Suiteki, literally water-dropper, is a small container used to hold the water which is added to the inkstone (suzuri 硯) during the grinding of the ink stick. We enjoy them for the works of art they are rather than for their intended purpose when created. Some of the suiteki that we will show can be used within a formal or informal display of suiseki or bonsai. We hope you enjoy our next three posts about these beautiful works of art.
Water-droppers may be made of copper, jade and stone, but ceramic are the most popular. Depending on their size and shape, water-droppers may also be termed suichuu 水注, suichuujou 水中丞 (also suijou 水丞), suiu 水盂 or senjo 蟾蜍. More specifically, a suiteki has two small holes for water and air and is designed so that only a few drops of water can fall at one time.
Suichuu are shaped like pitchers and have a pouring spout and a handle. Suiu and suijou are bowl or jar-like, and some have wide mouths, making them popular for use as brush washers hissen 筆洗, while others have small mouths. Senjo, or “toad”, was so named because a toad was believed to hold water in its large belly. Thus many jade toad-shaped water-droppers exist. At first the suiteki was simply a jar or bowl used for holding water, but as interest in the accoutrements of calligraphy grew, water-droppers became more specialized.
Bronze water-droppers in the shapes of fantastic creatures [monsters], ceramic suiu and teapot-shaped suichuu were created in China and found their way to Japan and became popular with the literati of the Edo period. In Japan, suiteki were already used in the Nara period (7th century) when sutra copying flourished. A set from this period made up of a bronze water-dropper, a spoon and a tray used to hold the ink stick are preserved at Houryuuji 法隆寺, Nara.
Since the late Heian period (11th century), a special kind of writing box suzuribako 硯箱, which includes the water-dropper, in addition to the ink stone and other writing tools, became very popular. The water-droppers varied greatly in material, shape and design. Notable, are the elaborately designed ceramic suiteki, including many animal-shaped examples, that were found among old Seto (13c) and Oribe (16th century) wares (see setoyaki 瀬戸焼, oribeyaki 織部焼). Water-droppers of richly colored cloisonne shippou 七宝 also became popular from the 16th century.
Part 1 — Photographs
Well that is all for today. We hope you are enjoying your Christmas and basking in the reason we celebrate this day – our Lord Jesus. Merry Christmas from KJ and Sam