Sudare

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The writer Sei Shōnagon standing behind a misu
misu protecting the view on to the throne in the Shishin-den of Kyoto Imperial Palace
Examples of yoshi sudare or yoshizu screens outside a shop in Hyōgo Prefecture

Sudare (簾 or すだれ?) are screens or blinds. They are sometimes called misu (御簾 or みす?) as well, particularly if they have a green fabric hem.[1] Sudare are made of horizontal slats of decorative wood, bamboo, or other natural material woven together with simple string, colored yarn, or other decorative material to make nearly solid blinds. They could be either rolled or folded up out of the way. Yoshizu, non-hanging type sudare, are made of vertical slats of Common reed and used as screen.

Sudare are used in many Japanese homes to shield the verandah and other openings of the building from sunlight, rain, and insects. They are normally put up in spring and taken down again in autumn. Their light structure allows breezes to pass through, a benefit in the hot Japanese summers. Since the building materials are easy to find, sudare can be made cheaply. Modern sudare are mostly made in China.

Elaborate sudare for palaces and villas used high-quality bamboo, with expensive silk and gold embroidery worked in. Sometimes they featured paintings, most often on the inside; some Chinese screens had symbols painted on the outside as well.

Sudare protect the inhabitants of the building not only from the elements, but also from the eyes of outsiders. They are featured prominently in The Tale of Genji (jp: Genji monogatari). During the Heian Era, a court lady would conceal herself behind a screen when speaking with a man outside her immediate family. She could peep through it and see her interlocutor, but because he had to remain at a distance from it, he could not see her. Only with her permission might he step closer and only she would ever raise the screen. Any unwarranted moves on the man's part were seen as a grave breach of etiquette and a threat against the lady's modesty and purity.

Sudare were also used in imperial audiences. Since looking directly at the tennō ("heavenly ruler") was forbidden, he would sit hidden behind a screen in the throne hall, with only his shoes showing. This practice fell out of use as imperial power declined.

With the dawn of modernity, the production of sudare went into decline and became a traditional handicraft, but they still are sold and shipped abroad by various companies.

Notes[edit]

A museum in Amano-cho, Kawachinagano, Osaka traces the history of sudare. Tools and machines used to manufacture them, as well as sudare from other countries, are on display.

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References[edit]

  1. ^ "sudare". Japanese Architecture and Art Net Users System. Retrieved August 23, 2011. 

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