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Japanese Brush Washer

Under Chinese influence, porcelain brush washers were created in Japan using a much more minimalist aesthetic to reflect the preferences of the Japanese literati. These were made in reaction to the prevalence of ink drawing, calligraphy, and painting in Japan. The art of ink-wash painting in Japan is called “sumi-e."

Japanese brush washers were typically decorated with images of natural zen-inspired motifs that invoked tranquility and oneness with nature. Despite these decorations, Japanese brush washers are very minimally decorated to aid in the meditative state that needed to be achieved by scholars and painters in order to produce documents and paintings.

Quick Facts

  • Many Japanese ceramic works, including brush washers, tend to be raw and asymmetrical rather than perfect circle or rectangular shapes. This is in accordance to the Japanese "wabi-sabi" aesthetics: asymmetry, simplicity, fundamentality, nature, grace, freedom, and tranquility
  • Chinese and Japanese Buddhist monks took to ink and wash painting for discipline. In the practice of ink and wash painting, the monks are able to forego all but the necessities by creating direct brushstrokes that evoke immediacy and tranquility
  • Though not considered one of the four “treasured” tools of ink painting – ink stick, paper, brush, and ink stone – the brush washer is an essential part of the practice. Because the art of ink painting does not allow for erasures, it is important that the brush used for painting starts off clean

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