|Kutani-ware Tea Set
Made in July of Meiji, by Takahashi
Excellent and Classic - Beloved Shichifukujin (seven lucky gods) Japanese Tea Set
|The Shichifukujin are an eclectic group of deities from Japan, India, and China. Only one god is native to Japan (Ebisu) and Japan's indigenous Shinto tradition. Three are from the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon of India (Daikokuten, Bishamonten, and Benzaiten) and three from Chinese Taoist-Buddhist traditions (Hotei, Juroujin, and Fukurokuju).|
In Japan, they travel together on their treasure ship (takara bune) and dispense happiness to believers. Each deity existed independently before Japan's "artificial" creation of the group in the 17th century.
EBISU. The god of fishermen and good
fortune, the smiling and bearded Ebisu is most often depicted
dressed as a Japanese peasant with a fishing rod in his right hand,
and with a large red sea bream (Jp. = tai) dangling from the line or
tucked under his left arm. In Japan, this fish (sea bream or red
snapper) is a symbol of good forture. Sometimes Ebisu is also
carrying a folding fan, and shown wearing a tall pointed hat. I'm
not sure what these latter two objects mean, although the folding
fan was waved by the emperor in a certain direction to indicate
either acceptance or rejection of a request during the emperor's
audiences with nobles and commoners. It might therefore represent
the granting of wishes. The pointed hat is known as the Kazaori
BENZAITEN. A river
goddess in Indian mythology. Her Sanskrit name "Sarasvati" means
"flowing water" and thus she represents everything that flows (e.g.,
music, words, speech, eloquence). Later adopted into the Buddhist
and then Shinto pantheons of Japan. One of Japan's Seven Lucky Gods.
Comes in two main forms: (1) with two arms holding a lute; (2) with
eight arms holding martial implements to indicate her role as
protector against disaster; this version is called Happi Benzaiten.
In less-common forms she is depicted naked or as Uga Benzaiten
(esoteric form). Her messenger is the snake, so she is sometimes
shown mounted on a serpent or dragon.
BISHAMONTEN. The god of war and
warriors, and a dispenser of wealth and good fortune. Bishamonten is
also considered a god of healing, with the power to save emperors
from life-threatening illness and to expel the demons of
FUKUROKUJU. The god of wisdom, wealth, and longevity, the bearded Fukurokuju has an unusually high forehead, and is typically holding a cane with a sutra scroll (hebi) attached to it. He may also have a tortoise or crane near him (both creatures are signs of longevity in China and Japan). Fukurokuju probably originated from an old Chinese tale about a mythical Taoist Chinese hermit sage (Sung Period) renowned for performing miracles. In China, this hermit was considered to embody the celestial powers of the south polar star (Southern Cross). To some, the scroll is thought to contain all the wisdom of the world, while to others it contains a magical scripture. Often associated with or confused with Juroujin. The two are said to inhabit the same body and share similar iconography. Fukurokuju is sometimes shown with a drinking vessel (tokkuri) in his left hand, but this is most likely a mistake, for it is Juroujin (not Fukurokuju) who is considered a lover of rice wine (sake).
JUROUJIN. The god of longevity, Juroujin (also spelled Jurōjin or Jurojin) is another god from China's Taoist pantheon. Depicted as an old man with a long white beard, he carries a holy staff with a scroll tied to it, on which is written the life span of all living things. The deer, a symbol of longevity, usually (but not always) accompanies him as a messenger, as do other long-lived animals such as the stag, crane and tortoise. Jurojin is often identified with Fukurokuju. In some traditions, the two are said to inhabit the same body.
HOTEI. The god of
contentment and happiness, Hotei has a cheerful face and a big
belly. He is supposedly based on an actual person, and is widely
recognized outside of Japan. He carries a large cloth bag over his
back, one that never empties, for he uses it to feed the poor and
needy. Indeed, the Japanese spelling of "Ho Tei" literally means
"cloth bag." He also holds a Chinese fan called an oogi (said
to be a "wish giving" fan -- in the distant past, this type of fan
was used by the aristocracy to indicate to vassals that their
requests would be granted). Hotei is most likely based on the
itinerant 10th-century Chinese Buddhist monk and hermit Budaishi (d.
917), who is said to be an incarnation of Miroku
Bodhisattva (Maitreya in Sanskrit).
DAIKOKU. Since the 17th century, Daikoku
has been most widely known as the Japanese god of wealth and
farmers, although in earlier centuries he was considered a fierce
protector deity. In Japan, artwork of this deity usually shows him
wearing a hood and standing on bales of rice (tawara 俵), carrying a
large sack of treasure slung over his shoulder and holding a small
magic mallet. There are other
forms, including a female form, but in Japan, the god is
invariably shown standing on two bales of rice holding his magic
mallet and treasure sack. In some traditions, Daikoku is also
considered a deity of the kitchen
and a provider of food, and images of him can still be found in
monastery kitchens and in the kitchens of private homes.
The history of Kutani-ware dates back to the beginning of the Edo period (1655), the first year of the Myoreki epoch. It is said that Kutani began when Lord Maeda Toshiharu, the first lord of the Daishouji feudal clan (a feudal branch of Kaga) discovered magnetite in a gold mine located in the Kutani territory, which he owned. Following this discovery he built a kiln there. He sent Goto Saijiro to the Arita Village in the Hizen province to learn how to make porcelain. The type of pottery was named Kutani-yaki after the village where it began. It has a distinctive style that involved the plentiful use of Kutani gosai or the five hues of Kutani, including deep blue, purple, yellow, green, and red, which were used to cover the entire surface with colored decoration. Kutani Porcelains from this early period are extremely rare.
In 1710, after half a century of continuous production, the kiln was suddenly closed. Pottery from this early period is known as Old Kutani, and it forms a separate catagory from Kutani-ware of later years produced after the industry was revived in the 19th century. .
In the early 19th century, the local ruling clan, which was enjoying power and influence, revived pottery making in Kutani. The kilns were restored in Kasugayama, Kanazawa City to make utilarian porcelains. After just a few years this kiln was destroyed by fire. Around 1806-1820 Honda Sadakichi built new kilns in Wakasugi with the purpose of reviving the old style. In 1823-1831 Yoshidaya Kilns were built in Daishoji at the site of Ko-Kutani to concentrate on commercial porcelain with printed designs. In the mid-1800s the Kutani name was again revived by a number of skilled craftsmen working in different styles of which Kutani Shoza (1816-1883), working with gaudy enamels and gold brocade, might be the best known.
During and after the Meiji period (1868-1912) up until today almost all Kutani porcelain in Shoza style was exported. This beautiful tea set was purchased from a private family living in Sapporo, Japan on the island of Hakkido, in about 1945.
|Seal script style Kanji describing the Seven Gods of Japan
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