Simply stated, ikebana is the Japanese art of floral arranging. The word ikebana “生花” means live flowers or the living spirit of flora.
Ikebana originated about 1500 years ago as offering flowers on the Buddhist altar. It was highly symbolic and done exclusively by Buddhist priests. Over the centuries, ikebana evolved from formal altar arrangements into a cultural art form practiced by the samurai, using specific rules regarding composition and the combination of materials. By the late 19th century, all Japanese people practiced ikebana as a domestic art. For the Japanese, ikebana was more than simply displaying flowers in a vase.
Like the tea ceremony, ikebana is a disciplined art form that involves creating an inner accord with the world. For the artist and viewer alike, it is an opportunity for contemplation and for achieving a deeper closeness with nature.
Like any art form, ikebana has evolved and has been shaped by world history. Today there are ikebana artists around the globe, and there are over 3000 different schools of ikebana. They include both classical and modern styles and each style is called a ‘school’ of ikebana. The art of ikebana is in the way the stems, the leaves and flowers are arranged in vases creating beauty comprised of color combinations, graceful lines, and the overall form of the arrangement. These are called the techniques of ikebana; these techniques are what people attend ikebana classes to learn.
Regardless of the school, there are common philosophical threads that tie all ikebana arrangements together. An ikebana arrangement is asymmetrical and deliberately uses space as an essential feature of the composition. The artist also strives to create a sense of harmony between the materials used and the container. Today’s ikebana is a dynamic, world-encompassing art form that incorporates the color schemes, flowers, and vases of all countries and cultures.