Know the Difference between Japanese, Chinese & Korean Artifacts
The ability to see, examine and interpret is critical to collecting! Read about the subject and continue to search for those exceptional pieces, particularly those depicting customs. Visit antiques shops, museums, and antique shows that specialize in Orientalia. Never hesitate to ask questions. Attend lectures and discussion groups on the subject of your interest so that you are able to differentiate between time periods, styles, materials, marks, quality, and condition. Remember, there is a distinct difference between Asian cultures and customs, which means there is a distinct difference between Asian antiques and collectibles. As specialists in the Japanese culture, we find value in the Japanese philosophy of Perfection, Attention to Detail and Creatively capturing the Inner Beauty of everything produced.
Japanese Dynasties, Reigns and Historical Periods
Japanese antiques are divided by category of materials used, which along with design, craft and motif, identifies the period in which they were made. Each period had it’s own style (more or less). The most important periods for the collector to remember are:
Momoyama 桃山– 1573-1615
Edo 江戸 – 1613-1868
Meiji 明治– 1868-1912
Taisho大正 – 1912-1926
Showa 昭和 – 1926-1989
Heisei平成 – 1989-Present
Symbols in Japanese Art and Design
Everything in nature has special significance. The Japanese integrated nine (9) Buddhist symbols into their religious and decorative art forms: Conch, Umbrella, Endless Knot, Lotus, Daruma (Founder of Zen Buddhism), Kannon (Goddess of Mercy), Eight Spoke Dharma Wheel, Koi (strength and perseverance), and the Vase. Flowers are important and represent the four (4) seasons; the peony and cherry blossoms for spring, the Lotus for summer, the Chrysanthemum for fall, and the Plum Blossom for winter. Plums, Pines and Bamboo (the 3 friends of winter—Sho Chiku Bai) appear as auspicious symbols in architecture and design elements such as Ranma, Kimono, etc. Animals hold astrological powers with the twelve (12) zodiac animals: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog, and the Boar. Dragons were the magical carriers of rain and good fortune, with the five-clawed dragon given only to the Emperor to wear as his symbol of power. And last but not least, Peaches (longevity), Foo Lions/Dogs (temple guardians and give protection from bad spirits), Ferns (immortality and prosperity), Deer (peacefulness), Cranes (good fortune, long and happy relationships), Bamboo(endurance), the Wave and Mt. Fuji. These, and many other symbols (i.e., Dragonfly), were incorporated into the great Japanese designs, generation after generation, and are found on antique and contemporary objects and architectural details.
The Japanese Zodiac Animals Governing Your Life and Collecting
The Japanese Zodiac influences many pieces of folk art, and may have an influence on what you collect. Children celebrating the arrival of the Lunar New Year are greeted with artifacts and treats based upon their Zodiac sign. Look up your year of birth to find out what sign and elements apply to you.
Rat (nezumi) – charming, honest, ambitious, and have a tremendous capacity for pursing a course to its end. They will work hard for their goals. They are easily angered but maintain an outward show of control.
1900 1912 1924 1936 1948 1960 1972 1984 1996 2008 2020 2032
Ox (ushi) – patient, mentally alert and when required to speak are skillful. They have a gift for inspiring confidence in others. This allows them to achieve a great deal of success.
1901 1913 1925 1937 1949 1961 1973 1985 1997 2009 2021 2033
Tiger (tora) – sensitive, stubborn, short-tempered, courageous, selfish and slightly mean … yet they are deep thinkers and are capable of great sympathy for those they are close to and love.
1902 1914 1926 1938 1950 1962 1974 1986 1998 2010 2022 2034
Rabbit (usagi) – People born in the year of the Rabbit are the most fortunate. They are smooth talkers, talented, ambitious, virtuous and reserved. They have exceedingly fine taste and regarded with admiration and trust.
1903 1915 1927 1939 1951 1963 1975 1987 1999 2011 2023 2035
Dragon (tatsu) – people are healthy, energetic, excitable, short-tempered and stubborn. However, they are honest, sensitive, brave and can inspire trust in most anyone. They are the most peculiar of the 12 signs of the Zodiac cycle.
1904 1916 1928 1940 1952 1964 1976 1988 2000 2012 2024 2036
Snake (hebi) – deep thinkers, speak very little and possess tremendous wisdom. They are fortunate in money matters and will always be able to obtain it. They are determined in what they do and hate to fail.
1905 1917 1929 1941 1953 1965 1977 1989 2001 2013 2025 2037
Horse (uma) – skillful in paying compliments and talk too much. They are skillful with money and handle finances well. They are quick thinkers, wise and talented. Horse people anger easily and are very impatient.
1906 1918 1930 1942 1954 1966 1978 1990 2002 2014 2026 2038
Sheep (hitsuji) – are elegant, highly accomplished in the arts, passionate about nature. At first glance, they seem to be better off than the people born in other years. They are deeply religious and passionate in whatever they do and believe in.
1907 1919 1931 1943 1955 1967 1979 1991 2003 2015 2027 2039
Monkey (saru) – the erratic geniuses of the Zodiac cycle. They are clever and skillful in grand-scale operations and are smart when making financial deals. They are inventive, original and are able to solve the most difficult problems with ease.
1908 1920 1932 1944 1956 1968 1980 1992 2004 2016 2028 2040
Rooster (tori) – deep thinkers and are always busy and devoted to their work. They always want to do more than they are able, and if they undertake a task beyond their abilities, they are disappointed. Rooster people have a habit of speaking out directly whenever they have something on their minds.
1909 1921 1933 1945 1957 1969 1981 1993 2005 2017 2029 2041
Dog (inu) – have all the fine qualities of human nature. They have a sense of duty and loyalty; they are extremely honest and always do their best in their relationship with other people. Dog people inspire confidence in others and know how to keep secrets.
1910 1922 1934 1946 1958 1970 1982 1944 2006 2018 2030 2042
Boar (inoshishi) – are brave. They have tremendous inner strength which no one can overcome. They display great honesty. They are short-tempered, yet hate to quarrel or have arguments. They are affectionate and kind to their loved ones.
1911 1923 1935 1947 1959 1971 1983 1995 2007 2019 2031 2043
- Your overall objective is to enlighten yourself about a culture you value and appreciate.
- Antiques are old, so they may have cracks, chips or repairs. That is part of the aging process and the basis of characteristics common in most antiques. The more perfect the piece, the higher the price because of its rarity and flawless condition.
- Buy the best you can afford, continue to upgrade in quality, and expand the diversity of your collection. Never insult any dealer (particularly the Japanese) with offers that are unrealistic. Specialists are helpful (and always use guideline suggestions), and know the fair market value for a similar object(s) of same quality.
- Buy what you love and enjoy seeing every day. Haste makes waste: Be a very observant buyer and celebrate your discovery.