Japanese lantern

Historical origin of the Japanese lantern

The growing diffusion of Japanese lanterns in our gardens shows how the western world is opening up more and more to contamination with oriental culture. The origin of the lanterns, which still remains quite uncertain today, would seem to be linked precisely to cultural and spiritual factors; very strong are the points of contact with Buddhism: according to this religion our body is made up of five elements, earth, water, fire, air and void, respectively symbolized by the geometric shapes of the square, sphere, triangle, crescent, while the shape corresponding to the void can take on a different aspect from time to time. The lanterns are inspired by these geometric figures, which often also illuminated the purification rites linked to the ancient tea ceremony.

The lantern festival

The lantern festival, called “obon”, is celebrated between 13 and 16 August and is dedicated to the cult of the dead. It is one of the most important Japanese celebrations, characterized by the presence of countless lamps and lanterns, which help the spirits of the dead to find the way that will lead them to rejoin the living. During the festivities, typical dishes are eaten, songs are sung and dance around the fire. On the last day of the festival, August 16, torches and lanterns are lit again, to illuminate the path that will lead them back to the afterlife for the dead. The spectacular component is of great importance in the lantern festival: if only we try to imagine the effect that so many lights must create,

Shapes and models of lanterns

There are many types of Japanese lantern: the “oribe” type lanterns are the simplest and most widespread, usually without a base because they are used to be planted in the ground, so as to outline luminous paths that lead to places of worship, such as ancient houses some tea. Equipped with a pedestal is the “kasuga” lantern, usually larger in size and decorated with ancestral symbols: it is also recognizable by the characteristic “umbrella” cover. The “yukimi doro” lantern was originally positioned in correspondence with ponds and islets to signal the water level: it has a lower and developed width conformation. The pagoda lantern instead refers to Buddhism, both in form and in use: it was born as a reliquary,

Japanese Lantern: Lanterns and Zen Gardens

The ideal place to enhance Japanese lanternsit is certainly the Zen garden, where the most used materials are gravel and stones of various shapes and sizes, which express the dynamic and ever-changing character of natural elements. It is a relaxing place, which favors meditation, often enriched by fountains and pools where carp swim, to complete a pleasant aesthetic effect. In this context, the lantern represents an element of great importance, a point of connection between nature and man: its particular position in the garden is never casual, but is often associated with more hidden corners, slightly hidden by hedges or bushes; the lantern is therefore configured as a discreet and almost elusive presence, which alludes to the secret and hidden nature of our deepest self.

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