Kōgō for the Furo

Kōgō for the Furo

Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather; yō-hō, 四方, four-directions; with ao-gai, 青貝, blue-shell, inlay design of mitsu-wari giku, 三割菊, three-divided chrysanthemum, and geometric pattern on sides; 2 sun kane. Displayed on a pack of kami kama-shiki, 紙釜敷, paper kettle-spread. A kōgō is often displayed in the tokonoma.

Kami kama-shiki is a pack of 15 textured, thick papers folded in half widthwise twice.  These sheets of paper are made of a particular kind of paper that is called danshi, 壇紙, altar-paper.  Each sheet measures 8.5 x 11.4 sun kane-jaku, or 6.8 x 9.12 sun kujira-jaku.  The character tan, 亶, is used in the word dan, 壇, altar, which includes the character to, 土, earth, as in China, the original altars were made of earth.



Close up of kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather; yō-hō, 四方, four-directions; with ao-gai, 青貝, blue-shell, inlay design of mitsu-wari giku, 三割菊, three-divided chrysanthemum, and geometric pattern on sides; 2 sun kane-jaku.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather: gu-ri bori, 倶利彫リ, both-profit carved; multi-layered lacquered container, Japan; diam. 2.5 sun kane-jaku. This type of container, which has been greatly admired in Japan, originated in China, and was meant to contain shu-niku, 朱肉, cinnabar-flesh, paste for stamping documents.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather; black-lacquered wood, covered container with vermilion-lacquered design motifs of the ha-kke, 八卦, eight-signs, of the Eki-kyō, 易経, Change-sutra; width 1.5 sun kujira-jaku. The eight trigrams are in the New Arrangement, with the trigram, Ri, 離, Separation, symbolic of fire, as shō-men, 正面, correct-face.
Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather; round, covered container made of two take-fushi, 竹節, bamboo-nodes; diam. 2.1 sun kane-jaku.
Ko-tsuzumi kōgō, 小鼓香合, small-drum incense-gather; round, flat, gold-lacquered covered container; diam. 2.1 sun kane-jaku.

Modeled after the drumheads of a kotsuzumi called da-men, 打面, hit-face, which are made of leather. The small black trefoils represent the holes for cords to hold the drum together.  The drum is struck with the fingers.  The square of silk damask fabric is a ko-buku-sa, 古袱紗, old-cloth-gauze, with a pattern of ‘Nichigetsu’, 日月, Sun-moon, by Kita-mura Toku-sai, 北村徳斎, North-town Virtue-abstain, Kyōto. A kōgō may be displayed in the tokonoma, which is usually displayed on a pack of kami kama-shiki, 紙釜敷, paper kettle-spread.

Tō-yama Kō-gō’, 遠山香合, Distant-mountain incense-gather; named ‘Ninju Kōgō’, 仁寿香合, Benevolence-virtue Incense-gather; round, black-lacquered covered container made of kuwa, 桑, paper mulberry, with gilt design of three distant mountains; diam. 2.4 sun kane-jaku; by Mae-hata Shun-sai, 前端春斎, Fore-edge Spring-abstain, Ka-ga-ken, 加賀県, Increase-joy-prefecture. Choice of Gen-gen-sai, 玄々斎, Mystery-mystery-abstain, 11th Iemoto, Urasenke, Kyōto. The name nin-ju, 仁寿, is taken from the Analects of Confucius: the wise enjoy rivers, the virtuous enjoy mountains.
Ro-kkaku kō-gō, 六角香合, six-corner incense-gather; black-lacquered, covered wood box with abraded gold lacquer design of tsukushi, 土筆, earth-brush, equisetum, red-lacquered interior with gilt edges; width, 2.7 sun kane-jaku. Japan. With three pieces of byaku-dan, 白檀, white-sandalwood. The hexagon is symbolic of Infinity in Time, and the crossed tsukushi stems resemble the number hachi, 八, eight, which is symbolic of Infinity in Space. The tsukushi sprouts are emblematic of the ephemeral.

Maru kōgō, 丸香合, round incense-gather; turned wood covered container with impressed red lacquered design of kaminari, 雷, lightning.  The pattern of interlocking man-ji, 卍, is an ancient symbol of creation, combining the aspects of In and and turning like the heavens.  The pattern is also identified with the warrior monk Ben-kei, 弁慶, Distinguished-joy.


Hana take ikada kōgō,” 華竹筏香合, flower bamboo raft incense-gather; L. 4.1 sun kane-jaku; by Naka-mura Sō-in中村宗尹, Middle-village Sect-govern; choice of Ryō-ryō-sai, 了々斎, Completion-completion-abstain, IX  Iemoto, Omote-sen-ke, 表千家, Front-thousand-family, Kyōto.  The reference to hana is for cherry blossoms that fall onto streams, and cluster together making little floating rafts. 

The design construction of the incense container, with its eleven pieces of bamboo, may have been inspired by a collection of Chinese poems, in Japanese called, ‘Jiao-jing-yuan Zi-shu’, 题僧院 紫竹, Question-monk-monastery Purple-bamboo. Ryōryōsai was exceedingly fond of poetry. The poems are collectively called Take Jū-ichishu竹十一首, Bamboo Ten-one-poems. It is a series of eleven poems on bamboo at the temple by Chen Tao陈陶, (Japanese – Chin-tō陳陶, Explain-ceramic, (824-882); a celebrated late Tang poet. The poems were written about the bamboo grove at the Dong-lin-si東林寺, East-woods-temple, that is a Buddhist monastery in the Jiangxi province, China, founded in 386 by Huiyuan, founder of the Pure Land Sect of Buddhism.



Kō-gō(?), 香合, incense-gather; hari-ko, 張子, stretch-of, paper-mâché, round, covered container with amber lacquer and gild decoration of a bird in shi-dare-zakura, 枝垂桜, branch-hang-cherry, in a landscape. Marked ‘Made in Japan’. Its style suggests the Tai-shō, 大正, Great-rectitude, period of Japan.
Hisago kō-gō, 瓢香合, gourd incense-gather; dried natural gourd with black lacquered design of butterfly, China; diam. 2 sun kane-jaku; the eight-lobe form is auspicious.
Oshidori kō-gō, 鴛香合, mandarin duck incense-gather; lacquered, carved wood, covered container in the form of a male mandarin duck, China; L. 3.7 sun kane-jaku.
Kōgō’; round, covered container with rich red lacquer, Viet Nam; diam. 2 sun kane-jaku.

Turned wood covered container with dome-lid and metal bells and with orange lacquer exterior and green lacquered interior; diam, 7 cm, India.  Container, kumkum, for tikka, powered red ink or jewel patches to adorn the forehead.


Yō-ji ire, 楊枝入, willow-twig receptacle, holder for toothpicks used as Kō-gō, 香合, incense-gather, dark maroon-lacquered, covered container, O-ta-fuku Mame, お多福豆, Hon.-much-fortune Bean, lined in gold leaf; L. 3.1 sun kane-jaku, from Sakura-i Shi-kki, 桜井漆器, Cherry-well Lacquer-container, I-yo, 伊予, That-before, Shi-koku, 四国, Four-states.

Toothpicks in former times were made of small twigs of willow, yanagi, 楊, as the willow has healthful benefits. A toothpick is an essential possession of a Buddhist monk. The piece is decorated with a gold-leaf design of a sprig of nan-ten, 南天, south-heaven, nandina: the word nanten is wordplay on nan-ten, 難転, difficulty-turn around.

Kō-gō,香合, incense-gather, in the form of an i-do, 井戸, well-door; a covered container made of balsawood and sudare, 簾, reed blind; W. 2.5 sun kane-jaku; by Palmer. Displayed on a pack of textured paper shū-gi-bukuro, 祝儀袋, celebrate-ceremony-bag, envelopes for money given as mizu-ya mi-mai, 水屋見舞, water-house look-round, by guests at various Cha-ji, 茶事, Tea-matter, and Cha-kai, 茶会, Tea-gathering.

The pictured pack of paper ‘envelopes’ is used as a kami kama-shiki, 紙釜敷, paper kettle spread. The size of a sheet of kami kamashiki is 5.5 x 11 sun kane-jaku; the size of a sheet of shūgi-bukuro paper is 8.8 x 13 sun kane-jaku. Depending on the locale, the shūgi-bukuro paper is folded squarely or diagonally: in the Kyōto area the paper is folded diagonally.

Kō-gō-butsu, 香合仏, incense-gather-buddha, with carved image of Sen-ju-kan-non, 千手観音, Thousand-hand-see-sound, byaku-dan, 白檀, white-sandalwood, with kiri-kane, 截金, cut-gold; diam. 1.8 sun kujira-jaku, with drawstring pouch.

The Kōgō Buddha is a talisman that is also called a ‘Buddha in the pocket’ because it was put in the pockets of travelers in the Edo period. Many people still use it as a talisman. It consists of a lid and a body, and when opened, the guardian deity appears. 

Left: black-lacquered kasane kō-gō, 重香合, stack incense-gather; composed of three tiers and lid. Right: black-lacquered Rikyū-gata chū-natsume, 利休形中棗, Rikyū-form middle-jujube. The height of both the objects is 1.8 sun kujira-jaku.