Ikebana – An Explanation
Ikebana is an ancient form of Japanese flower arrangement that is said to have originated with Buddhist monks about 500 years ago. The monks would arrange flowers to decorate the altars of the temple. From there, ikebana evolved into an art form enjoyed by the royalty and ruling classes. Later, ikebana came to be enjoyed by ordinary people, incorporating Buddhist ideals and expressions of nature. Three basic schools emerged from ikebana's history:
1. Ikenobo, the oldest school, began in the 15th century. It was enjoyed primarily by the emperor and his court, and mainly involved simple arrangements of evergreen branches and a very few branches or flowers. It was very formal and minimal.
2. Sogetsu was created in response to the exclusivity of ikenobo, which was mainly enjoyed by aristocracy. Sogetsu encourages individual expression and universal appeal. Any plant materials in any container may be used, and it can be placed anywhere. However, it is still according to ikebana standards of minimalism and appreciation for nature.
3. The Ohara school was developed in the 19th century, and from this school came the informal moribana style, which means "piled-up flowers." The Ohara school also developed the nageire style, which means "flung flowers." Moribana style uses a dish or bowl for the base, and nageire uses a tall vase.
The base is part of the design. Flowers and branches that reach over the edge of the container, for example, could make a statement about nature reaching out to man, or vice versa. A low, flat bowl gives a more anchored, earthy feel, whereas a tall, thin vase evokes ethereal images.
Modern ikebana uses two basic styles: moribana and nageire. Students are given patterns from which to work. There are three main branches, called shushi, that are the focal point of the design. Shorter branches, called jushi, are incorporated and are intended to complement the shushi.
Ikebana is more about the appreciation of form and line rather than
colour and abundant blooms. It is minimal in its expression, the goal being to express man's relationship to nature using as few elements as possible. Ikebana is understated yet meaningful.
There is a spiritual element to ikebana as well. A philosophy of the universe is often taught in the ikebana schools along with the flower arranging. The three main branches of the designs are said to represent heaven, earth and man or the sun, moon, and earth. When practitioners are arranging the flowers, they remain silent. The silence is intended to focus one's attention on the beauty and details of nature without distraction.