How Japanese Kintsugi Brings Beauty to Flawed Items, Including Ourselves

How Japanese kintsugi brings beauty to flawed items, including ourselves.

In Japanese, “kintsugi” (金継ぎ) means “golden joinery.” It is an art form that mends broken items by soldering fragments together using precious metals such as gold.

The birth of kintsugi


Many historians believe that the term kintsugi first appeared in the 15th century. Legend has it that Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa sent a broken tea bowl that he truly cherished to China for repair. When it was returned, the Shogun was furious as the bowl was full of ugly solder marks. That motivated Japanese artisans to find a new, more pleasing way of repairing broken pottery and “kintsugi” was born.

Throughout the past 500 years, kintsugi has become a unique art in the Land of the Rising Sun with high aesthetic value and hidden humanistic lessons.

The philosophy behind the patches

Though kintsugi does not return objects to their original shape, it opens a new page for the life cycle of a fractured item. This reflects the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi, a view that nothing is eternal, or lasts forever in perfect form. Instead of trying to conceal defects, the Japanese choose to make them more beautiful and prominent, accepting change as an inevitable part of life.

The philosophy of wabi-sabi is not limited to objects, it also applies to humanity. Pottery cracks represent human flaws or injuries. All we need to do is embrace them and love ourselves. There are always tough times in life. We can be “broken,” but the “golden qualities” of perseverance and determination raise us above any obstacles, the same way a phoenix is reborn from the ashes. The cracks that are outlined in gold are a beautiful result of each person’s stumbling and learning from experience. Because of that learning, our lives become more meaningful. The wounds are not weaknesses, but hint at the potential strength of a human being. Only the strong can stand up after countless failures.

Application of kintsugi in life

Nowadays, kintsugi is practiced by Japanese artisans on a variety of materials. It is applied to eggshells, wood, fabric, and widely used in decorative products.

If you are pursuing a Japanese interior style, try buying yourself a low tea table, simple cushions, and change your old teacup set to a new one in kintsugi style. Or, if you are an art enthusiast, add it to your pottery collection. At the beginning of the year, many collectors look to kintsugi products to remind them of the difficulties they faced in the past year and how to rise above them in the future. However, it is not necessary to buy gold-mended ceramics. You can be inspired by this art form and add golden details to simple backgrounds, for instance, highlighting a black and white interior. In a kitchen, a golden faucet that stands out against white walls or counters can be a creative touch.

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This content is also available in: Tiếng Việt