Mar 19, 2010

Japanese patterns and motifs

Many tea utensils and fabrics have recurring traditional designs and motifs that you can learn to recognize.  You see them also on kimono, shifuku and kobukusa fabrics as well as on lacquer ware and in traditional sachiko stitching. Do you have utensils with these patterns? Can you recognize them?

Shippo (seven jewels)
Shippo is a series of geometric design combining four ellipses in a circle in a way that the lines inside make more circles. The name is originated from Shippo, which means precious stones in Buddhism. Because inside the circles look shiny, people started to call the pattern Shippo. Often you will see this pattern combined with flowers, and sometimes even the seven treasures are depicted.

Also pronounced seikaiha. A wave design made of the arches of concentric circles superimposed upon one another so that only the upper portion of each set of circles is visible. It was used in China to depict the sea on ancient maps. In Japan it appears earliest on the clothing of a haniwa figure of a girl excavated in Gunma prefecture. Beginning in the Heian period it was used on mo, a form of shirt worn with the "twelve-layers" juunihitoe of kimono. It appears on Seto ceramic ware setoyaki and lacquerware inkstone cases of the Kamakura period. In the period Seikai Kanshichi devised a way to paint the design in black lacquer using a brush; some authorities suggest this may have been the origin of the term seigaiha to describe this design.

Asanoha / Hemp Leaf
"Asanoha (hemp leaf)" is one of the most popular Japanese traditional patterns. This pattern was named Asanoha because the shape literally looks like a hemp leaf. In spite of its name, however, the pattern did not borrow motif from a plant. It is a geometric design with six diamond-shaped patterns arranged in a radial manner. Identifying the hemp which grows well with the growth of a baby, the pattern has been often used for swaddling clothes.

Sayagata is a kind of geometric design with a series of fylfot (卍 Manji - key fret - swastika - Buddhist cross) patterns. Because the pattern was similar to silk fabrics brought to Japan from China which was called "Saya" in Edo Era, people started to call it Saya-gata (Saya pattern). The fylfot pattern has taken root as a map symbol which stands for Buddhist temples in Japan. It is a classical pictogram which came from the shape of Hindu God of love Vishnu’s chest hair, and it stands for a good omen and virtue.

1 comment:

  1. oh! I really love this information. :D Thank you!