The Arts as a Bridge- Ikebana Exchange event in Beijing

In May 0f 2011, Aibi  Ikebana group had the opportunity to participate in the Beijing University Culture festival. In collaboration with the many students, members of Aibi Ikebana conducted live Ikebana demonstrations and workshops.

Over the past 7 years that I have been studying Ikebana, I have come to deeply appreciate this uniquely Japanese art form. It has been said that Japanese spirituality is epitomized in the concept of 道 (dou- path or way) which is difficult to translate as it is a truly Japanese concept. Through long and sustained practice, a striving for excellence, and developing a unique relationship with ones teacher and fellow students, skill and perception are gradually attained. This in turn leads to the responsibility of sharing oneʼs ability with others.

This event at Beijing University came about through a personal friendship between my teacher Nagai Sensei and one of her former students, who was a graduate student at Beijing University, and who invited us to participate in the annual Japanese culture festival sponsored by the Japanese exchange student organization.

An efficient way to transport the flowers to the halland who connected us to the University Japanese exchange students group who hosted our group. Rather than showing up as “foreign experts”, our group came with an intent to foster exchange and communication through working towards a shared goal.

Preparing the materials with the help of the students creates opportunities for hands-on learning and exchange by directly involving the students in both the preparation and the actual event. With the assistance of over 30 students, the two days prior to the event were spent acquiring the materials for the demonstrations and building the bamboo installation from scratch. For many of the Beijing University students, it was their first time to hold a saw or use wire and pliers. Both the Japanese and the Chinese students in this group deeply impressed us with their superb language and organizational skills.

The event was a great success- over 3oo students and press attended, and over 50 people joined the open Ikebana workshops to create their own small arrangements to bring home. We had hardly enough materials to accommodate the level of interest of the participants.

My niece Andee tries her hand at Ikebana in one of the workshops

As the only non-Japanese member of the group, I felt it was an opportunity to confirm the motto of Sogetsu Ikebana – “Ikebana for anyone, anywhere, using any materials.” This is one of Japanʼs many precious gifts to the rest of the world.

Over 100 years ago, Abduʼl Baha foretold that Japan would play a unique role in the ʻspiritual reawakening of the entire worldʼ. The sensitivities that provide the foundation of Japanʼs various traditional art forms bear testament to this spiritual capacity. It is my sincere wish that through the universal language of the arts, Japan will make ever more significant contributions in the global scene.

About nihonbi

Fortunate to have called Japan home from 1998-2014. Active in Sogetsu-ryu Ikebana, and with years of experience in tea ceremony, Japanese dance and ceramics, inspired by Japan's unique mix of heritage and innovation. I've created Nihonbi as a place to share my experiences in the Japanese art world and to network with others with a similar passion.
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