Jun 23, 2012

Meibutsugire part 3 - Donsu

Donsu , a damask satin. like kinran, comes in a great variety of patterns. It is a thick, lustrous fabric made of silk. It is not as dazzling as kinran, but rather has a quiet kind of beauty. The design is integrated into the ground and does not protrude from the surface of the cloth, as in other brocades.

The pre-dyed warp and weft threads are woven where one side of the cloth is warp faced and the other is weft faced and a design is made by reversing the face in the pattern areas.  Not all the meibutsugire fabrics caterogized as donsu have this weave structure. Some exceptions are woven with a twill ground. Since it is finely woven with strongly twisted dyed threads, the overall feel of the fabric is soft.. Chajin especially loved the quiet patterns and pliability of donsu, and for this reason, many chaire pouches have been made with it.

Some examples:

Ariso donsu

Ariso donsu is an image of fish in the waves.  You can also see this motif in the ariso tana and on other tea utensils.

All of the examples above are called Iyosudare donsu.  The name comes from the rred blinds caled iyo sudare.  The design usually consists of stripes with various treasures against a checkeboard ground, or plum blossoms.  The original fabric had both treasures and blossoms in one continuous fabric, but you can see both designs separately.  This fabric was made into a shifuku for the chuko meibutsu chaire called "Sokushiki"

Hosokawa donsu

Hosokawa donsu was owned by Hosokawa Sansai (1564-1645) who was one of Rikyu's seven students.

Soami donsu
 Soami served the shogun Yoshimasa Ashikaga in the Higashiyama period (1435 –1490) as a sort of curator (dobushu) of Yoshimasa's collections.

Kamakura donsu

Rikyu-bai donsu
The name Rikyu-bai donsu actually comes from the similarity of the plum blossom motif with the flower known as Rikyū-bai.  This cloth was used by an Edo period tea master to make a shifuku for a black chū-natsume [lacquered tea-container] which bears Rikyū’s signature in red lacquer on the inside of the lid; as a result this cloth is commonly, but mistakenly, understood to have been favored by Rikyū (forgetting that Rikyū died in 1592, while the Ching Dynasty was not founded until 1616).  The cloth itself, a similar textile (featuring a plum-blossom motif in ocher on a dark-blue background) is occasionally encountered under the name Riky-bai donsu. The true Rikyū-bai donsu has a plum-blossom motif which fits into an oblong diamond (though this is not so obvious at a glance, since the design has five points rather than four), while the other (which is actually based upon the ori-dome, or woven-on cover, of the striped Iyo-sudare donsu (see above)has a plum-blossom which fits into a circle (thus it is shaped like a regular 5-pointed star).

Oribe donsu

Oribe donsu is said to be in the taste of Furuta Oribe, a disciple of Rikyu.  On a deep, quiet blue ground, the light yellow-green waves stand out, with plum blossoms floating on them.  Oribe was very fond of plum blossoms as he used that motif in his designs for ceramics and other fabrics.

Sokun donsu
 This example of a geometric pattern is sometimes known as shippo tsunage, or interlocking seven treasures.  The treasure elements appear in varied form on a blue background in the center of the circle with plum blossoms. The name of this fabric comes from its original owner, Imai Sokun. Sokun, son of Imai Sogyu, was a tea master in the end of the 16th century begining of the 17th century.

Sumiyoshi donsu
Sumiyoshi donsu is a geometric triangular design.  It was used as a pouch for a thick tea caddy called "Sumiyoshi Bunrin" Chaire.

Mozuya donsu
It is said that Mozuya Soan, who was a merchant in Sakai, Osaka and Sen Rikyu's daughter's husband, possesed this fabric.

Sasazuru donsu
 Designed with the auspicious pine-bamboo-plum motif  (shochikubai) symbols of long-life, nobility and hope). Sasazuru donsu has many different variations.

*Fabric photos courtesy of  Kitamura Tokusai Fukusaten Co., Ltd., Kyoto, Japan.via the now closed website Tea Hyakka..


  1. I have a kobukasa the pattern of which looks identical to what you have identified as "mozuya donsu." However, mine is called "bandai ya" 萬代屋. Are they the same pattern but with different names or maybe there is a subtle difference I'm missing.

  2. Dear Anonymous,
    Thank your for your comment. This is a pretty famous pattern and in my experience it has always been identified to me as Mozuya donsu. I have a reference book in Japanese and the Tokkusai website both indentify it as Mozuya donsu. That being said, sometimes these fabrics are referred to by other names. According to the Chanoyu Quarterly, meibutsugire are classified basically according to the following categories:

    1. named for the possessor or person noted for their use: Mozuya or Oribe for example.

    2. named for the person who first introduced the fabric: Suminokura kinran for example.

    3. named for the district where it was produced: Bene, Senjo. Gold used in these cloths had come from these areas of Korea for example.

    4. named for the place that possessed it: Kofukuji, Horyuji for example. These were important temples or shrines

    5. named for the pattern of the cloth: ichigo (strawberry) ariso (fish in waves) for example

    6. named for the utensil with which it was assoicated: Hino, Nitta, Tomita were names of chaire, for example.

    7. named for the weaver: Wakuta for example.

    8. named for its use: Nininshizuka, a dance in Noh. Or Komparu or Kongo who were prominent Noh families.

    Since the definition of the term meibutsu was made arbitrarily b y people of different times according to their subjective judgement, the standard of selection was not fixed.

    It is entirely possible that your kobukusa was identified by one of these other criteria. Suminokura is actually a hana usagi pattern and can be referred to by either one.

    I looked up the kanji for your kobukusa and literally translated it means "Bandai Shop", perhaps it was imported and/or sold to Mozuya by Bandai Shop?