Karabana (The Imaginary Chinese Flower) & Kaki

June 11, 2012

Karabana (or karahana) design on Japanese printed fabric featuring mon heraldic crests


“Four-petalled” leaves attached to the persimmon

Those of you familiar with motifs in Japanese textiles will know how common five- and six-petalled flowers are: plum, cherry, mulberry leaf, hemp leaf, Chinese bellflower, narcissus, oak leaf, pinks. Often seen also on Japanese textiles (and in other crafts) is the four-petalled flower, most often referred to as an ‘imaginary Chinese flower’. The “kara” in karahana (“h” in “hana” becomes a “b” in the alternative compound word, karabana) is an old word referring to China and of course hana means flower (as in hanabi, fireworks).

The geometry of five and six-petalled flowers is particularly powerful for stitchers of temari balls, since they fall naturally into the geometry of sophisticated 10-Division (S10 and C10) and 12-Division (S12) ball structures, but the four-petalled flower tends to get overlooked somewhat, probably because of its relative simplicity stitching-wise. The Japanese understand the starkness of the four-petals and often modify them with a four-segmented circle pattern – see the mon design above or inside a six-sided tortoise-shell or kikku.

It’s Winter here at the moment and while guavas are slowly ripening, persimmons – kaki in Japanese – are out on sale. I couldn’t help noticing how the leaves attached to the fruit conform to the four-petal model – perhaps the four-petalled flower isn’t so imaginary after all!

Persimmons are symbols of perfection, given their spherical nature; the colour is close to the vermillion beloved of calligraphers (and used to great effect in the famous avenue of orange torii arches at Fushimi-Inari in Kyoto) and when the juice is fermented, it becomes a powerful water-proofing agent for traditional rain-capes and umbrellas, as well as a lovely brown dyestuff known as kakishibu.


Ruby Kimono at http://greygoat.limewebs.com/kimonomotifsplants.html


One Response to “Karabana (The Imaginary Chinese Flower) & Kaki”

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