A pair of ritual sake bottles
||Early Edo period, 17th century
||Maki-e lacquered turned wood
A pair of antique lacquered ritual sake vessel with urushi-e design of pine trees, turtles, cranes and bamboo, bearing the kamon of the Matsūra family.
From the ancient times up until the Heian Period, sake was brewed mainly as an offering to the gods and served in Shinto shrines in unglazed earthenware vessels. From Kamakura period onwards, large size wooden vessels (heishi) became popular and banquets were held for ceremonies and festivals, where people took turns drinking sake from the same bottle. The shape of these vessels was inspired by the Chinese ceramic wine bottles from the Song dynasty. The shape is very elegant and the proportions well balanced, with a sinuous design that lightens the massive size.
Featured in these antique heishi are four longevity symbols that express the universal wish for a long, healthy life.
The pine tree is one of the most common symbols of longevity in East Asia. Because it remains green even in the harshest winters, it stands for resilience, endurance, and strength against adversity.
Cranes live a long time, some species as long as eighty years. In some Asian folktales, they are said to live as long as five hundred years. Cranes mate for life, and therefore symbolize harmony, a wish for a long marriage, and respect for one’s parents and ancestors.
Turtles are noted for their long lifespan. In addition, with their dome-shaped upper shell, flat lower shell, and legs in the four corners of their bodies, they were early emblems of the universe and the cardinal directions.
Bamboo is one of the most versatile and abundant materials in East Asia, eaten by both humans and animals and used to make everything from houses to paper. It remains green throughout the four seasons and therefore symbolizes long life. Because it bends rather than breaks, bamboo also represents resilience, and its simple shape, humility. According to Confucian ideology, bamboo possesses the qualities of a great scholar: humility, uprightness, flexibility of mind, and grace.
INVENTORY NR: lac-1308
Antique original Japanese lacquer for sale. Price on application