Saturday, September 10, 2011

Namiki Emperor - Rabbit in Moonlight

Rabbit and moon is closely related in Chinese folk legend.

The Chinese celebrate mid-autumn festival on the 15th of the eight lunar month. When I was a child, adults would tell me that on the full moon of mid-autumn, when the moon is brightest, you can see a rabbit on the moon. You can indeed see the image of a rabbit on the moon.

How did the rabbit got to the moon? The Chinese has a few versions of this story.

In one version, the jade rabbit was on his way to the heaven to be appointed a post. While in the heaven, he heard that goddess Chang'er (嫦娥) will be imprison in the moon palace for eternity. He pity the goddess and decided to sent his youngest daughter to the moon palace to be her companion.

I believe the jade rabbit would miss his daughter and will look up to the moon every mid-autumn, trying to catch the image of his youngest daughter.

Just like what I did when I was a child.

In the history of Namiki pen, pens that uses Rankaku (egg shell) are very rare. As white lacquer will fade overtime, egg shells are used to color white object. However, the technique of piecing together pieces of egg shell to form a picture is hard to master.

Since 2004, Namiki has included Rankaku in one of their emperor pen - the Rabbit in Moonlight.
This pen is painted by master Yasunori Sakamoto. Who is specialized in Rankaku technique. 
His skillful execution of Rankaku can be seen on the placement of egg shell on the 2 rabbits.

Large shells are used on the body while smaller one on the head. Tiny pieces are use to mark the outline. Gaps between the shells are small. Wider gaps are use as outlines. Pink abalone shell represent the rabbit eyes. A bit of red paint represent the inner ear of the rabbit. A lively image of rabbits are painstakingly pieces together.

His skill can be much appreciated if you were to compare it the Namiki Emperor Crane done by a younger artist.

Besides egg shells, Raden is used on the leaves.

On close examination, you can see the abalone shells are cut into strips to allow it to be placed on the round barrel.  Skill and patient are needed to align them close together leaving no gap.

I don't recall seeing any other pen done by master Yasunori other than the Pilot Toki 90th Anniversary pen. The Rankaku technique used on this pen is even more stunning.

The mid-autumn festival is on 12th September this year. You can try to observe the moon and find the image of rabbit on it. Wish you all a happy mid-autumn in the Year of Rabbit.


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