Meiji Lacquered Box, Autumn Flowers, Urasenke Gengensai
Please refer to our stock # MOR7870 when inquiring.
A Jikiro food container decorated with autumn foliage in black and gold lacquer on turned wood exposing beautiful grain while retaining the clear knife marks of the wood worker. On the side, in nearly transparent lacquer, can be found the signature of Seichu Soshitsu, the 11th head of the Urasenke School of Tea (known as Gengensai) and it comes enclosed in a wooden box annotated by the Konnichian, the main tea room of Urasenke. Inside is pure black lacquer with a fitted tray upon which sits one single cricket (Suzu-mushi) the harbinger of autumn with his evening song. It is 9 inches (23 cm) diameter and in excellent condition.
Gengensai (Seichu Soshitsu 1810-1877) was adopted into the Urasenke family, marrying the daughter of Nintokusai and becoming the eleventh-generation master of the Urasenke Tradition. He lived when the Meiji Restoration government, eager to modernize, made a blanket classification of most traditional cultural practices as frivolous and archaic attainments, a classification which endangered their continuation. Gengensai wrote a letter, “Essential Ideas in the Way of Tea,” which he sent to the Meiji Emperor. Concluding with the poem, “Not in clothing, food, or shelter, Nor in utensils or gardens, No excess of any kind, So that by sincere practice, The taste of tea shines through,” Gengensai’s appeal won chanoyu, (Sado/Chado or the Way of Tea), recognition as a true discipline. Blessed with prolific creativity, Gengensai brought forth numerous utensil designs as well as procedures for making tea. One important innovation Gengensai wrought was in reaction to the “opening” of Japan to the West. In 1872, for the International Exposition, he devised a manner of serving tea that used table and chairs so that Western visitors also would feel comfortable. Today this ryurei, or “standing bow,” style of tea remains extremely popular and is well suited for presenting chanoyu in non-traditional environments.