Japanese Shoji Screens

In Asian decor in the east and west an item called a Japanese Shoji Screen is used as either a room divider or a form of decoration. A Japanese Shoji Screen is a room divider or door that is made up of rice paper fitted to a wooden frame and are made to be light so as it is easy to move them. These screens can be considered works of art because, as with all Japanese art, these screens were built from the earth’s natural beauty. They were used as doors, room dividers, and as privacy screens. Folding screens were first introduced by China around the 8th century A.D. China might have invented folding screens but it was Japan who came up with the most popular variations of these screens and introduced them to western countries.

They come in different sizes and each size may serve a different purpose. The use of the screen determined how many folds the screen had. The following list is some of the different sizes and what they were traditionally used for:

o Small, two-fold, Shoji screens: these screens were used for things like tea ceremonies.

o Large, eight-fold, Shoji Screens: These screens may have been used as the back drops during dances.

o Sliding Shoji Screens of all sizes were used for doors and/or windows, so as to conserve space and keep with the simplistic designs.

o All sizes and forms of Shoji Screens were used as room dividers, privacy screens, to separate interior and exterior rooms, and even used so as to see the silhouettes of a garden or plants.

o These screens were even used during Buddhist ceremonies.

Traditional ones may have had artwork on them, symbolizing the many Asian and/or Japanese traditions, legends, and the history. This artwork was concentrated at the bottom of the screens because it was customary that people would sit on the floor, so, naturally the artwork was at eyelevel. The art was usually hand painted, and detailed, but still minimal in design, because, all of Japanese art revolves around being simple, natural, and calming

Around the 19th century, the western world began to take notice of the Japanese Shoji Screens, thus began the modernization of the screen. As the demand of them grew more people, who were not as skilled in creating screens, started making them in Japan. They were still elegant and still had the Japanese design, but were becoming more like Chinese screens. Newer materials and more ornate colors are now used to make these screens because the western world is more relaxed when it comes to the decoration of ones home. They are still used as room dividers, but, they are also used to decorate spaces, to hide things, and maybe be used as window covers. The modern form of Shoji Screens are still very light as to allow them to be moved whenever needed.

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