The carving of stones stems from a tradition long practiced in Japan. Stones are an essential facet of Japanese art and design, regarded alongside the highest forms of painting or ceramic arts. Through our association with long respected stone sources in Kyoto, Mitsui Fine Arts has been granted the opportunity to introduce a selection of stones in America. Stones are old and silent, pregnant with a feeling of melancholy, but that doesn't mean they don't speak. It takes time and a deep sensitivity to allow an understanding of stones to stir within us. They will remain flat and impenetrable to a mind prone to restlessness, but they will reveal themselves to mind that is calm.
There are various traditional styles of stone carving, such as lanterns, basins, Gorinto, etc. (Link to stone page) This piece is part of a Mu-Ho-To, the gravestone for a Zen Monk of the highest stature. It was carved about six to seven hundred years ago. Since this piece is the only part left from the larger structure, we do not know which Zen Monk it memorialized. Traditionally, the middle part of a Mu-Ho-To was carved in a hexagonal shape like this one; however, this piece has 4 carvings of Buddha upon every other facet of the hexagon. Because of this, it is extremely rare. Over hundreds of years, the Buddha carvings were worn out and the piece was transformed into a peaceful, yet powerful and elegant object.
In Japan, stone carvings such as this have been collected for centuries to adorn Japanese gardens and interiors. Works such as this one are especially cherished and collected by discerning connoisseurs, as artful ruins that were once pieces of a larger stone structure.
Imagine the piece upon the surface of a shelf in a refined contemporary living space. The elegant erosion of the stone’s edges call to be reflected against the smooth surface of lacquered wood or metal. As stewards of such an old and significant object, one must accept the poetic duty of caring for the stone in this moment of deterioration before it passes on into its next form and ownership. The stone is a quiet elegy not only for the monk whose life it commemorated and celebrated, but also for the many centuries it has seen and will see come to pass while it sits gracefully.