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Tea bowl with standing crane design (gohon tachizuru)

Enlarge this image. Tea bowl with standing crane design (gohon tachizuru), approx. 1603. Japan. Glazed stoneware with iron and slip inlay. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B72P17.
How is this bowl used in a tea gathering?
As a guest, you would drink a small portion (about 3–5 sips) of unsweetened green tea from this bowl. Imagine how it would feel in your hands. After the guests and the host have entered the tearoom, the host purifies all the utensils and makes a bowl of tea in front of his or her guests. The guests enjoy watching the host’s graceful movements, and experience the event with all their senses—sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. Tea bowls sometimes have an obvious front, the side from which it is most beautiful to look at. The host will present the bowl to the guest with the front facing the guest, however, the guest will turn the front away before drinking, so the guest’s lips do not touch the prettiest side. Having finished the tea, the guest turns the bowl back so that the front side is facing himself, and will closely examine the bowl. The guest then returns the bowl to the host, turning the front so that it now faces the host. In this way, host and guest show mutual respect by always presenting the front of the tea bowl to the other person. The guest may ask the host about the design of the bowl, where it was made, and the name of the artist.

Tea bowl with standing crane design (gohon tachizuru) (detail), approx. 1603. Japan. Glazed stoneware with iron and slip inlay. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B72P17.
What is the design?
Can you see the simple crane design? This is the “front” of the bowl. The crane is painted with a different color glaze. Cranes symbolize good fortune and longevity (they are fabled to live 1,000 years). Thought to mate for life, they are symbols of fidelity or loyalty. After World War II, a Japanese girl named Sadako Sasaki, who fell ill with leukemia after being exposed to radiation in the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, began the goal of folding 1000 origami cranes to symbolize peace. Although she died before completing all the cranes, others have followed in her footsteps, and the origami crane has come to symbolize peace all around the world.
What occasions might this bowl be appropriate for?
Because they are thought to live very long, cranes are often associated with New Year’s—a time when people are wishing for good health in the coming year. Cranes may mate for life, so they suggest auspicious wishes for weddings or anniversaries. The crane is also associated with peace thanks to Sadako’s origami project started after WWII. What other occasions can you imagine?

What is this bowl’s connection to Korea?

In 1596, a Japanese ruler Toyotomi Hideyoshi invaded Korea for a second time, and the attackers engaged in brutal killing and widespread destruction. Hideyoshi, and other warriors like himself, were active patrons of tea-related arts. They wanted to import artists who could make the treasured Korean style wares in Japan. The troops abducted some 300 skilled Korean artisans. These potters helped establish new pottery types in Japan, including Hagi ware such as this bowl with a crane. Hagi is the name of the castle town of the Mori family located on the extreme western point of Japan’s main island of Honshu. Under the employ of Mori Terumoto, two Korean brothers, Ri Shakko and Ri Kei made the first Hagi pieces in around 1604. Hagi ware from this time is often undecorated with simple glazes in light colors. Historians often refer to Hideyoshi’s invasions as the “ceramic war,” because of the impact this mass importation of Korean artisans had on Japan’s ceramic art, not to mention the communities in Korea from whence they were taken.

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