and tubular neck
kinuta, “fuller’s mallet” with a cylendrical bottom, tubular neck, often decorated symmetrically with “ears” of phoenix, fish,
naka-kabura, “turnip middle” or sun-gata, “shaped like a bronze Tsun” and
shaped like a jade divining block, whatever that is. There is one famous piece in Tokyo Natl. Msm, square in cross-sectionwith a round mouth
Early on, simple shapes with beautiful colored glaze were most appealing but with the loss of that glazing technique, compensating decorations were applied. Besides shapes, various decorative motives such as ears, with or without rings; positive carved or applied relief called “uki-bori,” applications and combed or spatula carvings were applied. Mouths were flared, fluted, or swollen like a mandarin orange; ears became phoenix, shachihoko- mythical fish with fangs, clouds, tubes, elephants, lions, or bamboo branches. Copies of tsun shapes have greater or lesser decorations such as is found on the Shang bronzes.
Chajin have created a system of division of glaze type more suited to their taste
kinuta- named originally for the shape but applied to anything with the distinct luminescent, blue or green opaque color of the originals.
Tenryu-ji seiji refers specifically to a group of pieces imported by a combine of Tenryuji temple finances and the Kamakura Bakufu encouragement, and the green color of the pieces SO imported.
ningyo-de “doll style” refers to a later yellowish celadon characterized by stamped decoration, often of children or dolls; mostly teabowls
Shuko seiji refers to another, later type of clear celadon glaze over a simple comb-carved grey clay body; most all are teabowls
zogan- inlaid, usualy with black and white clay or slip
unkaku-de refers more to the decorative motif of carved (perhaps inlaid) clouds and cranes; it is SO popular as to be indicative of Korean origin.
Korean celadon, Korai seiji is most famous for its carving and its inlays of black and white clay and later slip but a search through catalogs of tea utensils reveals an almost complete lack of examples as chabana containers, although wine vases (mei ping) have been borrowed for flowers.
Japanese attempts to reproduce celadon in Seto and Mino probably led to the creation of ki-seto wares. While Japan failed to achieve a decent celadon for several hundred more years, ki-seto has remained a favorite. There was successful production of celadon called Sanda seiji at a kiln in Hyogo from 1799 into the recent Taisho period, with the years 1818-39 being its peak. Arita also succeed in producing a green celadonous porcelain.
SOMETSUKE-BLUE and WHITE COBALT UNDERGLAZE Cobalt underglaze pieces from China had been known and imported in vast quantities during the Momoyama but those used in Tea were only a tiny portion. Towards the end of this period however, many different types of tea utensils were ordered from kilns in China. These types of ceramics are known today as ko-sometsuke (old blue and white), Shonzui and Gosu. Aside from these, Tenkei (period) aka-e (red “painted”), colored Shonzui and other types of colored overglaze on cobalt underglaze pieces, as well as pieces not ordered directly as tea utensils, such as the aka-e and sometsuke of Nanjing found use as tea utensils.
The wares known today as ko-sometsuke were ordered by Japanese Tea masters from the Jingdezhen kilns in the Tenkei period (1621-7). They were not limited to tea wares but include food dishes as well. The word ko- (old) sometsuke does not mean made in ancient times but rather refers to the older style Ming period cobalt underglaze wares, in comparison to the late Ming and Qing period style. Ko-sometsuke in the form of katamono (“mold pieces”) can be found as flower containers. In this case, it does not mean that the pieces were actually molded but that they were, as a commercial business practice would dictate, each nearly identical and carefully formed, if varied in color of glaze(s). Such famous types as the “Takasago” flower vase are a katamono. Ko-sometsuke, as it was made to Japanese order, displays characteristics not found in typical Chinese ceramics, such as the thickness of the porcelain, beveled edges, and glaze irregularities, and even the designs, which originally evolved in the late Ming, are tempered if not changed to fit Japanese ideals.
Sometsuke is characterized by handpainted scenes of landscapes, human and animal figures and birds and flowers on a background relatively free of design.
The greatest influence on these ceramics seems to come from the Oribe wares of Mino. Indeed, the influence of Oribe wares is SO pervasive that we can say without it, there could not have been the ko-sometsuke we enjoy today.
Shonzui and Gosu Shonzui is characterized by large areas of fine geomtrics interspersed with birds and flowers, characters, etc. Although flower vases perse are almost non-extant, wine containers have been adopted for the tea room.
In the same manner, again from Japan, yet another blue and white, cobalt underglazed ware of lower quality and poorer color, known as gozu was being ordered. Mizusashi, as well as rather a large quantity of plates and dishes of a plebian nature were imported but other utensils are rather rare. Other blue and white cobalt underglaze porcelain chaban containers are from places like Korea, Japan, from Annan (South China and Vietnam) where a type called shibori-de because the low quality cobalt melted and ran like dye being wrung out of cloth, and from (or thru) Delft in Europe.
Aka-e Although most overglaze enamels have a large quantity of glass in their composition and are thus transparent, only red has a small quantity and is opaque. In China red enameled ceramics were being created in the Southern Song period, but red over-glaze porcelains were only perfected in the Ming; Koaka-e, Banri (Wan-liÅF 1573-1620) aka-e, Tenkei aka-e (1621-28), Gosu aka-e , produced at Keitokuchin (CHN-Jingdezhen) kilns. Many were imported as Nanking aka-e, their free brushwork, bright red color finding great popularity in Japan. These works were also known as iro-e (colored painting) and kinran-de (“gold brocade” style) with the decoration done in gold leaf. The worn-off decoration appealed to some teamasters.
Among cha hana-ire, we find kinran-de pieces almost exclusively but even they are rare. Indeed they were probably intended as sake flasks but converted to flower containers by later collectors.
In 1644-8, in Hizen, Sakaida Kakiemon perfected red overglaze on porcelain and it spread throughout Japan to Kutani, to Kyoto under Okada Eisen, as well as to Satsuma, Seto, Banko, etc. It is generally known as iro-e, overglaze enamel, with aka-e specifically red on a white background, with touches of green or sometimes blue but specifically as kinran-de, a red over-glaze enamel with gold enamel which did not rub off and which looked like gold brocade fabric (kinran), thus the name. As flower containers for Chanoyu, kinran-de is not commonly used because its gorgeous appearance distracts from the flowers and disrupts the sober concentration of the tea house during thick tea. It is much more likely to be found in chakai, where a lighter, more gorgeous feeling can be appreciated.
GYO HANAIRE Flower containers which have been glazed by the potter, not by the accidents of the kiln, are considered semi-formal. Most of them date from the Momoyama era and from the Seto-Mino area, Kyushu and during the Edo from all over Japan. The fact of being glazed by the potter puts most non-JPN flower containers into this catagory too.
SO HANAIRE INORGANIC EXAMPLES Ceramics unglazed by trhe potter may acquire a natural “glaze” due to the interaction of the chemicals in the clay, the ash blow in the kiln and the heat. Most famous of these are the Shigaraqki and Bizen potteries. these types are always soaked and wet when used. If sitting on a board, the board is “plain” wood, kiji, and also wet. Other ceramic informal flower containers includeÅF
“Native” American, African, etc.
SOH HANAIRE ORGANIC EXAMPLES BAMBOO FLOWER CONTAINERS As Rikyu recommends in the “Namporoku”, (from Wind in the Pines, tr. Dennis Hirota, Univ. of Hawaii Press, 199 )ÅF For the flower container in a small room, a length of bamboo, basket or gourd is best.
While Chinese baskets were used for flowers even before they were taken up by Tea practitioners, the use of bamboo can be attributed to Rikyu’s generation.
Rikyu is said to have made several bamboo flower holders during his sojourn with the hegemon Hideyoshi (1590) during his battles at Odawara. Perhaps we can imagine that the long siege of the Hojo stronghold led Hideyoshi to crave a tea gathering with Rikyu and that Rikyu took the opportunity to find pieces of bamboo from the groves in the Kuboyama neighborhood for use as the hanaire. Each of the three pieces Rikyu made here has become a classic of its type.
The bamboo from this area is prone to a special type of effect, known as yukiware or yamaware , a tendency to split either from the weight of the snow or the effect of freezing the bamboo’s internal water. At any rate, these cracks do not kill the bamboo but do heal enough to create an interesting aspect. The one which most people imagine embodies Rikyu’s ideas for a bamboo flower container is the “Onjoji,” a section with two nodes, two such yukiwari cracks and a single window cut towards the top (“ichiju-giri”) from which the flowers will protrude. It is 33.4 cm tall, with a diameter of 10.5 cm and a hole cut in the back, behind the window, showing that Rikyu intended to have this vase hang. The name “Onjoji” refers to the proper name of Miidera, a temple with three natural artesian springs, where a bell supposedly dragged across the mountain by legendary strongman Musashino Benkei is hung in the bell tower. This bell is cracked, as is the bamboo and thus the reference. This name was given to it by Shoan (Rikyu’s son-in-law and heir to his Kyoto holdings), to whom Rikyu gave the vase on his return. It passed through the hands of many wabi tea enthusiasts, including daimyo Matsudaira Fumai, until it ended up, languishing, in the National Museum in Tokyo.
The second of Rikyu’s classics is a rather unexpected variation with two windows (“niju-giri”), allowing flowers to be put in both top and bottom. We do know that both were used, especially when Hideyoshi was invited to put the flowers in (the top of course) during a gathering but standard modern Urasenke usage is just the bottom, although the top is always filled with water, just in case. Needless to say, this style is much longer than the single, being 45.4 cm with a diameter of 10.3 cm and made with hard, plain bamboo. It is called “Yonaga,” which because it is written in kana syllables, might be interpreted as “long joint” between nodes, “long night” because such bamboo was used by troops sleeping in the field, or any of several more imaginative meanings. It is in the Fujita Museum in Osaka.
The third archetype of bamboo flower holders is the “Shakuhachi,” a simple bamboo tube used upside-down, with one node and a slight undulation, which has a surface effect called “sesame seed.” The bamboo itself is obviously older and had been exposed to the elements (thus the goma effect) before being discovered by Rikyu. The name is said to have come from a poem by Zen master Ikkyu Sojun, about his flute to which many flocked to hear. Rikyu offered this vase to Hideyoshi but after Rikyu’s suicide it is said Hideyoshi flung it out the door and thus broke it. The pieces were collected by Yamaoka Somu and after a long peregrination, has returned to the Urasenke Sen family. One more archetypal form of bamboo flower container, the tsuribune or hanging boat of naturally stained bamboo, was created by Sotan, Rikyu’s grandson. Beside these four shapes, there are only a few other shapes which are not just variations on these originals, elongated or compressed, with differently shaped windows and different bamboo surfaces. Some modern pieces have the interior of the bamboo lacquered and decorated in gold maki-e.
What makes Rikyu’s use of bamboo SO revolutionary requires that we know the context into which he introduced it. Up until this point, the mainstream of Tea was concerned with the possession and exclusive use of the Chinese antiques used as tea utensils called karamono, but since Takeno Jo-o, one of Rikyu’s teachers, began to espouse a breaking down of barriers between karamono and wa(Japanese)mono and the incorporation of appropriate Japanese wares like Shigaraki and Bizen into Tea, a gradual change began to appear. Although karamono hanaire like bronze and celadon continued to be popular, we see increased interest in Iga, Shigaraki and Bizen, in Korean wares, and in works from Mino such as ki-seto and Shino. But it took Rikyu to make the final leap to bamboo, finding in its natural qualities of surface, elegance of proportion and interesting details in colors, the nodes and swelling base to rival the best of the ceramics from Iga and Bizen.
Investment in karamono utensils was the prerogative of only the most wealthy and powerful warlords and merchants. Duplicates made in Japan were also popular because of demand. One of Rikyu’s greatest contributions to the populariztion of Tea was his insistance on things “anybody” could make or find being as worthy of appreciation as the objects of great fame and cost. Of course not just anybody could make an equvalent piece but the potential was given.
Rikyu was known to have commissioned Chojiro, a roof-tile sculptor to make what became Raku teabowls, he used a wooden well bucket for fresh water, he did away with the daisu stand and cut the tatami down by the size it took up, he made his own teascoops out of bamboo instead of ivory (he was not the very first to do this), and he is said to have used lacquered tea containers for thick tea instead of ceramic chaire. (The bamboo hanaire he created in Odawara certainly solved his omiyage problem frugally.) It also gave Tea masters the ability to create many of their own utensils, thereby giving greater range to their creativity and another chance to leave something to posterity.
When we look at the five major documents called chakaiki, recording the use of tea utensils for Rikyu’s peak period, bamboo flower containers only begin to appear less than a year before his death, in the summer of 1590. The piece in question was not listed as being of Rikyu’s manufacture nor was the Host Rikyu, but within the same year bamboo appears unquestionably 9 more times out of 20 recorded. Perhaps rumor of Rikyu’s creation alone was enough to set off a flurry of imitators. After this, and Rikyu’s rather mysterious suicide, it is several years before the use of bamboo hanaire resumes its popularity. The following age of daimyo tea masters also found the bamboo to be a suitable material for flower containers, and created many beautiful examples, using interestingly stained natural bamboo.
The bamboo flower container is of universal application, usable summer or winter, for formal or informal arrangements. In the ro, hearth season, a single camellia and budding branch in a bamboo tube or ichiju-gire, drenched with dew are indescribably exquisite. The same utensil with grasses, a single white althea, pink lily or deep purple clematis vine, also drenched with dew, creates the perfect paragon of summer flowers. There is no time or situation where a bamboo flower container is inappropriate. One does need to be careful of creating a possibly unpleasant feeling by using green bamboo for flower containers because in Kyoto, green bamboo is used in funeral services to hold decorative flowers. The only exception to this is a root of fresh bamboo used at New Years time. The deeper area of the root is a lovely pinkish yellow like the sunrise, changing into the fresh green.
A fascinating thing about wabi tea is the paradox involved in the hierarchical system. SHIN things are considered the “highest rank” and SO the lowest but thanks to Rikyu’s genius in seeing the greatest manifestation of Heart therein, SO objects of all types are considered the best for wabi Tea. Even in the highest, most formal preparation, using nothing but the most famous treasures on the most formal Chinese daisu stand, there are teachers who declare that the flower should be presented in a Rikyu bamboo flower container, since it is the only thing which can balance the weightiness of the other objects.
Gourdian Riddles- Fukubei Flower Containers
The third of Rikyu’s wabi-style flower containers recommended for the small room is gourds. Of the three, basket, bamboo and gourd, the gourd is the most fragile, the least needing of compromise and intervention by the hand of man to bring out its beauty and therefore most daunting to use. Indeed a search of five of the major cha-kaiki, tea diaries from 1537 reveals the first recorded use of a naga-byotan, long gourd per se as a hanaire in 1647.
Gourds are hard-shelled seedpods produced by several different but related members of the melon family (especially Lagenaria siceraria gourda). The skin may be thin or thick and for hanaire, it is usually coated with a sealant or provided with a protective inner tube, which alSO keeps the weight down, since the gourds are often large and as we said, somewhat fragile. They were not SO fragile that they were useless in daily life; indeed they were used when cut, as dippers, and as canteens by travelers for water and sake. For this purpose, the gourds were often lacquered and provided with a cord and stopper. Their light sturdiness and wasp-waist made them ideal, just like the “PET bottles” one sees people drinking out of all the time .
To make a gourd into a flower container requires only that one take some care in the growing, harvest it at the right time, let it dry and clean out all the seeds. The surface may be heated to remove excess moisture and waxy oils which will attract mold and insects, and rubbed to a glossier finish. The surface may be polished with a very fine abrasive and the inner surface, if it is too spongy, also removed and coated with a sealant.
If you should find a suitable antique gourd, even one that has been damaged, it may be used by cutting off the narrowest part of the top, leaving it as is, or an opening may be made in the upper part to allow flowers (and maybe a protective tube) to be put in. A small hole may simply be cut in the back, a cord might be wrapped around its middle if its wasp-waisted or a metal ring attached. Larger gourds will sometimes have both front and back sections removed, leaving a large “handle” with the stalk.
Being organic and “renewable” has probably contributed to the gourd’s lack of esteem, a perversely unenlightened attitude toward the wabi aesthetic it seems to me.
By some, the gourd is considered a container whose very physical lightness and delicacy is the greatest challenge to the Host’s strength of Tea. That SO many early gourds have Rikyu’s and his grandson Sotan’s signature on them seems to indicate that only their reputation was strong enough to secure the approval of critical Guests. SO we can see in the gourd the ultimate challenge to the wabi chajin.
Although we find no reference to gourd flower containers in the major contemporary tea dairies recording Rikyu’s tea, there are several gourds of unimpeachable authenticity which Rikyu loved and even provided letters for.
The most famous is one called “Yen Hui” [JPN Gan Kai]. While on a pilgrimage to Kumano Shrine, Rikyu received a gourd, probably used as a canteen, from a yamabushi mountain-priest. Rikyu cut off the upper portion and used the lower half as a flower container. It is fairly large at 19.3 cm. high by 18.6 cm. around. It is not round or rather has the neck closer to the back and is a dark, shiny brown color of use and antiquity.
Yen Hui was Confucius’s most favorite disciple. He lived a frugal and simple life, “with one gourd for food and one gourd for drink.” Giving this name, Yen Hui, to this gourd shows Rikyu’s erudition and his very high regard for this container. Perhaps if bamboo hadn’t proven SO durable, gourds would be the paramount wabi flower container.
It belonged to the family of Hosokawa Sansai, one of Rikyu’s most famous and successful disciples, but now is in Tokugawa shogunal collection called the Eisei Bunko, again showing the high regard in which it was held.
Rikyu’s grandson and heir to the wabi tradition also was fond of gourds and made a flower container from a whole one by cutting a semi-circular hole in the top half. This vase is named “Daruma” after the Zen patriarch whose form it resembles. It is equipped with numerous boxes by great chajin who has owned it, with a tiny box even for the paper string Sotan rolled and put through a hole in the back to hang it from! Many other gourd hanaire have some reference to Daruma as well.
Other Tea masters who are said to have created fukube hanaire are Shoan, Rikyu’s son-in-law and Sotan’s father, Kobori Enshu, the great daimyo Tea master, Kanamori Sowa, founder of the “imperial” school of Tea for the Court, as well as many of Sotan’s disciples but search as I might, I cannot find more than a handful of examples in exhibition catalogs, utensil books or chabana books.
In Japanese, gourds are called hyo, tan, hyotan, hisago or fukube. The word “fuku” gives on to the homonyms for prosperity and for enlargement, swelling. Another of Rikyu’s flower containers using just the bottom half of a large, dark brown finished gourd is named “Fukura Suzume,” a fat sparrow, referring to an abundant harvest that even leaves the sparrows plump, or the cold weather than makes them fluff out their feathers.
The fukube as a symbol, is often seen hanging in traditional shops and farm houses as bringers of prosperity and fecundity. This type is usually a figure-eight, with the smaller swelling on top and the larger on the bottom, but long (up to 5 or 6 feet!) slenderer ones, the naga-byotan mentioned first in the tea records, are also treasured. Many of the ones referring to Daruma have rounded “heads” and distinct shoulders, with flat bottoms, similar to the popular folk figures.
A large, squat, preferably new fukube charcoal container is essential at the beginning of the Tea year in November mainly for this homonymic felicity but also because Rikyu called for its use during the hearth season. Several of these historical pieces are also preserved as important historical pieces.
Gourds have an important place in Zen iconography based on the image of enlightenment being as difficult as “catching a catfish with a gourd.” There are several famous Zen ink paintings with this theme, which was even popular as an Otsu-e, with a monkey pressing down on a catfish with a gourd.
Gourds are actually more popular as a form for basket, metal or ceramic flower containers than are the gourds themselves. Go figure.
Tough Nuts- Coconut Flower containers Coconuts are another source of organic flower containers.
Rikyu’s vases: Within the Rikyu hyakukai-ki, vases only mentioned18 times
shakuhachi (large bamboo cylinder)-7
Korean ceramic cylinder (Korai tsutsu)-3
Ko-Bizen-2 (first mention of Bizen-mono)
kumo mimi (cloud ears, decorated seiji or ??)-2
ichijugiri (bamboo, one window)-1
nijugiri (bamboo two windows)ÅF “Yonaga”-1
standing drum “Tabi Makura”-1 ( ki-seto)
indigenous pottery-1 (Iga)
need to check more kaiki Yet we know Rikyu owned or made:
Tsuru no hashi, Tsuru no Issei- karamono bronze
Onjoji, Shakuhachi, Yonaga; Onk/gyoku, Odawara; Hashi no Bo- all bamboo Rikyu cut himself + dozens of attributions
Katsura kago, mimitsuki, nata no saya, karamono-baskets
Gourds: “Gankai,” “Issho”, “Fukura-suzume”