Transfigured: Japanese Kintsukuroi (or Kintsugi) bowl
“Kintsukuroi” means “to repair with gold” in Japanese, and is the art of repairing pottery with gold and understanding that the piece is the more beautiful for having been broken.
From broken to beautiful
THE FABLE OF KINTSUKUROI
Once upon a time, in the far, far east, east even of Eden, lived a great emperor, in a great palace, gorgeously stocked with the richest of goods. It was early spring, and the season of royal visits, when kings and princes called on one another and admired each others’ choicest possessions, gave wonderful gifts and enjoyed bountiful banquets. And this year was special, because the visitors would see the investiture of his beloved son Kintsukuroi as Crown Prince of the empire.
The emperor was excited this year because he had a new and beautiful bowl to show to his friends, specially made for him by the finest of craftsmen from the finest of materials. Imagine then his horror when on going to his cabinet he discovered that it was broken apart, into a hundred pieces. How could it have happened? No-one knew. What could be done about it before the first visitors arrived? No-one could offer any idea, for the time was too short to start again and make another one.
The emperor was dismayed, sad that he could not show off his beautiful bowl, but even sadder that something so beautiful should have broken. He retired into his private apartments with only his beloved son to share his sorrow, and they talked long into the night together.
Next morning the emperor woke to the sound of a great commotion. His senior ministers demanded to see him urgently. The cabinet of treasures had now been broken into, and this time the great new golden diadem that has been made for his beloved son, ready for the investiture, was quite simply gone – along with the broken pieces of the broken bowl, but who cared about those now.
What is more, the thief had been seen, but not recognized, since he was covered in dirt and scars, with nothing to distinguish him from a thousand other down-and-outs who hung around the palace, for the emperor – to the annoyance of his ministers – refused to turn them out but shared his food with them.
No-one knew for sure where the thief had gone, but he had, they thought, run off towards the princes apartments. There the doors were most unusually now locked and there was no answer to their knocking, though they could hear sounds inside. Would the emperor give his permission for them to break down the door: they dare not act without it.
The emperor was silent for many minutes. On his face his ministers saw sadness but not anger, lament but also love. What was going on? Eventually the emperor spoke. “Leave the prince and his apartments alone. If he is ready to rule, he must be allowed to act. His will and my will are as one.” The ministers were not at all sure just what this meant, but the message was clear. They were to do precisely nothing.
So the day passed. The emperor remained in his private apartments. Those of the prince remained locked, though smoke could be seen coming out of the chimney and a fire had obviously been lit. And eventually the ministers tired of their waiting and went to bed. The important guests were expected the very next day.
Imagine now their surprise in the morning when they went to the treasure cabinet to prepare its items for display and found the precious bowl back in its place, whole again, but glistening with veins of gold where the cracks had been. Its beauty seemed all the greater. And by it the prince’s crown, a slim band now, but speaking in its simplicity of a strength, an authority all the more striking, because it had given itself away and given glory to another, but was the greater itself for it. The investiture could go ahead.
A smile of secret understanding passed between the emperor and the son whose newly scarred hands had shown him worthy to come into the kingdom.
Kintsukuroi means ‘to repair with gold’ in Japanese, and is the art of repairing pottery with gold and understanding that the piece is the more beautiful for having been broken.
Source | David Thompson at Bishop’s Blog