The history and meaning of Kintsugi

The soul does not split, it remains intact. After all, it is only thanks to this thought that we can think about reconstruction and find its strength. Centuries of philosophical speculation end up suggesting a metaphysical connection, but in fact the soul is also an extremely practical matter. It is the part that makes a certain something exactly what it is, the essence that constitutes and sustains it. After all, speaking of a lamp we can refer to its wire soul, isn’t it?


Soul is vital principle and what gives shape . In bookbinding the core is the cardboard strip that is fixed on the spine when creating a book. The soul of a button? The naked disk that will then be covered with fabric. Then there is the dark core of the pencil, a graphite bar to be inserted into the central wooden groove, invisible from the outside.


The word Kintsugi , 金 継 ぎ is made up of the words “gold”, “kin “, and “reunion”, ” tsugi “. In Japan urushi lacquer is used as an adhesive, obtained from the homonymous plant, Rhus Paintiflua. To the urushi lacquer the artisans add nori urushi, rice flour, or mugi urushi, wheat flour and it is with this paste that they combine the fragments. The grouting operation can be repeated several days in a row, until the best result is achieved. After drying, any excesses will be eliminated thanks to an abrasive stone wet in water. Finally, with the tip of a brush dipped in red urushi lacquer, the break lines are filled, then the gold dust is dropped, which will be polished with the fabric, wata, and left to dry.


The craftsman who dedicates his time to the slow, patient work necessary to repair is where he puts his total attention: to the soul, to the still living and vital part that still exists beyond the rift.


The first traces of the Kintsugi practice date back to the 15th century, although its origins probably go even further back, in the mists of time, when the Zen masters, accustomed to living essentiality as a way of life and thought, observed and celebrated the perennial ever- changing beauty of nature .


Legend has it that the story of the birth of the kintsugi is linked to the figure of Ashikaga Yoshimasa , eighth shogun. Shogun, literally commander of the army, was a military title conferred on the dictators who ruled Japan from 1192 until 1868. It seems that Ashikaga Yoshimasa broke a precious object to which he was very attached, perhaps a cup, but after having it fixed in Chinese territory he discovered that the repair had been carried out by adding simple metal staples , so he urged the Japanese artisans to find a new solution. It is then that kintsugi was born, the art of repairing cracks through the use of gold and resins, the art of giving new dignity to fragility to celebrate it with the most precious material: gold, the luminous symbol of eternity.


The Zen art of living in the present

During the reign of Yoshimasa in Japan, Zen Buddhism was of great importance and what became famous over the centuries as a tea ceremony, in addition to the Noh theater and ikebana, the art of arranging cut flowers. It was an era of art and philosophy , influenced by the practices of Zen monks, belonging to very ancient Buddhist schools born after long periods of meditation in the mountains , during travels to China and India. Immersed in nature, the monk observes the natural flow of time, listens to the sound of the constant flowing river, the sun and the rain on the skin. Accept the natural flow of existence .


“Mono no aware” , maybe you’ve never heard of it. This concept is what makes kintsugi not a simple technique for repairing objects, but an authentic act of conscious devotion . ” Mono no aware ” means emotional participation in the beauty and transience of nature, honoring the incessant change that belongs to existence.


Pain is part of life , transformation is inscribed in the score of existence, however we try to immobilize the rhythm and when it happens the music stops playing, we no longer dance. Dancing is accepting being in the void , defying gravity, perhaps falling, upsetting the balance. Our attitude to all this can become ” Mono no aware “, emotion and immense amazement : ahhh, onomatopoeic sound, breath of the heart that opens.


The philosophy of Kintsugi, the art of patience , has to do with time, because of life it celebrates our passage through things and this transit never leaves us unscathed. As objects teach, time per se does not exist. What we experience is the impact that time leaves on our skin . The surface, whether it is skin or ceramic, is injured, shattered, splintered. It’s not like the first day anymore, it’s not brand new anymore. But it is precisely this that gives the magic that makes something dear to the heart, absolutely special: the time and experience we have lived together create the bond with what we love.


“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that has made your rose so important”, says the fox to the Little Prince in the famous book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. The fracture then becomes a detail not to be hidden, but to celebrate and honor . Just like our scars.



The importance of thinking about themselves in nuov way or

When I let go of what I am, I become what I could be.

Lao Tzu


We will never go back to what we have been , this is the lesson that the art of Kintsugi teaches us. After a serious illness or a change of life, especially when it comes to an earthquake that wipes out all our certainties, it is a question that arises almost spontaneously: when will I go back to being the person I was before?


In the culture in which we grew up, the Western one, there are fixed points that we consider essential: our image , our identity , which tells who we are together, our date of birth and where we come from, our age. Yet our identity is in constant transformation, a chaotic flow just like existence is, happening moment by moment. Without being able to foresee its final goal, it is a meaning in constant becoming .


Evolving the concept of resilience, which has been talked about more and more often for some years, means starting to think about ourselves in a new way . No, you are not the person you were twenty years ago. Luckily!


Even in the face of positive change, we often have this expectation which then disappoints us. In reality, the gold and silver that flow into the fractures of the wonderful Kintsugi works tell us that no life is the same. It is our living time that has formed us, it is the experiences that have given shape and substance to the map written on the skin of our history and it is a story that we carry on every day, courageously, sometimes without even realizing it.


We develop ourselves because we want to be brand new and we don’t see when pride and love is in every wound where we have discovered vulnerability and strength, our most human side.

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