About Japanese Stone Lanterns
Japan’s stone lantern tradition is a concept that was imported from India, and has existed in Japanese temples and gardens since the Seventh century.
Japan’s lantern tradition was originally conceived as entrance lighting and guardians to temples and pagodas and when lit served as an offering to Buddha. Some of the earliest stone lanterns were carved with Buddhist images on the firebox and usually had compartments for an oil lamp or candle. Later on, they became more secular in nature, and their use evolved as functional and decorative elements in traditional Japanese tea gardens where they served as a spiritual source of light for evening tea ceremonies. Often carved from granite stone, today’s vintage survivors serve as fashionable aesthetic elements in modern day Japanese and Asian inspired gardens. Today, during festivals and ceremonies, rice paper is often cut to fit stone lantern windows to increase reflection of candles placed inside them. Soon these paper lenses disappear and for one special evening and event, the glow is surreal.
There are four main categories of antique Japanese stone lanterns. Tachi-gata are pedestal lanterns such as the famous Kasuga lanterns, ikekome-gata are the so-called buried lanterns, oki-gata are small often portable lanterns, and yukimi-gata are renown as “water reflection” lanterns. This latter Yukimi style version perhaps Japan’s most popular style, is often mislabeled by westerners as “snow viewing” lantern- thought to accumulate a stack of snow during winter time in America’s northern areas.
Names for specific lantern styles often originate from near by landmarks or natural functions. The Kasuga lantern is fashioned after the ancient lanterns found in Shino shrines of Nara, Japan and some date back to 700 AD. Kasugas typically have a cylindrical column in the form of a bird (crane’s) leg according to some authorities, surmounted by a small ring. Above this is the firebox, generally hexagonal in shape, which is topped with a lotus flower rooftop. Kasuga lanterns are frequently seen at entrances to Japanese tea gardens and as a focal point to modern day gardens. Water reflection or snow viewing lanterns Yukimi-doro are squat and broad roofed and date back to the early Edo period (16th century) and are probably so named because of the attractive capture of snowfall on their broad roof. They comprise a roof, firebox, and base components of various styles. Oki-gata, small portable lanterns are among the rarest of all because few were created and fewer still survived the ravages of time.
Sukiya Living Magazine, a very good publication for authentic Japanese Sukiya living style, explains the names and positioning of the usually six different sections of a large stone pedestal-style lantern, all carved carefully for balance and transportation ease. These include:
1 Hoh-ju , jewel like flower bud finial
2 Kasa, roof
3 Hibukuro, light box
4 Nakadai, platform
5 Sao, cranes leg shaft
6 Kiso, base stone
Unlike other American importers, we only deal in authentic Japanese carved old and antique examples. Mr. Schneible personally travels to Japan to carefully inspect and authenticate each lantern. We do not do not sell more crudely manufactured Chinese reproductions cleverly disguised by advertising omission as “Japanese” by in particular a noted Southwestern importer.
Our collection of Japanese stone lanterns represent a decade of research and study, numerous journeys, and an endeavor that includes significant networking aided by good fortune.
Our goal was simple: to acquire only the best examples from private collections and gardens.
With that in mind, our collection though small in number, reflects four prime acquisition criteria: authentic Japanese carving, rarity, quality and aesthetics, and where possible, historical importance.
In commemoration of the Tenson Korin Sai fire god Festival held in Kirishima, Japan, said to be the landing place of seven lucky gods, we honored these gods by staging our seminal exhibition of these works of art on November 8, 2008 at our new gallery court yard grounds in Shelburne, Vermont entitled: “LANTERNS OF THE FIRE GODS”!
China Hongshan Culture, 4700-2900 BCE
Hongshan, one of the earliest and most important cultures of the Neolithic Age, covered the Liaohe River valley in northeast China and into southeast Inner Mongolia and western Liaoning province. This culture was contemporaneous with Dawenkou culture in the Yellow River vally and Yangshao culture.
Hongshan jades are notable as China’s most sculptural and glamorous “Tribal” jades. Their creative and exquisite three dimensional modeling make them among the oldest and finest Chinese jades to collect and represent good investment opportunities. Fashioned from non-metal tools such as stone, bamboo, teeth, wood, leather sinew, and coarse sand abrasives, these ancient jades are marvels of a bygone era.
Hongshan jade classic forms include coiled Zhulong “Dragons”, hooked cloud plaques, Birds or Owls (“xiao”), Horse’ Hoof hair ornaments, and bi discs in the form of segmented bi’s, animal headed bi’s, and pointed edged bi’s.