Suiseki (水石)

Suiseki is Japanese culture or hobby of viewing stones indoors. That is, it is viewing natural stones situated on pedestals or in flower bowls covered with sand.

The term "Suiseki" is said to come from the fact that when watered, stones in flower bowls become darker in color and even more beautiful. The term is also said to be an abbreviation for "sansuiseki" or "sansuikeiseki"(landscape stone) which was held important as an ornament in tokonoma (an alcove in a traditional Japanese room where art or flowers are displayed), a reminder of landscape scenery at tea ceremonies and the like in ancient Japanese court-noble and samurai societies. It is thought that, prior to the Meiji Period, the type of viewing stones used were almost always sansuiseki.


Suiseki was introduced to Japan as aisekishumi (appreciation for stone) which originated in the Chinese Southern Sung Dynasty. Emperor Godaigo's beloved stone, which came from China and was given the name "Yume no Ukihashi", is in the possession of the Tokugawa Art Museum. Suiseki has still continued as a hobby of appreciating "bonseki" stones which represents landscape scenery on a tray, or placing natural stones in "bonkei" tray landscape, or viewing and collecting rocks of unusual shape.

There are famous stone lovers including Sanyo RAI in the Edo Period and Yanosuke IWASAKI in the Meiji Period. In 1961, the Nippon Suiseki Association was established and its first exhibition was held at the Mitsukoshi department store.

Stones for viewing are as follows: stones reminiscent of mountain rocks or rocks on the sea including Yamagata-ishi, Toyama-ishi, Iwagata-ishi and Taki-ishi (mentioned later); exotic figured stones including Kikuka-seki and Tora-ishi; funny shaped Sugata-ishi; stones of beautiful colors and so on. The localities of famous stones in Japan include Kamo-gawa River, Seta-gawa River, Ibi-gawa River and Saji-gawa River.


Sansuiseki are classified into many types.
Following are some examples:

Yamagata-ishi/Toyama-ishi/Shimagata-ishi: stones reminiscent of mountains

Taki-ishi: stones part of which is reminiscent of a waterfall

Tamari/Mizutamari: stones which have a dent so as to store water like a pond

Kuzuya: stones the shape of which is reminiscent of a solitary house in the countryside

Doha-ishi: flat stones with a protrusion reminiscent of a mountain

Dan-seki: flat stones which are partially terraced

Kaburi-ishi/Amayadori: roofed stones

[Original Japanese]