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What is ikebana?
Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arranging. The word "Ikebana" comes from two Japanese words: "ike" which means "keep alive, arrange flowers, living" and "hana" which means "flower." Possible translations of these two words are "giving life to flowers," or"arranging flowers."
The practice of ikebana first started around the middle of the fifteenth century as an outgrowth of the practice of offering flowers on altars in Buddhist monasteries. The first students and teachers of ikebana were Buddhist priests and members of the temple organizations. Over time, the practice of ikebana spanned out from just being in Buddhist temples and monasteries to the Japanese population in general and their homes. Different schools emerged and so did different styles of ikebana. Now there are hundreds of ikebana schools officially registered in Japan. Ikebana arrangements are now in all aspects of Japanese culture from the traditional Buddhist altars, to homes, and even public buildings.
Ikebana is different from Western style flower arrangement in that it does not just focus on the arrangement of multicolored blossoms. It emphasizes other parts of the plant such as stems, and leaves and focuses on other aspects of arrangement such as line, mass, color, movement, shape, form, and space.
The intent of the ikebana artist is not just to arrange something pleasing to the eye, but also to express the meaning behind the arrangement. What also characterizes ikebana many times is minimalism--using the least number of materials in the arrangement needed for its completion. The container is also very important in as it is also part of the whole composition. It is not just something to hold the flowers.