Ikebana is usually written in Japanese with two ideographs---ike meaning to make alive and bana meaning flowers. A translation might be living flowers or making flowers come alive. Ikebana is the Japanese art form of flower arrangement and those who practice it find it to be another form of meditation.
Ikebana has been practiced for over 600 years. It developed from the Buddhist ritual offering of flowers and plants, religious in nature. The form of the offering was of great significance. By the 10th century, the flower offerings were presented in containers and were the responsibility of the priests of the temple. The sanzon style was derived from the Buddhist triad image. This was three stems placed as one in a container. By the 15th century, with the emergence of classical styles and written texts, the development of an art form with fixed requirements began. The asymmetrical scalene triangle and three branches became the basic form on which most arrangements of the ikebana schools were developed.
The first teachers were priests and the first students were members of the nobility. As time passed, many different schools were founded and ikebana came to be practiced by all in the Japanese society. The oldest school is the Ikenobo School. There are now, many schools, over 500. Some of them are Ikenobo, Chiko, Ichiyo, Ohara, Saga Goryu, and Sogetsu. Three of these schools, Ohara, Sogetsu and Ikenobo, have teachers and meet regularly in the Cleveland area.
Ikebana is a disciplined art form in which the arrangement is a living thing where nature and humanity are brought together. It is steeped in the philosophy of developing closeness with nature, a strong value of the Japanese culture. As is true of all other arts, ikebana is a creative expression within certain rules of construction.
Its materials are branches, leaves, grasses and blossoms. Its heart is the beauty resulting from color combinations, natural shapes, graceful lines, and the meaning latent in the total form of the arrangement. The varying forms of ikebana share certain common features, regardless of the period or school. Any plant material – branches, leaves, grasses, moss, and fruit – may be used as well as flowers. Withered leaves, grasses, seed pods and buds are as highly valued as flowers in full bloom.
What distinguish ikebana is its asymmetrical form and the use of empty space as an essential feature of the composition. A sense of harmony among the materials, the container and the setting is also crucial. A great method of meditation is to gather all one needs to complete an arrangement and to sit and compose an ikebana arrangement, a work of art.
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