Kenzan Ware:Conceptual Basis and Design SourcesOgata Kenzan (1663-1743) was no ordinary potter. The scion of a highlycultured Kyoto family, he spent his early adulthood pursuing Zen andstudying Chinese poetry and calligraphy. When he finally took upceramics at age thirty-seven, it wasn’t to display manual skill, but rather totranslate the world known to him into ceramic design. This “world” canbe divided into one, the resources that supported Kenzan’s education andprofession, and two, the resources that supported Kenzan designs. Thepurpose of this article is to survey both areas and link them to specificconcepts and works asociated with Kenzan.Kenzan grew up in a period where private teachers and study inprivate academies were well within the reach of wealthy urbancommoners. Although no direct references remain as to how Kenzan waseducated, inferences can be made based on evidence surrounding his greatuncle Honami Koetsu (1558-1637), his father Ogata Soken (1621-1687), andConfucian scholar Ito Jinsai (1627-1705), related to the Ogata throughmarriage. We conclude that Kenzan was trained by his father and selectprivate teachers. Education included reading as well as receiving lessons:Kenzan inherited the family library, and the authors speculate about itscontents. Subsequently, when Kenzan took up ceramics he accessed acompletely different set of personnel. The occupational dictionary Jinrinkinmozui (1690) permits a reconstruction of crafts producers and merchantsworking in specialties that supported Kenzan ware directly or indirectly.Printed and illustrated books inform almost all of Kenzan’s work. As theauthors introduced in 2004, the inscriptions on Kenzan’s Chinese-styleceramics derived from the Ming anthology Yuanji huofa (J: Enki kappo), andthose on Japanese-style ceramics were largely based on SanjonishiSanetaka’s waka anthology Setsugyokushu. This article reveals many more.Sources for Kenzan-ware painted designs can be located in esho, ehon, gafuand hinagata which were burgeoning in Kenzan’s day. In addition to theirvalue as source materials, these books also help to reconstruct theexpectations of Kenzan’s patrons. It is no exaggeration to say that Kenzanware was purchased, used, and enjoyed by a new generation of bibliophiles.Considering that he was raised in a family that purveyed luxurious textilesto the court, it comes as no surprise that textile art should serve as asource for Kenzan’s designs. However to date researchers have only beenable to vaguely—and anachronistically—link the mid-seventeenth centurykosode designs in the family archives to Kenzan’s style. This article placesmore emphasis on kosode designs published in Kenzan’s lifetime. The authorshave found that Kenzan appropriated hinagata patterns from the periodbetween the 1680s and mid-1710s. These appear in his ceramics fromthe Shotoku-era (1711-1715), when he began to cater to the mass market.At the same time the name of Kenzan’s older brother Korin (1657-1716)was popularly linked to textile design, and from the Kyoho era (1716-1736)the so-called “Korin kosode” designs form a common horizon with designson Kenzan ware.The tea ceremony integrates material environment, ritual performance,and cultural memory. Kenzan can only be linked to formal tea study(Omotesenke) posthumously, but his works leave no doubt that he wasthoroughly familiar with vessels for drinking tea and meal service.Kenzan was cognizant of the current developments in fine dining. Thekaiseki tradition of the tea ceremony formed a foundation, but newelements in Kenzan’s day include enhanced food classification systems,codes of etiquette, and enhanced food visuality. Against this background,Kenzan was not content to create generic pots. Inscriptions on matchingboxes that accompany certain Kenzan ware refer to specific vessel types oruses. The authors have matched these functions with their appearance incontemporary cuisine manuals (ryori-bon).Together with ceramics, lacquerware is central to the tea ceremony, itsfood service, and more abbreviated customs of eating and drinking.Additionally, as a long-treasured implement for writers, lacquerware isassociated with poetry and calligraphy. In appropriating a wide variety oflacquerware shapes in his ceramics, Kenzan added a layer of value.Especially the use of lacquer-inspired rectilinear forms, which arecongenial with writing and painting, must be recognized as a majorcontribution of Kenzan-ware design. The flat square dish (suzuributa) andsmaller square dish with rounded corners and shaved surfaces (kannamezara)were favorite shapes for Kenzan, and they emerge as key vessels inserving hors d’oeuvres (kuchi-tori) that augment set menus in kaiseki orstand alone in more informal entertainments.Finally, Kenzan’s designs are rooted in earlier traditions of decoratedceramics. He borrowed elements from Chinese Cizhou stoneware andJingdezhen and Zhangzhou porcelain, Vietnamese porcelain, Thaistoneware, Dutch earthenware, and Korean stoneware. Domestically,sources can be found in Mino stoneware, Karatsu stoneware, Hizenporcelain, and Omuro (Ninsei) ware. Many of these products are describedin the contemporary connoisseurship manual Wakan sho dogu kenchi-sho(1694), and thus link Kenzan design to a booming ceramics market.In surveying these resources and their applications, two things standout. One is the sheer breadth of sources utilized, evoking Kenzan’spersonal resourcefulness and encyclopedic knowledge of culturaltraditions, behaviors, and material traces. The encyclopedic aspectconnects to a second element: Kenzan ware succeeded because it resonatedwith upwardly mobile audiences, proud of their newfound access to manyforms of knowledge. Performing thusly, Kenzan ware can be situated wellbeyond the conventional boundaries of premodern Japanese ceramics.