~~~ What is Ikebana? / History of Ikebana ~~~

Ikebana, one of the traditional arts of Japan, has been practiced for more than six hundred years. It developed from the Buddhist ritual of offering flowers to the spirits of dead. By the middle of the fifteenth century, with the emergence of the first classical styles, ikebana achieved the status of an art form independent of its religious origins, though it continued to retain strong symbolic and philosophical overtones. The first teachers and students were priests and members of the nobility, but as time passed, many schools arose, styles changed, and ikebana came to be practiced at all levels of Japanese society.

Ohara Ikebana Society of San DiegoThe varying forms of ikebana share certain common features, regardless of the period or school. Any plant material - branches, leaves, grasses, moss and fruit, as well as flowers - may be used. Withered leaves, seedpods and buds are valued as highly as flowers in full bloom. While a work may be composed of only one, or of many different kinds of materials, the selection of each element demands an experienced eye, and the arrangement requires considerable technical skill in order to create a kind of beauty that cannot be found in nature.

What distinguishes ikebana from simpler decorative approaches is its asymmetrical form and the use of "empty" space as an essential feature of the composition. A sense of harmony among the materials, the container and the setting is also crucial. These are characteristics of the Japanese aesthetic feeling that ikebana shares with traditional paintings, gardens, architecture and design.

- Cited from Ikebana for Everybody, Ohara School of Ikebana