Kakemono Hanging Scrolls

A kakejiku or Kakemono is a Japanese scroll painting or calligraphy mounted with brocade fabric edges on a flexible backing, so that it can be rolled for storage. As opposed to makimono, which are meant to be unrolled laterally on a flat surface, a kakemono is intended to be displayed vertically as part of the interior decoration of a room. When displayed in a chashitsu (teahouse) for the tea ceremony, the choice of the kakemono (hanging object) and its complementary flower arrangement help set the spiritual mood of the ceremony.

The host has gone through much trouble to find the most appropriate Kakemono for this particular season and occasion. Thus upon entering the tea room the guest goes directly to the alcove to examine and appreciate the hanging scroll before exchanging greetings with the host.

In contrast to the byōbu (folding screen) or shohekiga (wall paintings), kakemono can be easily and quickly changed to match the season or occasion.

The kakemono was introduced to Japan during the Heian period, primarily in the form of Buddhist images for religious veneration, or as a vehicle to display calligraphy or poetry. From the Muromachi period, landscapes, flower and bird paintings, portraiture, and poetry became the favorite themes.

Two styles of scrolls:

 Standing Scroll is a hanging scroll of which the width is shorter than the height, it is called a Tatejiku and used for the Japanese tea ceremony.
 Side Scroll is a hanging scroll of which the width is longer than the height, it is called a (Yokojiku) and is not appropriate for the tea ceremony.

Two types of Tatejiku

The first type of Tatejiku hanging scroll is one with calligraphy, which can be further divided into several kinds; Bokuseki, Kohitsu, Shousoku, and Gasan.
Bokuseki (墨蹟) calligraphy refers to writings by Chinese Zen priests and recently by priests of Daitokuji-temple in Kyoto.
Kohitsu (硬筆) calligraphy written by emperors, court nobles, and women between the tenth and thirteenth century which is the Japanese Heian period.
Gasan (画賛) calligraphy are letters or poems written by tea masters. These letters were mounted on scrolls and contained "critical remarks" and views on the tea ceremony.

(Bokuseki - Kohitsu - Gasan)

bokuseki      kohitsu      gasan

The second type of Tatejiku is paintings which can be divided into several kinds; Kara-e, Suiboku, and Nanga. These paintings show birds, flowers, or landscapes.
Kara-e (唐絵) paintings display the various scenes of Chinese nature.
Suiboku (水墨) paintings are done with charcoal and are in black and white only for a most simplistic image.
Nanga (南画) was a school of Japanese painting which flourished in the late Edo period among artists who considered themselves literati, or intellectuals. While each of these artists was, almost by definition, unique and independent, they all shared an admiration for traditional Chinese culture. More on Nanga.

(Kara-e - Suiboku - Nanga)

kara-e      suiboku      nanga

Hanging scrolls with calligraphy

Calligraphy, mainly in the form of hanging scrolls, plays a central role in the tea ceremony. Scrolls, often written by famous calligraphers, Buddhist monks, tea masters or iemotos are hung in the tokonoma (alcove) of the tea room. They are selected for their appropriateness for the season, time of day (early morning/morning/afternoon/evening), or theme of the particular ceremony. The host has to consider all these aspects and then set the correct tone for the tea ceremony. All other utensils, equipment and sweets need to be carefully selected to create a harmony as well as bringing about the individual beauty of everything used and displayed in the room. Calligraphic scrolls may feature well-known sayings, particularly those associated with Buddhism, poems, descriptions of famous places, or words or phrases associated with tea ceremony. A typical example might have the characters "wa kei sei jaku" (和敬清寂, harmony, respect, purity and tranquility). Some contain only a single character; in summer, kaze ("wind") would be appropriate. Hanging scrolls that feature a painting instead of calligraphy, or a combination of both, may contain seasonally appropriate images, or images appropriate to the theme of the particular ceremony. Rabbits, for example, might be chosen for a nighttime ceremony because of their association with the moon. Scrolls are sometimes placed in the waiting room as well. Read more about Japanese calligraphy.

Brief history of Japanese hanging scrolls during the Heian period (794 - 1192)

The style of Japanese hanging scroll as we know it today, came from China. In early China, Buddhist missionaries carried Buddhist paintings to spread their religion. When Buddhism was introduced to Japan in the Heian period, the scroll and style of painting was also introduced at the same time.

Japanese hanging scroll during the Muromachi period (1334 - 1573)

During this period, Japan's unique housing architecture had already quite developed. This architecture style included an alcove (tokonoma) in one of the rooms of the house. Most of artworks including hanging scrolls were displayed in this alcove. A tokonoma was regarded as the space which connects art and daily life. This is very original consideration has been found only in Japan.

Japanese hanging scroll during the Momoyama period (1573 - 1600)

Two great sovereigns who represent this period were Oda Nobunaga and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Both liked tea ceremony (chanoyu) very much. The tea ceremony was usually performed in the room with an alcove (tokonoma). So, naturally tokonoma room style architecture was developed and became deeply rooted in Japanese building style during this period. Accompanying the development of tokonoma room style, the techniques of painting and mounting were also developed because hanging scrolls were always displayed in the tokonoma room.

Japanese hanging scroll during the Edo period (1603 - 1868)

As this period was very peaceful, the Japanese culture could reach full maturity. Many famous painters flourished and competed with each other while the scroll paintings gained popularity. Hanging scrolls also became popular among the public.

Japanese hanging scroll after the Meiji period (1868 - )

Much more painters competed with each other for their techniques because people became absolutely free to choose their occupations from this period. Before World War 2, and for a while after, most Japanese paintings were used to decorate the hanging scrolls. Through this cultural evolution , we are now able to enjoy high-quality hanging scrolls made after the Meiji Period. Read more about the Japanese tea ceremony history

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