Obis for Fall

September 27, 2012

This morning, our curatorial team rotated the obi in our exhibition Kimono in the 20th Century, replacing the spring and summer-appropriate obi with ones related to fall and winter. This exhibition has been designed to display not only kimono, but also the many accessories that traditionally accompany them, and the obi is an important element of traditional Japanese dress.

Japanese dress is heavily tied to seasons, not just in garment weight and material, but in design. In the first rotation, we featured a beautiful obi with pink flowers and a brightly colored bird, the perfect accessory for a summer kimono. Now, we’ve rotated in this wonderfully embroidered fall obi featuring maple leaves and mallard ducks. This particular obi is in the fukuro style, the second most formal type and the most formal actively used today (the most formal type, the maru obi, is much heavier due to the embroidery and high-quality fabric used for the entire obi, whereas the fukuro obi often uses lighter fabrics and less embroidery on the areas that are hidden when tied). Today, the maru obi is only worn by brides and as part of other highly traditional ensembles. Men and women alike wear obis as part of traditional dress, though men’s obi are narrower, more subtle in design, and tied more simply than women’s obi.

There are a wide variety of ways to tie an obi. Often a combination of pads, scarves and cords are used for both functional and decorative purposes– for example, many types of knots require a cord to hold the obi in place. Because the knots are so complicated, and because they’re centered on the individual’s back, the wearer is usually dressed by another person.  As with the kimono itself, these knots hold a great deal of symbolism. Some are more formal than others, and often they’re designed to resemble flowers, animals or other objects. As with kimono, the more elaborate knots are usually worn by young, unmarried women.

In conjunction with this exhibition, Pacific Asia Museum held a kimono lecture and fashion show this summer with sensei Naomi Onizuka. Here, you can see sensei Onizuka and her assistant with two different styles of obi knots. Check out our flickr album from this event for more images of the beautiful kimono presented at this event, and stop by our Japanese Gallery to see the new items on display! ~CM

Top image: Fukuro-type Obi (detail), Japan, 1960s-1970s, Slit tapestry-weave with cotton lining, Gift of June Tsukamoto-Lyon, 2008.5.37


Moon Festival coming to Pacific Asia Museum

September 21, 2012

On Sunday, October 7, we’re hosting a Mid-Autumn Moon Festival as part of our Free Chinese Culture Sundays presented by MetLife Foundation. We’ll celebrate this traditional harvest festival with performances, activities, and of course, mooncakes!

This is one of the most important holidays on the Chinese lunar calendar, along with the New Year and others. This day has its roots in the old legend of Houyi and Chang’e. There are many versions of the story– one common version begins with the couple as immortals living in heaven. Houyi is an expert archer, and when the ten sons of the Jade Emperor transform into ten suns, scorching Earth, Houyi shoots down all but one. The Jade Emperor is furious and banishes them to Earth as mortals, and Houyi goes on a quest to regain immortality. He finds it in the form of a pill which he brings home and hides. Chang’e discovers the pill and swallows it, and flies to the moon (in certain versions, she’s fleeing her angry husband. In others, he tries and fails to save her from floating away). Houyi is devastated and builds himself a palace on the sun, and once a year can visit Chang’e on the moon– a day celebrated as the Moon Festival.

Mooncakes are often filled with red bean or lotus seed paste with an egg yolk baked in the center, symbolizing the moon.

During the Moon Festival, traditions include visits to a temple, burning incense for Chang’e and other deities, fire dragon dances, and traditional dishes including mooncakes. Today in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, this is a family holiday when people will often gather for a barbecue in an open space with a good view of the moon. This year, the official date is September 30– get family and friends together and host your own gathering, and come to Pacific Asia Museum the following weekend for more celebration on October 7! ~CM


The monks are here!

September 6, 2012

The monks of Drepung Loseling Phukhang Monastery are now hard at work in the galleries! After a wonderful Blessing Ceremony yesterday, they’ve begun the process of laying down sand to create a colorful mandala. Here are some photographic highlights:

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You can see the monks work from 10am to 5pm through Saturday, and on Sunday they will work in the morning and early afternoon until the mandala is completed. On Sunday at 4:30, the monks will hold a Dissolution Ceremony and sweep away the mandala, distributing sand to all present. We’ll be free all day on Sunday, but don’t just come then! The mandala is best appreciated as a meditative work in progress, so come by on your lunch break, on your way home from work, or when you come for Silk Road Storytime on Saturday morning.