October 25, 2007
IKEBANA, one of the traditional arts of Japan, has been practiced for more than 600 years. It developed from the Buddhist ritual of offering flowers to the spirits of the dead. By the middle of the fifteenth century, with the emergence of the first classical styles, IKEBANA achieved thestatus of an art form independent of its religious origins, though it continued to retain strong symbolic and philosophical overtones. The first teachers and students were priests and members of the nobility. However, as time passed, many different schools arose, styles changed, and IKEBANA came to be practiced at all levels of Japanese society.
The beginning of IKEBANA can be traced to the 6th century introduction of Buddhism to the Japanese. Part of the worship involved the offering of flowers on the altar in honor of Buddha. In India, the birthplace of Buddhism, the flowers were placed very informally, and sometimes only petals were strewn around. However, by the time of 10th century Japan, the Japanese were presenting their offering in containers. The altar offerings were the responsibility of the priests of the temple. The Origin of IKEBANA: Ikenobo
The oldest school of IKEBANA dates its beginnings from a priest of the Rokkakudo Temple in Kyoto who was so expert in flower arrangement that other priests sought him out for instruction. As he lived by the side of a lake, for which the Japanese word is Ikenobo, the name Ikenobo became attached to the priests there who specialized in these altar arrangements. Evolution of Styles
Patterns and styles evolved so that by the late 15th century, arrangements were common enough that they were appreciated by ordinary people, not just the imperial family and its retainers. Thus began the development of an art form with fixed requirements. Texts were written, the oldest being Sendensho, a compilation covering the years from 1443 to 1536.
As time passed, IKEBANA became a major part of traditional festivals, and IKEBANA exhibitions were held periodically. Rules were prescribed, and materials had to be combined in specific ways. In these early forms, a tall upright central stem had to be accompanied by two shorter stems; the three stems represented heaven, man (sic), and earth. The specific Japanese names for these differed among IKEBANA schools. In 1545, the Ikenobo School, now well established, formulated the principles of rikka arrangements by naming the seven principal branches used in that type of arrangement.
During the Momoyama period in Japan, 1560-1600, many magnificent castles were constructed. During the same period, noblemen and royal retainers were doing large decorative rikka floral pieces .