Flower Vase with a Side Opening, Named "Onjōji (Temple Name)"


Flower Vase with a Side Opening, Named "Onjōji (Temple Name)"

ceramics / Azuchi/Momoyama

Attributed to Sen no Rikyū (1522–91)

Azuchi-Momoyama period, 1590 (Tenshō 18)


高33.9 口径10.9 底径11.2


In 1590, the military leader Toyotomi Hideyoshi, whose career stretched from the end of the Warring States period into the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1573–1603), conquered Odawara in Kanagawa Prefecture. He was accompanied by the famous tea master Sen no Rikyū, who is said to have made this flower vase in the midst of battle using bamboo from the Nirayama area in Shizuoka Prefecture. Rikyū gave the vase as a present to his adopted son Sen no Shōan.

Vases like this one are used to hold flowers for display during tea ceremonies. Because Sen no Rikyū made this vase out of bamboo, others followed his example, and bamboo vases became popular for this purpose. The window cut into the top of this vase is used for arranging flowers. If you look at the back of the vase, you will see a hole in its upper section. This hole is used for hanging the vase on a wall. A vase, such as this, with flowers was placed in the alcove or hung on a wall or pillar to add a touch of color to a tearoom.

The large vertical crack on the front of this vase makes a strong impression. This is a natural split in the bamboo that Rikyū took advantage of to add character to the vase. The vertical line of the crack intersects the horizontal knots in the bamboo. Could Rikyū have foreseen the pattern it would form when he cut the bamboo? Shōan named the vase “Onjōji” after Onjō-ji Temple in Shiga Prefecture, because the crack in it resembles a crack in the temple’s bell.

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