31 August 2007

a bit more into the silent communications of the kimono. since some of this language, like ancient languages the world over, has been lost, perhaps we should make up the symbology anew.

...Japanese attention to nature arose from ancient Shinto teachings of sacred spirit temporarily inhabiting trees, rocks, and waterfalls. This concern was reinforced by Buddhism’s respect for all life, when it was imported from China and Korea in the 6th century.

[Japanese] prints are rife with symbolism, often drawn from Chinese art: cranes equal long life; pines equal winter, longevity, and endurance; cherry blossoms equal spring and transience. Many of the images draw their subjects from poems, with bits of the texts incorporated into the design. Some ... pictures are elaborate puns, as in a 1760s print in which butterflies flutter over a cat curled up on grass. In Chinese, the word for cat sounds like the word for age 80 to 90 and the word for butterfly sounds like the word for age 70 to 80. The sounds aren’t the same in Japanese, but the meaning — wishes for long life — carried over. 1

One cannot ask loneliness,
How or where it starts.
On the cypress-mountain Autumn evening
Jakuren, 13th Cent.
Japanese Metaphors and Symbols: A Partial List

Pine tree and Heron: Long life or anything enduring
Moon: Nighttime, Mirror, Reflection of your beloved's face.
Dragon: Wind, Clouds, Power, Rain

Spring: Blossoms, Birds, Wild Flowers, first greening of the Willow, Plum blossom (earliest flower = new love), Cherry blossom (beauty with emphasis on its fragile & ephemeral qualities)

Summer: Heat, Singing Frogs (end of Spring), Cuckoo (True love), Willows, End of summer (longing for home & family), Souls (O-ban Odori festival)

Autumn: Orange Moon, Falling or colored Leaf, Sound of wild Geese or flight of birds, Stag calling, Pine Tree (nobility), Chrysanthemum (also symbol of the Emperor)

Winter: Snow, Ice, Crane’s call, Wind, Bare branches. 2

(very slightly edited)

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Blogger harlequinpan said...

Very interesting metaphors and symbols,it's really meaningful for japanese and chinese.i like the patterns too,they are knowledgeable designs.

31 August, 2007 11:08  
Anonymous midori said...

i am learning it about Japan here :)
and i admire that you supply deep knowledge.

31 August, 2007 17:23  
Blogger Antonia said...

the picture most below is just gorgeous.

02 September, 2007 03:18  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

hp--thanks, yes i was wondering if the symbols were much the same in chinese culture?

midori--how kind of you, thank you. please feel free to add anything at any time because you have real experience.

antonia--there was a whole exhibition in paris just recently but they still have their web page up:


it's katagami, the stencils used in dying kimono.

02 September, 2007 18:16  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

oops-- try this.

02 September, 2007 18:19  
Blogger lotusgreen said...

ici aussi

02 September, 2007 18:30  
Anonymous antonia said...

thanks dear lotus

03 September, 2007 02:06  

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hi, and thanks so much for stopping by. i spend all too much time thinking my own thoughts about this stuff, so please tell me yours. i thrive on the exchange!

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