Ikenobo Ikebana Society of America
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NATURE AND SHUSSHO
Every plant has its own essential character, which determines the way it grows. For example, the vine of the morning glory never fails to grow counterclockwise. Even if it is placed to grow in a clockwise direction, it will soon return to its counterclockwise habit. If there is nothing to support the vine so that it can grow in its accustomed way, and if it cannot grow upward, it will bend down. While bending down, however, its tip always tries to extend upward. This inherent nature of plants is called shussho .
In practicing ikebana, most important is not the outer appearance of plants, but rather expressing their inner character, paying attention to each plant's shussho.
In ikebana, therefore, nature (shizen) is defined differently from shussho. Nature refers to characteristics that all plants have in common, such as branches and leaves extending towards the light, and blooming and growth in response to environmental and seasonal change. In the bending vines of the morning glory mentioned above, the outer appearance is nature , while the inner character is shussho.
Grasping the difference between nature and shussho is the first step, the key to success in arranging a beautiful ikebana. The second step is for the arranger to express his or her impressions by the best use of the nature and shussho of the materials. Eventually, a stage is reached where symbolic meaning is expressed in the simplified figure of the materials. Shoka is the simplest style expressing shussho, while rikka expresses the sublimeness of the whole of nature in a more complex composition.
The History of Ikenobo Ikebana
The custom of placing flowers on an altar began when Buddhism was introduced to Japan by way of Korea in about 538 A.D. In the Heian period (794-1192), apart from altar offerings, the practice of enjoying flowers arranged beautifully in a vase also became popular. Poems, novels and essays of the time contain many passages which describe nature, and which also mention the appreciation of flowers in a vase. Especially in the Kokin Wakashu ( The Anthology of Waka compiled by Imperial Order , early 10th century), Genji Monogatari ( The Story of Hikaru Genji , 11th century), and Makura no Soshi ( Essays by Seishonagon , 11th century), we find many vivid descriptions of members of the aristocracy both viewing and enjoying the arrangement of flowers.
In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), samurai (the elite warrior class) seized governing power from the aristocrats, a development which brought about great changes in Japanese society as a whole. The shoin-zukuri style of architecture first appeared at this time. The tokonoma (a small, sacred alcove at the side or end of the zashiki, a room for receiving guests) is a part of this architectural style. Earlier customs of arranging flowers in a vase for use as decoration on a table or in a corner of the room may well be said to have brought about the invention of the tokonoma.
Development of Rikka
Not satisfied with merely appreciating flowers in a vase, people in the early 16th century (the middle Muromachi period) tried to give deeper meaning to the thoughts accompanying the process of arranging flowers. In other words, they wished to arrange flowers (tateru, to arrange stems in an upright or standing manner), rather than simply placing them in a vase. An earlier attitude of passive appreciation developed into a more deeply considered approach. This approach forms the basis of what we call ikebana .
From the late Kamakura period to the Muromachi period (late 13th -16th century), large contests of flower arranging were held at the Imperial Court on the day of Tanabata (the Festival of the star Vega, the seventh day of the seventh lunar month). These contests were called Tanabata-e . Aristocrats and monks vied with each other in demonstrating their skills, offering flowers in honor of the Festival. According to a 15th century manuscript, the two finest arrangers of the time were the Ikenobo master Senkei and Ryu-ami, a tea master. The description in Hekizan Nichiroku (a diary of the monk Daikyoku, 15th century) of many people vying to see arrangements by Ikenobo Senkei is the first record of Ikenobo ikebana.
Ikenobo refers to the name of the buildings associated with the Shiunzan Chohoji or Rokkakudo Temple in Kyoto, as well as the name of the family which has served in succeeding generations as head priests of the temple. The Rokkakudo has been popular from ancient times as a place for the worship of Kannon (the Goddess of Mercy). The townspeople of Kyoto used this temple as a place for gatherings, at which times flower arrangements were placed in the temple.
It was toward the end of the Muromachi period that the earlier simple way of setting flowers in a vase developed into tatehana (tateru, standing; hana, flowers), a more complex style of ikebana. It was also during this period that the oldest extant manuscript of ikebana ( Kao irai no Kadensho , 1486) and the famous manuscript about ikebana by Ikenobo Senno ( Senno Kuden , 1542) were written. Senno, the founder of Ikenobo kado, originated ikebana that was filled with meaning, and which was quite different from previous arrangements that had shown only the prettiness of flowers.
The Azuchi-Momoyama period (late 16th century) brought a renaissance in ikebana as well as a general renaissance in Japanese culture. At this time two Ikenobo masters named Senko completed the rikka style (also meaning standing flowers , but with more complexity than tatehana) and Ikenobo reached a high point of its early history. Paintings depicting the rikka of Senko II, a famous master of Ikenobo, are preserved at the Manshuin Temple (Kyoto), the Yomei-bunko library of the Ninnaji Temple (Kyoto) , the Tokyo National Museum and the library of the Ikenobo Headquarters (Kyoto). The arranging of rikka as a style with seven main parts (shin, shin-kakushi, soe, soe-uke, mikoshi, nagashi, and maeoki) was established at this time.
After Senko II died, rikka gradually became more complex and mannered. The birth of the shoka style of ikebana brought new interest into the world of ikebana.
Development of Shoka
Nageire, a more informal style of arrangement, had been practiced even during the earlier period when rikka was developing. Nageire had been a style of decoration for the zashiki, while rikka, the most formal style, was used for rites and ceremonies. The townspeople favored nageire, which presented the natural beauty of flowers without complicated rules.
In 1684, Toichiya Taemon, a merchant, wrote the Nageire Kadensho ( How to arrange flowers in Nageire style ), and in 1697, Kodai Shoka Zukan ( Collected Paintings of Historic Shoka Works ) by Ikenobo Sen'yo was published. Nageire influenced the development of early work in the shoka style.
Shoka at this time was very simple. Only two main branches (or flowers), one of which was called in (negative) and the other yo (positive), were used in arranging the work. These would later develop into three main parts, called shin, soe, and tai.
The shoka style developed over a long period, during with many schools of ikebana other than Ikenobo appeared.
Shoka was firmly established in Ikenobo Senjo's work Soka Hyakki ( One Hundred Examples of Ikebana , 1820). He also edited Heika Yodo-shu , in which the traditional methods of rikka were described in detail.
In the Meiji period (1868-1912), Ikenobo Sensho set down the regulations of shofutai shoka, shofutai meaning orthodox or traditional style . Mannerism again began to appear, and efforts to break away from this mannerism were not successful until the Taisho period (1912-1926). The styles of modern nageire and moribana, and modern styles of shoka were the result. These styles were also greatly influenced by the importation of European culture, beginning during the Meiji Restoration (1868). Nageire and moribana could be used in either traditional Japanese or westernized houses and rooms.
After World War II, ikebana began to be regarded by some as art, with the result that works of avant-garde Ikebana appeared. Wire, metal and stone, as well as flowers were used to the extent that it was sometimes difficult to distinguish this work from sculpture. This movement inspired the birth of free style ikebana (jiyuka), which is completely liberated from the regulations of traditional ikebana. On the other hand, refined and dignified ikebana styles with traditional origins, such as rikka, and shoka, have also experienced a rebirth.
Shoka shimputai, a new style of shoka developed in 1977 by 45th Generation Headmaster Ikenobo Sen'ei, presents a bright, modern feeling. Two main parts, shu and yo, respond to each other with contrasting yet harmonious qualities. A third part of the arrangement, ashirai, is often added as a finishing touch.
A message from Sen'ei Ikenobo - 45th Headmaster:
The history of Ikenobo is the history of ikebana. Ikebana began with Ikenobo and although in over 500 years other schools have branched off from Ikenobo, Ikenobo is said to be the origin of ikebana. Ikenobo's history encompasses both the traditional and the modern, the two continually interacting to encourage new development in today's ikebana.
People in every era have loved flowers, but our predecessors in ikebana felt that flowers were not only beautiful but that they could reflect the passing of time and the feelings in their own hearts. When we sense plant's unspoken words and silent movements we intensify our impressions through form, a form which becomes ikebana.
We arrange plants cut and removed from nature so that they are filled with new beauty when placed in a new environment. Rather than simply re-create the shape a plant had in nature, we create with branches, leaves, and flowers a new form which holds our impression of a plant's beauty as well as the mark of our own spirit. Ikebana should also suggest the forces of nature with which plants live in harmony - branches bent by winter winds ... a leaf half-eaten by insects.
Ikenobo considers a flower's bud most beautiful, for within the bud is the energy of life's opening toward the future. Past, present, future ... in each moment plants, and humans, respond to an ever-changing environment. Together with plants, humans are vital parts of nature and our arranging ikebana expresses this awareness.
Like a poem or painting made with flowers, Ikenobo's ikebana expresses both the beauty of flowers and the beauty of longing in our own hearts. Ikenobo's spirit has spread not only in Japan but throughout the world. It is my deepest hope that the beauty of Ikenobo will increasingly serve as a way of drawing the world's people together. Sen' ei Ikenobo
Ikenobo – Celebrating 550 Years
The custom of placing flowers on the altar began when Buddhism was introduced to Japan by way of Korea in about 538. The Rokkaku-do Temple is the site of the birth and earliest development of ikebana. The name ''Rokkaku'' refers to the hexagonal shape of the temple. Rokkaku-do Temple was founded by Prince Shotoku in the 6th century to enshrine a Nyoirin Kannon Bosatsu, the Goddess of Mercy. Near a pond (ike) where Prince Shotoku bathed, a small hut (bo) was built and became the home of succeeding generations of Buddhist priests. This gave rise to the name Ikenobo.
In the Heian period (794-1192), apart from altar offerings, the practice of enjoying flowers displayed beautifully in a vase also became popular. Poems, novels and essays from that time contain many passages which describe the appreciation of flowers used in this way. Not satisfied with merely appreciating flowers in a vase, Japanese people in the early 15th century tried to give wider meaning to placing flowers in a vase. An earlier attitude of passive appreciation developed into a more deeply considered approach. This approach forms the basis of what we call ikebana today.
According to a 15th century manuscript, the two of the most popular flower arrangers of the time were the Ikenobo master Senkei and Ryu-ami, a tea master. Unzen Taigyoku, a monk belonging to a Zen Monastery first recorded the name Senkei in his event and tea journal called Hekizan Nichiroku. In an entry dated February 25th of the third year of the Kansho era (1462), Unzen Taigyoku wrote, “at the invitation of Shunko, Senkei made a floral arrangement in a golden vase and denizens of Kyoto with refined tastes vied to see his work”. This written record marks the starting point for 550 years of recorded Ikebana history. Additional historical documentation of Senkei’s work is virtually nonexistent with one October 2nd entry in the Nekizan Nichiroku journal describing how Senkei is moved by the extraordinary beauty of chrysanthemums.
An arrangment and essay by Sen’ ei Ikenobo, Forty-fifth Generation Headmaster
People are often inspired by the way plants endure intense cold. As we look at an old white birch standing tall on the ground, we understand the long period of time during which the tree tolerated the cold. It was Sen’ no Ikenobo , our ancestor, who said that the beauty of flower arrangements is found in a “virtuous vestige”.
What one sees visually is nothing more than colors and shapes. However, what impresses us is the true figure behind the colors and shapes, which is invisible. Rikka Shimputai is the newest of Ikenobo’s styles, transcending the traditional Rikka Style. Nevertheless, the origin of this all comes down to “virtuous vestige”.
Only a refined spirit allows the pursuit of Ikebana to penetrate to the inner heart of people and to last from yesterday to today, today to tomorrow, and to the future.
Senko II Rikka Isshiki of Lotus
Rikka Shimputai with Professor Tsuchia
Senko II Isshiki Rikka of Kakitsubata
2017 Ikenobo Grand Exhibition
City of Boulder Main Library, Canyon Gallery, October 28 to 31, 2017
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