Winter might just be the best season to enjoy your suikinkutsu. Birds and crickets are gone, the air is still and crystalline, it seems the environment holds its breath until next spring. In one word, acoustics are appropriate. Go out in the garden, put a little water in the chōzubachi, or washbasin, and listen to the ever-changing water drops in the earthen jar buried below ground level.
Found in Japanese gardens and near ceremonial tea rooms, the suikinkutsu is meant to provide soothing and relaxing sounds during hand cleansing prior to the tea ceremony ritual. Dating from the Edo era in 17th century, the tradition slowly declined until the Meiji Era (late 19th-early 20th century) when it was re-discovered, only to be completely forgotten during most of the 20th century. Around 1960, researchers located only two remaining, though not functioning, examples. In the 1980s, a campaign was launched to find, restore and promote suikinkutsu again.
♫ This recording is from a CD titled Healing – Suikinkutsu, published in 2007. As with previous suikinkutsu posts on this blog (here and here), it was found on the web and came without cover artwork or information. The recording was done with microphones inside the jar, so birds, insects, wind or rain are banished, and the recording was possibly done in a studio. It was perhaps inspired by Professor Yoshio Watananbe’s pioneering article Analytical Study of Acoustic Mechanism of Suikinkutsu, 2004, which examines sound frequency, reverberation and droplet behavior.
Note: I felt this blog was badly in need of some purification of one kind or another, so this post is about cleansing our minds before going back to the usual avantgarde stuff.
Healing – 水琴窟 Suikinkutsu
Total time 44:25
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Nihon teien (日本庭園) = Japanese garden
Chōzubachi (手水鉢) = washbasin
Tsukubai (蹲踞) = stone water basin
Yaku-ishi (役石) = the 3 large stones arranged under the tsukubai
Suikinkutsu (水琴窟) = earthen jar buried below ground level
Suimon = water hole in earthen jar