- 1 Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
- 2 Motif Examples
- 3 Motif in Literature & Other Usage
- 4 Article Notes
Seigaiha (青海波) literally means blue wave of the sea (blue sea wave, wave of the blue sea, etc.). It may also be pronounced seikaiha or seigainami.
Seigaiha may have been imported as motif for water from China. Ancient Chinese maps use seigaiha as a fill pattern to denote water. It has been used in Japan as a clothing motif for over a thousand years.  Seigaiha may also be seen as a motif commonly raked into gravel or applied to tiles.
The association of the name seigaiha with this pattern was cemented by it being used as the primary motif on costumes for gagaku performances to a song called Seigaiha.
Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings
A geometric motif generally has no season of it's own and thus can be worn throughout the year. However, since seigaiha is commonly thought of as waves, it's sometimes thought of as a more summer-oriented motif.
Motif Connotations & Symbolism
Seigaiha represents calm waves.
Seigaiha is an auspicious, protective pattern as the waves depicted are calm. It may be either interpreted as bringing peace or riches, as both were traditionally provided by the calm sea.
Common Motif Pairings
- Commonly used as a fill pattern for other objects, like fans, jars or clouds
- Water birds, especially auspicious ones, like:
- Treasure ships and sacred treasures
Identification & Style Variations
Seigaiha consists of concentric circles that have been overlapped to only show the top portion of each. Sometimes branches of sea spray are added to give a more realistic flavor to the motif.
Haneri with embroidered seigaiha motif.
Seigaiha on haori lining in a cloud.
Woven oshidori with seigaiha on Nagoya obi, from the collection of Cuttlefishlove
Motif in Literature & Other Usage
In Chapter 7 of the Tale of Genji, Genji and his friend perform the gagaku dance, Seigaiha from which the pattern takes its name.
In the Meiji period, Shibata Zeshin was known for reviving the lost lacquer technique known as seigaiha-nuri, in which egg whites or clay are mixed with lacquer to thicken it and then a seigaiha pattern is combed into the mixture with a brush. The inventor of this technique was the Genroku era lacquerwork master, Seigai Kanshishi, and it was lost on his death.
Relevant Threads / Discussions
- None yet.
- JAANUS article on Seigaiha
- Kokka, Issues 212-216, 1908, p. 285.
- Watt, James, ed. Ford, Barbara Brennan, ed. East Asian Lacquer: The Florence and Herbert Irving Collection. Herbert Irving Collection. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. 1991. p.285.
Authors & Contributors
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