Reincarnation - The Second Life of Antique Japanese Kettles

An exhibition featuring over 60 antique Japanese kettles, bonsai, and kintsugi art pieces. 

December 8, 2020 - January 28, 2021
Sunzen Art Gallery
Mon - Fri 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Sat 11 AM - 6:00 PM
Sun Closed

Curated by Lin Li, Viahsta Yuan

“The past is a foreign country.” In a modern, industrialized era, lots of eastern traditional arts and crafts face the destiny of being marginalized, symbolized, and defamiliarized. People recognize them as distant memories, belonging to the past other than the present, covered by dust on the antique shelf, and are far away from people’s daily lives. Reincarnation - the Second Life of Antique Japanese Kettles features around 60 antique kettles pots from 18th to 20th century Japan, combined with Ming-style Chinese furniture, bonsai, and kintsugi art pieces. In this exhibition, we invite the antiques, which are often separated and alienated, back to the table and people’s everyday life scene as the “reincarnation” of the blurry, lost memories of a pre-modern philosophy and lifestyle. This exhibition aims at shortening the distance between traditional eastern craftsmanship and people’s daily life and unmasking the unique beauty of these eastern art pieces. It is for the souls of the forgotten artistic traditions to reincarnate in this new world, under a new era.

Featuring Kintsugi works by Naoko Fukumaru

“过往既他乡。” 在工业化的现代,许多东方传统工艺面临被符号化、陌生化、以及过分简化的共同命运。它们逐渐远去,湮没在博古架的灰尘当中,成为一段遥远的记忆,而非眼前的日常。三生缘年度展览 ,“再生 ——馆藏日本铁壶、银壶综合展”,将展出来自日本江户、明治、大正、昭和等不同时代的铁壶、银壶,六十余把,结合金缮工艺品、明式家具及盆景。我们邀请百年前的古董茶壶回到茶桌,成为远去记忆的一重见证,东方美学的全新化身。本次展览旨在打破传统东方传统工艺美术与人们的日常生活之间的距离,揭开东方美学的神秘面纱,让被遗忘的传统在全新的时代,再生人间,焕发新的光彩。

>> To See all exhibition collection online


Curator Statement 



Crafts bear the weight of time and history. They are sometimes the heritages of the long-forgotten past, as well as the witnesses of cultural and artistic exchanges. Most importantly, crafts carry on the shared memories of people at different times. 
Originated in the Edo Period (1603-1867), Japanese antique iron kettles (tetsubin) and silver kettles (ginbin) have a special status in the history of Japanese arts and crafts. The beautifully designed kettles are left, as well as the legendary stories of the kettle makers. Besides metal artisans, usually, the well-known designers and makers of iron and silver kettles also wear the hats of poets, painters, and sinologists. The decorative patterns of Japanese iron kettles include but are not limited to flowers and birds, landscapes, human figures, and Chinese poetries - sharing the same subjects and motifs of Japanese bunjinga (Japanese literati painting). Besides the decorative patterns, the shape and design of some iron and silver kettles follow the design of Chinese bronze ware, indicating an archaistic pursuit of makers and collectors back then.
Therefore, the masterpieces of iron and silver kettles were cherished not only as luxurious tea wares but also pieces of art to be studied and appreciated. When the usability and artfulness are combined, those kettles can be appreciated, and be used, to be “played with” in certain ways. In Japanese, “the wind through pine trees (matsukaze)” refers to the sound made by the lids of the iron and silver kettles when water is boiling. The kettles create an ambient atmosphere in the tea ceremony, pleasing people through visual, audio, and sensation. 
They are not only a tool but a spirit that interacts and communicates with people who use them.  
However, in a materialistic world, the beauty and spiritual meaning of the iron and silver kettles become less appealing than the cheap and efficient mass-manufactured products. 
Once a standard item on people’s tea tables, antique Japanese kettles are no longer viewed as practical items. Now they are locked in the glass cabinet or rest on the top of antique shelves, hiding in the dust, and are far away from people’s daily life - a common destiny for so many eastern arts and crafts. 
Through the comprehensive exhibition, Reincarnation - the Second Life of Antique Japanese Kettles, we explore the possibilities of eastern traditional arts and crafts, of how they will be accepted, revitalized, and reinterpreted in a new era. We hope the art ware we present at this exhibition, as “reincarnations” of a blurry and far away memory, can inspire the viewers with a very different lifestyle that calls for slowness, peacefulness, and companionship. 







 古董铁壶、银壶在创造之初,就有很高的艺术价值。拥有”器具“与”艺术品”的双重身份。然而,世代交替,在现代,他们作为实用器的使命更多地被制作更加快速、低价的现代工艺品所替代。从乘茶侍汤的器具,更多转化为收藏雅玩,从而被供养、欣赏、收藏,而非使用、擦拭、侍奉桌前。它们的命运,映射了工业时代许多传统工艺共同的命运——被收藏化、陌生化、符号化, 从而远离人们的日常,逐渐“远去”,变成一段遥远的记忆,而非现实生活中的一部分。“传统”,成为附身的枷锁而非荣誉的宝座。以“传统”为名,敬而远之——这是许多亚洲工艺美术的文化遗产所面临的共同处境。